Anglo-American writers in the revolutionary era used pastoral
images to place themselves as native to the continent, argues
Thomas Hallock in From the Fallen Tree
. Beginning in the
mid-eighteenth century, as territorial expansion got under way in
earnest, and ending with the era of Indian dispossession, the
author demonstrates how authors explored the idea of wilderness and
political identities in fully populated frontiers.
Hallock provides an alternative to the myth of a vacant wilderness
found in later writings. Emphasizing shared cultures and conflict
in the border regions, he reconstructs the milieu of Hector St.
John de Crevecoeur, Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and William
Clark, William Bartram, and James Fenimore Cooper, as well as
lesser-known figures such as Lewis Evans, Jane Colden, Anne Grant,
and Elias Boudinot. State papers, treaty documents, maps, and
journals provide a rich backdrop against which Hallock reinterprets
the origins of a pastoral tradition.
Combining the new western history, ecological criticism, and native
American studies, Hallock uncovers the human stories embedded in
descriptions of the land. His historicized readings offer an
alternative to long-accepted myths about the vanishing backcountry,
the march of civilization, and a pristine wilderness. The American
pastoral, he argues, grew from the anxiety of independent citizens
who became colonizers themselves.