Spring 2023, Vol. 21.2
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"Canoes of Great Swiftness": Rivercraft and War in the Northeast
Zachary M. Bennett
The Wabanakis of northern New England were much more successful than their Algonquian peers in resisting the advance of settler colonialism into their homeland. This article argues that the key to that success was the birchbark canoe; a technology that gave Wabanakis a decisive military advantage during several conflicts with the British Empire. The incredibly light weight birchbark canoe allowed Wabanakis to portage around New England's many waterfalls and across the region's many river valleys with relative ease. Although Europeans admired the birchbark canoe, they failed to reproduce that technology for their own use. The article also explores how colonists such as Benjamin Church vainly attempted to adapt whaleboats in order to match the sophistication of indigenous nautical technology. This piece troubles the assumption of European technological superiority in their interactions with Native Americans. It also points to the importance of waterways and the nature of transportation in understanding how historical subjects conceived space and experienced encounters in colonial America.
This article contributes to recent scholarship on early American money by exploring the role of print and the public sphere in making local paper currencies meaningful. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, elected assemblies and paper money advocates produced currencies, legislation, and discourse to incite belief in paper money and foster confidence in the fiscal promise that underpinned its value. With the spread of the press and the rise of counterfeiting, colonial governments and established printers turned monetary crime into a force of legitimation, distinguishing genuine monetary tokens from their fraudulent counterparts to authenticate "real" paper money. At a time when threats to the monetary system came less from counterfeiters than from political and economic factors, the authorities used the power of the press to legitimate paper as money and to demonstrate stewardship over the market relations paper money shaped. By the mid-eighteenth century, printers were putting variations of the phrase "To Counterfeit Is Death" on colonial currencies and detailing harsh punishments for counterfeiters in their newspapers, rendering colonial state power visible to abstract subjects. The political basis of paper money's value—the power of the purse—was in the process hidden from public view.
In the 1730s and 1740s, the Trustees of Georgia incorporated a variety of ethnic and religious groups into the colony in order to protect the borderland between the British and Spanish empires in North America. Historians have largely emphasized economic underdevelopment in explaining the decline of the early Georgia settlement, but the neglect of the Trustees in creating connections among these diverse groups remains an understudied factor in the colony's struggles. Georgia officials' improvisational approach to colony-building in the early eighteenth century demonstrates a failed experiment within the British imperial system, and ultimately it did not create a sustainable settlement. Scottish and Irish as well as German-speaking, Jewish, and other settlers increased British-allied presence on the frontier, but in many cases these groups remained linguistically and geographically siloed. A reading of the Trustees' plans and the correspondence of their representatives in the southeast demonstrates a lack of planning for coordinating and integrating these communities that paradoxically made the colony more fractured, and thus less secure and effective in defending against Spanish spies and military threats. The difficulties of populating this contested borderland proved too complex for the Trustees.
During the 1824 presidential election, the journalist and southern Jew Isaac Harby of Charleston made his case for Andrew Jackson. Writing under the pseudonym 'Junius,' Harby joined with other pro-Jackson forces and argued that the "Hero of New Orleans" would be the best man to succeed President James Monroe. Though some scholars have commented on the place of Jews within the early Jacksonian coalition, few have explained how and why American Jews united behind "Old Hickory." Harby's political activism mirrors the style and substance of other advocates for Jackson, especially those in the South, but Harby's identity as a southern Jew offers a distinctive case study within early Jacksonian Democratic politics. Although Harby's Jewish identity did not explicitly inform his argument in favor of Jackson, his experience as a southern Jew did influence his support. Harby's anxieties for the future of the American republic reinforced his political convictions. Despite his minority status, Harby shared the same fears and aspirations as his fellow non-Jewish citizens. In the process of supporting Andrew Jackson, Jews like Isaac Harby not only carved out their space in the rise of Jacksonian democracy, but also cooperated in its conception.
This article historicizes an effort by South Texas businessmen in the late 1840s to secede from the State of Texas and to create a new federal territory to protect their landholdings between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Their pursuit centered on the trans-Nueces region, as the land between the two rivers was called, but it also tapped into broader political hostilities in the antebellum United States. In particular, the South Texans' territorial petition arrived in Congress as slavery's proponents and opponents fought bitterly over the institution's role in national life. Further, calls for a trans-Nueces territory represented a crisis for the United States and Texas in the immediate aftermath of the Mexican-American War. In effect, the South Texas separatists pitted both powers against each other, warning Congress that the Texas Legislature was on the verge of confiscating their lands and pleading with the federal government to step in. By simultaneously introducing the territory issue in Congress and agitating state lawmakers in Austin, the trans-Nueces entrepreneurs forced open a new path toward resolution that provoked the Texas government to act, eventually creating a commission that swiftly endorsed the men's land titles in the region. The territorial campaign was a borderlands response to the post-1848 land tenure arrangement that the businessmen saw as a threat to their economic power. Overall, the episode reveals the dimensions and lasting power of local negotiations in national histories.
The article by Gustave Lester in Volume 21, Number 1 (Winter 2023) did not include his acknowledgments. They are now posted with the article on Project MUSE.
