Current Issue Article Abstracts

Winter 2021, Vol. 19.1

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Domestic Alchemy: Huswifery and Gold in Colonial New England
Zachary McLeod Hutchins

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, English explorers and settlers disagreed about the importance of converting their North American holdings into precious metals. Whereas Martin Frobisher and John Winthrop Jr. regarded alchemy as a pathway to prosperity, Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor regarded rumors of mineral wealth in the New World as red herrings distracting English colonists from their true purpose and motives. The poems of Bradstreet and Taylor relocate the wealth of the Americas from gold and silver mines to household economies and familial relations. They promote huswifery and its domestic products as the primary purpose of English colonization, celebrating kitchen alchemy as an alternative to the extraction and refinement of precious metals in colonial mining operations. Lauding the metamorphic potential of women's work, their poetics of domesticity invites readers to reconsider the priorities of American colonization by finding wealth in the household goods and relational wealth of kitchen hearths rather than in the gold sought by Frobisher, Winthrop, and others.

 

Mary Kittamaquund Brent, "The Pocahontas of Maryland": Sex, Marriage, and Diplomacy in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake
Kelly L. Watson

This essay situates the life of Mary Kittamaquund Brent, the so-called "Pocahontas of Maryland," within the larger context of intercultural diplomacy in seventeenth-century Maryland. It argues that the marriage between Mary, an eleven-year-old girl and the daughter of the Tayac (chief) of the Piscataway Confederacy, and Giles Brent, a forty-year-old member of a wealthy English Catholic family, demonstrates that sex and reproduction were key strategies for establishing diplomatic relationships between groups and for securing power in a particularly tumultuous time. Illuminating Mary Kittamaquund Brent's position as an embodied locus of power struggles between Chesapeake tribes and Anglo-Marylanders discloses both the role of Indigenous women in diplomacy and the importance of kinship in interethnic alliances. This article provides a brief background of Piscataway and Maryland colonial history, contextualizes the marriage of Giles and Mary Kittamaquund Brent, analyzes the place of sex and reproduction in western shore diplomacy, and considers Mary Kittamaquund Brent's place in the history of the seventeenth-century Chesapeake.

 

William Fishbourn's "misfortune": Public Accounting and Paper Money in Early Pennsylvania
Simon Middleton

In January 1731, the Pennsylvania General Assembly impeached William Fishbourn, the official responsible for managing the provincial paper currency, for misappropriating "diverse great sums of the public money bills of credit to his own use" and for staging a burglary to cover-up the embezzlement. Fishbourn was not the first colonial public servant to be charged with financial malfeasance, and he would not be the last accused of embezzling Pennsylvania's paper currency. He was, however, the first to be subjected to a lengthy and antagonistic audit that caught him out when he was unable to come up with the paper notes thought to be in his care. In the conduct of the audit and the subsequent inquiry into the alleged burglary, as well as in Fishbourn's defense, we glimpse the changing tenor of debate around the practice of public finance, the difficulties of managing a novel paper currency, and how provincial notes quickly became a powerful policy tool and political weapon in the increasingly vitriolic debates concerning provincial taxation, debt, and the balance of trade.

 

"Nothing will satisfy you but money": Debt, Freedom, and the Mid-Atlantic Culture of Money, 1670–1764
Daniel Johnson

Politics in British America often centered on the issue of currency. Competing ideas about the nature of money and what constituted just relations of credit and debt also pervaded everyday colonial culture. By the late seventeenth century, some mid-Atlantic colonists believed that colonial debt laws and powerful urban merchants' monopolization of coin led to the appropriation of debtors' land and labor. Assembly emissions of bills of credit in New York and Pennsylvania in the 1710s and 1720s eased many debtors' burdens, but the creation of provincial paper monies enhanced rather than diminished money's importance as an object of social and political controversy in the region. By the middle of the eighteenth century, supporters of paper money believed that bills of credit uniquely embodied liberty, possessing the power to maintain ordinary inhabitants' independence. Monetary scarcity, by contrast, portended dispossession and bondage. This article analyzes the petitions, pamphlets, editorials, broadsides, and crowd actions that contributed to the creation of a distinctive culture of money in the mid-Atlantic between the 1670s and 1760s.

 

"Let us unanimously lay aside foreign Superfluities": Textile Production and British Colonial Identity in the 1760s
Abby Chandler

T. H. Breen's The Marketplace of Revolution reshaped Revolutionary War scholarship by arguing that protesting British taxes on material goods both galvanized and united colonists from multiple backgrounds. Essays published in Rhode Island's Newport Mercury demonstrate, however, that arguments in favor of home textile production in the British North American colonies were not confined solely to protesting colonists. The months leading up to the Stamp Act crisis in 1765 saw twenty such articles by colonists who would identify as Loyalists during the Revolutionary War; the years following the Stamp Act crisis saw twenty-three articles by colonists who would identify as Patriots arguing in favor of home textile production in Rhode Island. The Second Calico Act in 1721 had stated that residents of the British Isles could only purchase British-made textiles, but that American colonists were to be encouraged to purchase imported fabrics from India. The break caused by the American Revolution would come in time, but for the moment, Rhode Island colonists were eager to claim their right to the privileges and protections of British subjecthood through their identities as textile-producing Britons.

 

Bound and Filed: A Seventeenth-Century Service Indenture from a Scattered Archive
Sonia Tycko

The history of indentured migration to seventeenth-century English America relies heavily on a single body of sources known as the London record, a collection of contracts and registrations of servants who emigrated from the capital between 1683 and 1686. Of the original 1,000 contracts, 189 have long been considered to be missing. This article uses methods from the study of paperwork and print culture to demonstrate that Huntington Library item HM 1365 is one of those missing contracts. Read as a part of its parent collection, this indenture is evidence of how the writing and archiving of late seventeenth-century transatlantic service contracts functioned to constrain would-be servants' choices and protections during recruitment and servitude, while legitimizing new and exploitative practices in colonial labor relations.