The Divided Ground : Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution

Written by Alan Taylor
Review by Juliet Waldron


Pulitzer Prize winning-author Taylor begins his scholarly yet accessible history with the French and Indian War and concludes with the early 19th century. He sheds new light upon European/Native relations by following the parallel careers of two men: charismatic Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, and Presbyterian missionary-turned-speculator Samuel Kirkland. The focus is New York State, and the attempts of the Iroquois Nation to preserve autonomy and prosperity by asserting title to their land. Hardly the doomed traditionalists of earlier histories, the Iroquois learned European ways rapidly. They managed for generations to maintain their sovereign status by exploiting their position as a buffer between the French and British. Unfortunately, the posture became increasingly irrelevant after the French lost Canada. The American Revolution and a flood of land hungry immigrants were the coup de grace. Neither British nor Americans honored their treaties, and a weak federal government allowed states to violate these at will. Racism drew ever more votes for speculator-politicians, and Indian land illegally taken became the glue that held together the fragile American social experiment. This brilliant but melancholy social history is documented with copious chapter-by-chapter notes, and many maps and portraits. The Divided Ground represents a breakthrough in the historical analysis of post-Revolutionary America.