The Frontier Republic
Ideology and Politics in The Ohio Country, 1780-1825
Andrew R. L Cayton
The Kent State University Press
Conflict invariably characterizes the period following any revolution, and post-revolutionary America was no exception. After the unity inspired by opposition to a common enemy dissipates, revolutionary movements generally splinter into different groups that compete with each other for the right to shape the values and structures of the new society.
The Frontier Republic examines the form these conflicts took in the settlement of the Ohio Country, as thousands of Americans streamed onto the lands west of the Appalachians. These settlers had experienced revolution and migration: now the process of creating new communities and a new state in the Northwest Territory forced them to deliberate on, and define, what these upheavals had accomplished. At issue was the very nature of human society and the role of government in it. Jeffersonian Republican ideals of individual liberty and local sovereignty were at odds with the Federalist vision of a well-ordered society and political control on the national level. Disagreements arose over such topics as rights of squatters, establishment of authority of the national government, the statehood movement, and the location of the new state’s capital. The effects of the Panic of 1819 and the need for internal improvements changed the early focus on individualism to an understanding of Ohio’s place in an interdependent society. Although this first generation of settlers failed to resolve their disputes completely, they ensured that the ideological foundation of nineteenth-century Ohio would be a synthesis of their conflicting revolutionary visions of the future of the United States.