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Breakaway Americas

The Unmanifest Future of the Jacksonian United States

Thomas Richards, Jr.

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A reinterpretation of a key moment in the political history of the United States—and of the Americans who sought to decouple American ideals from US territory.

Published in Cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University

Most Americans know that the state of Texas was once the Republic of Texas—an independent sovereign state that existed from 1836 until its annexation by the United States in 1846. But few are aware that thousands of Americans, inspired by Texas, tried to establish additional sovereign states outside the borders of the early...

A reinterpretation of a key moment in the political history of the United States—and of the Americans who sought to decouple American ideals from US territory.

Published in Cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University

Most Americans know that the state of Texas was once the Republic of Texas—an independent sovereign state that existed from 1836 until its annexation by the United States in 1846. But few are aware that thousands of Americans, inspired by Texas, tried to establish additional sovereign states outside the borders of the early American republic. In Breakaway Americas, Thomas Richards, Jr., examines six such attempts and the groups that supported them: "patriots" who attempted to overthrow British rule in Canada; post-removal Cherokees in Indian Territory; Mormons first in Illinois and then the Salt Lake Valley; Anglo-American overland immigrants in both Mexican California and Oregon; and, of course, Anglo-Americans in Texas.

Though their goals and methods varied, Richards argues that these groups had a common mindset: they were not expansionists. Instead, they hoped to form new, independent republics based on the "American values" that they felt were no longer recognized in the United States: land ownership, a strict racial hierarchy, and masculinity.

Exposing nineteenth-century Americans' lack of allegiance to their country, which at the time was plagued with economic depression, social disorder, and increasing sectional tension, Richards points us toward a new understanding of American identity and Americans as a people untethered from the United States as a country. Through its wide focus on a diverse array of American political practices and ideologies, Breakaway Americas will appeal to anyone interested in the Jacksonian United States, US politics, American identity, and the unpredictable nature of history.

Reviews

Reviews

Breakaway Americas is an important book in that it reminds historians that contingency mattered in helping to shape the eventual borders of the United States.

This provocative interpretation makes contested and contingent what was once manifestly destined, prompting even readers who dispute particular cases to rethink assumptions about the territorial expansion of the United States. Richards's account of settlers who moved beyond the boundaries of the country won't settle arguments; it will start some, however, which will make this a book that matters.

Thomas Richards's fascinating book offers both a decisive refutation of 'manifest destiny' and a tantalizing vision of the American West: one in which struggles for power and sovereignty were local rather than national, and in which contingency played the greatest role in shaping the future.

Breakaway Americas offers a compelling account of the diverse state-building projects of the Jacksonian era, from the theocratic republic of the Latter-day Saints to the sovereignty claims of the Cherokee Nation. These threatened to disintegrate the fragile United States decades before the question of slavery combined with the problem of western empire to rip the whole republic apart. This book requires serious attention.

In Breakaway Americas, Thomas Richards liberates the familiar story of the nation's westward expansion from its longstanding confinement in the framework of a fated and inevitable outcome. Thanks to this book, readers across the political spectrum will have a prime opportunity to understand why historians see such power in the concept of contingency as a potent remedy for the paralysis of fatalism.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
360
ISBN
9781421437132
Illustration Description
16 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter One. The Texas Moment
Chapter Two. Perfecting America in Canada
Chapter Three. Mormon Zion and the Quest for an American Theocracy
Chapter Four. The Cherokee

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter One. The Texas Moment
Chapter Two. Perfecting America in Canada
Chapter Three. Mormon Zion and the Quest for an American Theocracy
Chapter Four. The Cherokee Nation and the Quest for a Native Republic
Chapter Five. The Seigneurial Republic of California
Chapter Six. The White Yeomen's Republic of Oregon
Chapter Seven. The End of the Texas Moment
Epilogue
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Thomas Richards, Jr.

Thomas Richards, Jr. earned his PhD in American history from Temple University. He is a history teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.