Ablavsky’s article draws upon the history of western expansion across the Appalachian mountains from the original colonies and states to the fertile land beyond (especially present day Tennessee and Ohio) to show how the federal government came to have so much power over all aspects of land ownership in the territories and states. As numerous scholars have highlighted, although military conquest dominates the country’s historical imagination, non-Indians acquired land from Indian tribes largely through purchases and agreements.
What Ablavsky adds is a sense of the messiness of land claims in the frontier, in the territories, and in newly admitted states. Ablavsky describes how speculators rushed to claim western land and how fortunes were made and lost on land speculation. Adding to the chaotic mix of speculative claims were those of veterans who had been promised western land for their service and those of individuals who unilaterally asserted the right to land based on state law preemption allowances.Read on here.