Revolution Downeast: The War for American Independence in Maine

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Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1995 - History - 320 pages
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The history of the Revolution in Maine is the story of a people who did not really want a revolution--at least at first.

Since the middle of the seventeenth century, the powerful Massachusetts Bay Colony had exercised an increasing hegemony over the settlements downeast--a hegemony legalized in the Massachusetts royal charter of 1691. From then until 1820, when it became a state, Maine remained an integral part of Massachusetts. Geographically isolated from the Bay Colony by the province of New Hampshire, and dependent on Massachusetts for its very existence, Maine was indeed a colony, in every sense of the word.

The larger Massachusetts context has tended to obscure Maine as a legitimate object of study, nowhere more than in the period of the American Revolution. Even historians in Maine have slighted the period of the American Revolution. Where appropriate, town historians devote a chapter or so to the event, but only in the context of a particular community.

In his book, Leamon aims to meet that deficiency by drawing together town and general histories, specialized studies, and primary sources, both published and unpublished. He examines why and how Maine fought the Revolution and the changes that occurred in Maine during and after the war.


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The reviewer's familiarity with Maine's colonial history is limited. Both Maine and New Hampshire were siezed by the Bay Colony in the 17th century. New Hampshire's annexation came about around 1646-47 with the aid of a fifth column of Puritan sympathizers who considered that the city on a hill must be large enough to support a temple of Mammon, so to speak. New Hampshire then included the best known mast reserves for the Royal Navy, and Massachusetts hoped to control that arm of the Crown's forces. Maine's annexation came in two phases, both supported by armed Massachusetts militia, in 1652-53 and in 1668. Both were seizures of Maine's highly productive near-shore fishing areas, and the first followed the collapse of the fisheries near shore along the Boston-Salem axis. When the King's commissioners directed Massachusetts to return New Hampshire and Maine to their rightful owners after the Restoration, Massachusetts returned New Hampshire to the status of an independent crown colony, but again seized Maine at gunpoint. A good history of this period is Charles Clark's "The Eastern Frontier." 

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User Review  - JBreedlove - LibraryThing

An enlightening book about the goings on in Maine during the Revolution. Read full review



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About the author (1995)

James S. Leamon is professor of history emeritus at Bates College and author of Revolution Downeast: The War for American Independence in Maine (University of Massachusetts Press).

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