Fabric of America: How Our Borders and Boundaries Shaped the Country and Forged Our National Identity

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Overview

The Fabric of America tells the story of how the borders and boundaries that formed states and a nation inspired the sense of identity that has ever since been central to the American character. Challenging Frederick Jackson Turner's famed frontier thesis, Andro Linklater argues that we are, in fact, defined not by open spaces but by boundaries. Linklater weaves this and other provocative arguments into a dramatic story line, wherein Andrew Ellicott, America's greatest surveyor, along with Thomas Jefferson, the treasonous general James Wilkinson, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, and numerous hitherto invisible settlers, all illuminate the shaping of the nation. This brilliant book will alter forever readers' perception of America and what it means to be an American.

About the Author:
Andro Linklater is the author of Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy as well as The Code of Love and several other books

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Contradicting historian Frederick Jackson Turner's famous "frontier thesis," Linklater (Measuring America, 2002, etc.) claims it was America's borders that shaped our national character. Pioneers on the borderless frontier, Turner maintained, hated government control and craved the liberty provided by open, free land. Not so, insists Linklater. True, settlers grabbed free land wherever they could, but what they yearned for above all was legal title to their property. Once they'd acquired their land, each wave of settlers immediately set to work establishing a system to provide law and order and to recognize their claims. From 1783 on, new states rushed to send out surveyors to establish their borders, then mark out sections to record, sell and tax. This was critical, Linklater points out, because land sales provided virtually 100 percent of a state's revenue. The author reintroduces a major historical character, unknown today but familiar to the founding fathers and early presidents: astronomer and surveyor Andrew Ellicott. Quickly acquiring a reputation for dazzling precision, he spent 40 years roaming the nation, laying out borders that stand to this day and in the process making political decisions that also stand. Ellicott (not Pierre L'Enfant) surveyed the new capital, Washington, and drew the original map that appears in history books. Marking our borders proved to be a surprisingly contentious process. Moving into the 19th century, Linklater reminds us that it was less slavery itself than disputes over its boundaries that inflamed both sides. Campaigning in 1860, Lincoln denied an interest in abolition but stressed keeping slavery within a defined area. An ingenious premisedelivered in lively, accessible prose backed by impressive research.
From the Publisher
"A history of America that looks at land from a slightly different angle - that of real estate...Mr. Linklater's history is one of increasing federal power. A territory had to meet federal standards before it could be admitted as a state, and so the interior became more loyal to federal power than the original 13 colonies. The most exciting episode in this book concerns a plot to break Kentucky and Tennessee off from the union, in collusion with the Spanish government at Natchez. Only the good offices of Andrew Ellicott, Mr. Linklater's favorite surveyor and perennial hero, prevented the conspiracy, by proving in 1797 that Natchez actually lay within American territory, in modern day Mississippi - as opposed to Spanish Florida. After Ellicott promised the local white landowners that their property - including slaves - would be preserved, the assumption of American jurisdiction was assured."—Benjamin Lytal, New YorkSun

"Linklater gives us a different perspective than we usually get when reading about how the U.S. developed. The frontier experience took place not only in wide open spaces, but within the borders of the United States. How that happened is an important story and Linklater tells it splendidly."—Roger Bishop, BOOKPAGE

"Scottish-born Linklater (Measuring America) delivers a readable story of how borders helped shape America. He refutes Frederick Jackson Turner's famous thesis that the frontier gave us a dislike for direct control and government dependence. Instead, he effectively argues that without literal boundaries, our history would be much more treacherous....This book, addressing little-known history, will appeal to general readers, while students can use it to research the other side of Turner's thesis. Highly recommended for both public and college libraries."Library Journal (starred review)

"Contradicting historian Frederick Jackson Turner's famous "frontier thesis," Linklater (Measuring America, 2002, etc.) claims it was America's borders that shaped our national character...An ingenious premise delivered in lively, accessible prose backed by impressive research."—Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802716729
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 4/29/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Andro Linklater is the author of Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy as well as The Code of Love and several other books. He lives in England.

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Table of Contents


Foresight     1
The First Frontier     17
The Boundaries of Power     37
The State as Nation     53
The Bullying States     72
Capital Speculations     91
Mirrors of the Mississippi     115
Evidence of Treachery     140
The Reach of Government     158
American Tragedy     180
The Values of Government     205
The Limits of Freedom     230
The American Frontier     250
Crossing the Frontier     261
The End of Frontiers?     271
Envoi     278
Appendix     281
Acknowledgments     287
Notes     289
Select Bibliography     309
Index     317
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