Current Issue Article Abstracts
Summer 2021, Vol. 19.3
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When news reached London that the Powhatan Confederacy had mounted an assault on the Virginia colony in March 1622, the loss of colonists, infrastructure, and goods came to the Virginia Company of London as crisis among crises. Colonists were resisting efforts to diversify the colony's commodities and shareholders were growing impatient with the lack of dividends. The Virginia Company responded to news of the attack by embarking on a print publication campaign to depict the violence not as a mere incursion but as a "massacre." This article examines this publication campaign to argue that the Virginia Company leveraged its corporate rhetoric to convert the violence of the so-called massacre into a dividend for shareholders and a vindication of the company's economic program. Ultimately, the article argues that we must read the Virginia Company's publications through the lens of corporate strategy—not as reportage but as active efforts to generate capital.
Map Scarcity in Early Colonial New England
This article argues that English colonists in New England chose not to make maps between 1620 and 1642 because they had more suitable techniques and technologies available to them, including the superior knowledge of their Algonquian neighbors and their own traditional approaches to measuring land. However, internal and external pressures eventually forced the colonists to begin making maps. As population and demand for land rapidly increased in New England in the 1640s and beyond, the early attempts of the English at cooperative distribution of land were abandoned in favor of a system that emphasized private property, and, consequently, precise boundaries. In these new circumstances, maps served as a powerful tool that settlers used to claim land and defend it from encroachment. Finally, the creation of the Dominion of New England and the arrival of royal officials and map makers in the 1680s completed the transition to a cartographic spatial culture. Despite this, New Englanders had ignored revolutionary developments in map making taking place in England for decades and created a spatial culture unique to New England.
Loyalists during the American Revolutionary War often suffered imprisonment in consequence of their political beliefs. In no location was this more the case than the Hudson River Valley of New York. Faced with the British occupation of New York City to the south, Crown-controlled Canada to the north, and British-allied Indigenous peoples to the west, Revolutionaries in the region found themselves surrounded by hostile forces. Fearing that Loyalists would revolt in support of the British army, Patriots turned to incarceration on an unprecedented scale to ensure the success of the Revolution. Revolutionaries mobilized the broader citizenry of the Hudson Valley to vigilantly monitor any potential enemies. Loyalists, neutralists, and even some unfortunate Patriots found themselves confined in close quarters. Suspected Loyalists were placed in jails, forts, and even on prison ships. Revolutionaries often struggled to find adequate space for the incarcerated population. With a significant proportion of Loyalists held captive, many Crown supporters were unable to join British forces when the army campaigned in the Hudson Valley. Thus, this essay shows how the "mass incarceration" of suspected Loyalists helped Revolutionaries win the war by preventing the British from tapping into a reservoir of Loyalist support.
Indian-hating, a critical building block of white nationalism during the early American republic, was built from the grassroots by printers who were also local citizens with their own personal and political axes to grind. The Pennsylvanian Archibald Loudon was one of these printers. His two-volume collection of frontier captivity, war, and atrocity narratives, titled A Selection of Some of the Most Interesting Narratives, of Outrages, Committed by the Indians, in Their Wars with the White People, epitomizes how printers collected and disseminated local stories of Indigenous violence—filtered through the lenses of their own partisan politics—to generate hatred for Indians on the eve of the War of 1812. This essay tells the story of Loudon and his Selection. It analyzes how Loudon's experiences as a colonial frontier refugee, Revolutionary War soldier, stalwart Democratic-Republican, and friend of the writer and politician Hugh Henry Brackenridge made him into an Indian-hater. It also assesses his two-volume Selection as a remarkable collection of local stories that framed the violent as well as the noble acts of local Native peoples and the harrowing tales of white martyrs and settlers who survived so as to influence national conversations about race and belonging, politics and war in the early republic.
While traveling to India in 1812 as part of the first cohort of foreign missionaries from the United States, Adoniram Judson and his wife, Ann Hasseltine Judson, decided to leave the Congregational faith of their New England sponsors and become Baptists. Their conversion is usually credited with giving U.S. Baptists an opportunity to join the nascent foreign missions movement, and the movement itself has often been attributed to a sense of national destiny among U.S. evangelicals. But rather than expressing confidence in their national identity, Baptist leaders emphasized their membership in a trans-Atlantic denomination. They relied on British connections as they negotiated their position within the missions movement as well as the religious landscape of the United States. In the years before and after Judson's conversion, U.S. Baptist leaders publicized their trans-Atlantic relationships as a way of enhancing the legitimacy of their denomination in New England, and they worked with British Baptists to increase American Baptist involvement in foreign missions. This essay examines how U.S. relationships with British Baptists and experiences with foreign missions ultimately helped shape American Baptists' sense of purpose as they found new roles alongside their British counterparts as well as other U.S. Protestants.
This essay shows how Black Americans responded to and challenged scientific racism in the mid-nineteenth century. Specifically, it focuses on how they adopted and coopted the disciplines of physiognomy and phrenology—two sciences based on the notion that people's heads and faces revealed their moral and mental capacity. As recent scholarship has demonstrated, disciplines like physiognomy and phrenology provided the ideological scaffolding for later versions of scientific racism. This article tells a different story. By focusing on how African American intellectuals strategically analyzed heads and faces, it exposes how people of color engaged with antebellum race theory, reformulating it in unique ways and for their own purposes. Although white people relied on physiognomic "evidence" to argue that African Americans were mentally and physically inferior beings, Black Americans coopted the very discourses that undergirded the rise of racial essentialism, crafting an alternative science of facial analysis to argue for racial equality. When wielded by Black hands, physiognomy and phrenology did not solidify white supremacy; they instead became tools for vindicating the mental capacities of people of color.
Consider the Source
Wilmot Vaughan's A Plan for the better Government of British America, 1769: Imperial Fantasies in the Throes of Crisis
Peter Jakob Olsen-Harbich
This essay introduces and prints for the first time Wilmot Vaughan's A Plan for the better Government of British America (1769). Vaughan authored this manuscript, currently held by the New-York Historical Society, while serving a single-year term on the Board of Trade. Vaughan believed that the imperial crisis would lead inexorably to an American revolution if Britain failed to radically alter the constitutional basis and institutional apparatus of its empire. To prevent such a revolt, he recommended thirty-seven distinct reforms, including the creation of a new "Kingdom of North America and the Isles," one governed by an American parliament and headed by an executive Lord Lieutenant lodged in a fortified Bostonian palace. Though some of Vaughan's recommendations were prescient, others reflect a complete misunderstanding of the mentality and politics of Britain's white North American colonists, particularly his prescriptions for Anglican establishments and Indigenous delegations to the new American parliament. A Plan for the better Government of British America reveals the limits of imagination and the extent of ignorance among Britain's imperialists as its American colonies hurdled toward rebellion in the 1760s.