In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Beyond Borders: an historical overview

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Further to the east, new boundary issues erupted. At the end of the Revolutionary War, in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, negotiators had sketched an imaginary line through this perpetually contested and poorly understood region. In reality, the northeast border turned out to be quite ambiguous. The confusion grew problematic in the years that followed, as loyalists, loggers, and others converged on Passamaquoddy Bay but disagreed over where Maine ended and New Brunswick began. From the 1790s to the 1840s, this ongoing dispute between the British empire and an increasingly expansionist republic implicated notions of national honor and the United States’ legitimacy on the world stage. It was a new version of a defining problem in the history of early Maine: conflicts sown by vague boundaries drawn on paper in faraway rooms.

Such conflicts form a key context for the documents that visitors and researchers will encounter in the Beyond Borders portal. Deeds, maps, correspondence, diaries, depositions, account books, church records, lists of settlers, minutes of proprietors’ meetings and boundary commissions—all offer insight into struggles over who governed where, who owned what, and how they owned it. They chronicle efforts to draw, dispute, and dispel borders in pursuit of a wide array of dreams for the Dawnland and for early Maine. Amid these sweeping historical processes, these records also offer precious glimpses into deeply human stories: how Wabanaki and European peoples sought to survive, to thrive, to secure their visions for the future, and to find meaning in a contested world.

Bibliography and Further Reading

Michael A. Blaakman, Speculation Nation: Land Mania in the Revolutionary American Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2023).

Lisa Brooks, The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008).

S. Max Edelson, The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2017).

Allan Greer, Property and Dispossession: Natives, Empires and Land in Early Modern North America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Alexandra L. Montgomery, “Projecting Power in the Dawnland: Weaponizing Settlement in the Gulf of Maine World, 1710-1800” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2020).

Ian Saxine, Properties of Empire: Indians, Colonists, and Land Speculators on the New England Frontier (New York: New York University Press, 2019).

Alan Taylor, Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier, 1760-1820 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990)