Taylor, Alan. William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic. New York: Random House, Inc., 1995.
A book review by Jonesia Wilkins
When writing William Cooper's Town, Alan Taylor connects local history with widespread political, economic, and cultural patterns in the early republic, appraises the balance of the American Revolution as demonstrated by a protrusive family's background, and merge the history of the frontier settlement with the visualizing and reconstituting of that experience in literature. Taylor achieves these goals through a vivid and dramatic coalescing of narrative and analytical history. His book will authoritatively mandate and regale readers in many ways, especially for its convincing and memorable representation of two principles subjects- William Cooper, the frontier entrepreneur and town builder, and his youngest son, the theoretical James Fenimore Cooper, who molded his own novelistic portrayal of family history through accounts such as The Pioneers (1823).
While William Cooper's Town is ready in approach, its fluid and expeditious-paced narrative is virtually relentless in fixating on one major theme: the pursuit of ostentatious status in a republic that subscribed to democratic values but remained bound by hierarchical conceptions of gregarious worth from the colonial history. Building the story around the terms "ascent," "potency," and "legacies," Taylor reflects William Cooper's elevate from penuriousness and ambiguity to great wealth an influence and conclusively his frivoling away of the family fortune through a accumulation of restless overreaching, transgression, and transmuting economic circumstances beyond his control. Cooper's goal of perpetuating his estate survived only through his son's novels, which are selective remembrance of the past and the "antithesis" (p. 442) of authentic history.
William Cooper's Town spreads over a variety of strengths, one being the way Taylor uses his factual material to his advantage. Taylor explicates limpidly the intricate maneuverings by which upstart Cooper, a New Jersey wheelwright of Quaker birth, seized control in 1786 of the Otsego Patent, an primitive sector of some 40,000 acres in central Incipient York. The victor triumphed through personal sedulousness as well as through timely coalitions with well-connected men who possessed the financial assets, licit experience, or political influence to fortify his venture.
The breach of opportunity to the mass of free white men whose actions transformed the political doctrine of equipollence into a ceaseless striving for individual economic betterment. Instead of describing the process as a mostly positive and hopeful relinquishment of democratic ambitions, Taylor paints a far more tenebrous canvas of gregarious change with sharply outlined victor and losers. Taylor's frontier landscape is an antecedently discovered and settled human environment whose native people, the Iroquois, had...