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“American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary” by P. Griffin

Introduction

This paper is a critical essay of the book American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier (2007) and the reviews on it. In the book, Patrick Griffin studies the life of the Ohio River Valley from the 1760s to 1790. The author shows the war from the Hobbesian point of view, he concentrates on the how the country was developing, as well as the process of settlement during that time. He thinks that people should study the Revolution from the perspective of the individuals. The book also shows massive acts of racial violence against Native Americans that people have forgotten for a long time.

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In his work, Griffin explains that common people were an important part of the Revolution. He shows the war from the perspective of an individual human and his life. The author sees people like Tom Quick as central figures of American Revolution. Griffin explains how “violence became the only certainty” during Revolution and discusses this forgotten part of the history of that time. 1 The author thinks that violence helped create a powerful country and had an important meaning. He explains that studying the Revolution can help the reader to see the full process of development of the country, as well as understand American history better.

In this paper, I will study three reviews of the book and compare them to my opinion. First, I will discuss three critical articles on the book and explain what the main points of each of them are. Next, I will talk about my opinion of the book and compare it to the ideas discussed in the reviews. Finally, I will summarize my argument and point of view, as well as commentary on Griffin’ work.

Examining the Reviews

The first review, “American Leviathan: Empire, Nation and Revolutionary Frontier by Patrick Griffin” (2009), is concentrated on Griffin’s perspective of the eighteenth-century frontier and the Western settlers who created “American Leviathan”. MacGregor shows that Griffin presents the story from the point of view of individuals while “remembering the larger picture”. The author sees it as a positive side of the book.2 MacGregor thinks that the settlers’ life conditions should have been made more personal. 3 The author explains that Griffin’s major argument is the racial hatred, while he does not disclose physiological aspects of frontier lifestyle. MacGregor shows that the hard life had a big impact on building this hatred. The settlers always had to see their friends and family dying; their lives were full of anxiety and fear. Frontier people suffered not only physically, but mentally. MacGregor says that even though the author did not mention this important part of the picture, Griffin’s work is an important contribution to people’s understanding of the Pennsylvania frontier and this period of American history. 4

The second review, “Review of Griffin, Patrick, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier” (2008), is concentrated on Griffin’s character Tom Quick and his bad actions. McDonnell discusses his “reign of terror” in detail, and he pays much attention to the character and his fate. 5The author thinks that men like Quick no longer “fit” into the knowledge of war. He names some reasons for it: such people are “irrelevant” to the historians studying the meaning of Revolution, and social historians of the West see them as an embarrassment. McDonnell thinks that Griffin’s view on of frontier life and conflicts is too simple and showed many stereotypes because the writer sees Western people only as racist killers. The author mentions, however, that the West played an important role in creating a new empire, he agrees that Griffin shows important ideas and knowledge in his book.

Finally, the third review, “Review of Griffin, Patrick, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier” (2007), discusses how Griffin views the role of people in the American Revolution. Like others, the author thinks that the book is an important contribution to the knowledge of American history, but he does not agree that Western people are the center of Revolution and that their actions are important. 6 Messer explains that Griffin could talk more about the “cultural transformation” among Native Americans. The change of Indian culture during the Revolution could be an important element to add to the book. However, Messer mentions that professors in all fields should read the book as it is important for understanding the American Revolution.

Personal Opinion

In my opinion, the strong point of the book is its concentration on the “small picture”. Griffin shows the Revolution from the point of view of the frontiersmen and the conflict between them and Native Americans during the “bigger” war. His work has many details and arguments. Griffin helps the reader understand the processes that are behind the Revolution and the conflicts that played an important role in it. He shows how people like Quick have changed the way Western society functioned. Griffin explains that people cannot ignore the “violent reality” of the past. 7 However, I think that the book too concentrated on the “inner” side of the Revolution. In my opinion, Griffin discusses the racial conflicts from a stereotypical point of view. I agree with McDonnell’s review of the book. I also agree with MacGregor that Griffin does not show the psychological aspects of frontiersmen’s lives even though they are important to the reader as well. There are many ideas in the reviews that are different from my point of view. McDonnell shows Griffin’s quick as a person that does not “fit” in the history. 8 Unlike McDonnell, I think that people like this character create the history. In my opinion, all reviews provide good ideas on Griffin’s work.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, I want to say that Griffin’s contribution to the people’s knowledge of American history is important. I agree with MacGregor, McDonnell and Messer that people need to read this book because people should see not only the “big picture” of the conflict but also the details that make it full. Griffin’s book is not the answer to all questions. It does not have some important information about frontiersmen’s lives; it does not prove that the racial violence was a big problem, and has almost no information about the Indian culture. The critical reviews of the book show that the topic is interesting both to ordinary people and to professors in all fields. It means that the author should show the most honest picture of the Revolution. Griffin made a strong point that the people’s role in the American Revolution is very important, as well as the role of frontiersmen. I think it is a reason to read the book and learn more about American history.

Works Cited

Doug MacGregor, “American Leviathan: Empire, Nation and Revolutionary Frontier by Patrick Griffin,” Pennsylvania History, vol. 76, no. 1, (2009), 76-77.

Michael A. McDonnell, “Review of Griffin, Patrick, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier,” H-SHEAR. Web.

Patrick Griffin, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier. (NY: Hill and Wang, 2007).

Peter C. Messer, “Review of Griffin, Patrick, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier,” H-Law. Web.

Footnotes

  1. Patrick Griffin, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier. (London: Macmillan, 2007), 171.
  2. Doug MacGregor, “American Leviathan: Empire, Nation and Revolutionary Frontier by Patrick Griffin,” Pennsylvania History, vol. 76, no. 1, (2009), 76.
  3. Ibid., 77.
  4. Ibid., 77.
  5. Michael A. McDonnell, “Review of Griffin, Patrick, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier,” H-SHEAR. Web.
  6. Peter C. Messer, “Review of Griffin, Patrick, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier,” H-Law. Web.
  7. Patrick Griffin, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier. (London: Macmillan, 2007).
  8. Michael A. McDonnell, “Review of Griffin, Patrick, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier,” H-SHEAR. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "“American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary” by P. Griffin." January 15, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/american-leviathan-empire-nation-and-revolutionary-by-p-griffin/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "“American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary” by P. Griffin." January 15, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/american-leviathan-empire-nation-and-revolutionary-by-p-griffin/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) '“American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary” by P. Griffin'. 15 January.

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