Winter 2023, Vol. 21.1
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The connection between marriage and lotteries emerged with the first British state lotteries and persisted throughout the eighteenth century in British America, despite the well-documented rise of companionate marriage. Drawing extensively on newspapers rather than fiction or prescriptive literature, Keiter reveals a deep current of skepticism about these changing ideals. Lottery analogies and satirical lottery schemes circulated widely, showing a shared set of expectations and concerns in the young nation. These tropes emphasized the continued centrality of wealth to marriage while suggesting that marital happiness remained a gamble with unfavorable odds.
Between 1763 and 1773, North and South Carolina officials intensified their competition over their western backcountry when they attempted to resolve the boundary that had remained in question for decades. Historiography about this boundary has failed to recognize how common people in the Carolinas—Indians, colonists, and slaves—set the terms for the dispute and shaped the geography of early America. This boundary dispute offers a unique comparative glimpse of the Carolinas and exposes their most severe internal divisions—for North Carolina, the widespread Regulator movement that originated in disputes over western land, and for South Carolina, the heightened risk of slave revolts that accompanied the province's development. Catawba Indians occupied a central focus of the dispute, courted as an essential ally by South Carolina, while Cherokees hoped to halt the western expansion of both Carolinas. The boundary dispute determined the future of the diverging Carolinas, particularly in foreshadowing the tensions of state formation that manifested during the American Revolution. Indians, colonists, and slaves claimed their own spaces in between the imaginary lines of imperial power.
In 1802, the French painter Denis Volozan (1765–1820) completed a posthumous portrait of George Washington commissioned by the legislature of Delaware for its State House in Dover. A recent immigrant to the United States, the artist had relocated to Philadelphia from the island of Saint-Domingue at the height of the Haitian Revolution. Once it was unveiled, however, the painting provoked widespread public dislike. Hidden from view, it was barely saved from destruction in the 1960s. Though the choice to entrust Volozan with such a project may have seemed like poor judgment to contemporary audiences, this article argues that his portrait illustrates the symbolic reinterpretation of Washington by transatlantic French diasporas in North America and the Caribbean, of which the painter was a part. Volozan was familiar with depictions of both European elites and figures of power like Toussaint Louverture, whom he had sketched in 1800. As such, his approach to American political portraiture was a result of greater dynamics of circulation in the Atlantic world. Celebrating a patriotic figure, his Delaware picture was nonetheless shaped by the political and cultural interactions between France, Britain, and the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century.
This article examines the relationship between settler colonialism and the rise of mineral-intensive industrial manufacturing in the United States. Land expropriated from Anishinaabe nations in what is currently the Upper Peninsula of the state of Michigan was one of the largest sources of copper for nineteenth-century U.S. industrial capitalists. The U.S. takeover of mineral-rich Anishinaabe land reflects the early union of settler colonial ambitions for the Great Lakes region with an emerging political economy of national self-sufficiency by way of continental supplies of raw materials typically imported from overseas. After the War of 1812, U.S. officials imagined the transformation of Anishinaabewaki into the material basis of an independent U.S. copper industry. Accordingly, they employed geologists to conduct fieldwork within Indigenous territories to help guide and facilitate the process of treaty making. However, the authority of the United States remained weak where they had little control over commerce and could not depend on the pressures of encroaching settler populations. Only by granting and enforcing a trade monopoly with the American Fur Company were U.S. leaders able to make inroads toward their goals of acquiring territorial control over the raw materials of industrial capitalism and dispossessing the Anishinaabeg.
Consider the Source: An 1800 Maroon Treaty
Rachel B. Herrmann
In 1800, an exiled community of Jamaican Maroons migrated from Nova Scotia to the British antislavery colony of Sierra Leone. When they disembarked, Maroon captains met with Sierra Leone Company officials and rapidly negotiated and coauthored a treaty. This treaty is a composite manuscript document scattered throughout the National Archives at Kew (United Kingdom). The diplomatic customs that Maroons and British officials observed at the negotiation—including making speeches, reading script words aloud, and refusing to sign documents—marked the document as a treaty. This essay makes the case that the source is a treaty; explains and contextualizes the negotiation that occurred; and explores the themes of settlement, alliance, and antislavery that changed in Maroon treaties in Jamaica and Sierra Leone in the eighteenth century.
Fall 2022, Vol. 20.4
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Introduction: Sugar and Slaves after Fifty Years
Trevor Burnard, Alison Games
A brief essay introducing a special issue devoted to exploring the scholarly legacies of Richard S. Dunn's Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English, 1624–1713, first published in 1972, upon the fiftieth anniversary of the work.
Distance and Blame: The Rise of the English Planter Class
Carla Gardina Pestana
Richard S. Dunn's Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English, 1624–1713, remains a key book that shapes our understanding of the seventeenth-century Caribbean. His work depicts the creation of the English West Indies, with a special focus on Barbados's turn to sugar, its commitment to slavery, and the emergence of its planter class. Dunn sees the region as set apart by its socially dysfunctionality, a site of unprecedented brutality. He conveys a strong sense of moral outrage about the cruelties of life there. His depiction inadvertently supports the efforts to distance the slaveholding Caribbean from the English metropole. In this view, the Caribbean attracted the dregs of English society who then of necessity created a brutal social environment, one that included slavery. Dunn does not endorse this view of how slavery developed, acknowledging the role of elites and the middling sort in the rise of both slavery and the planter class that profited from it. We now understand slavery's reach differently, so that the West Indies (and even the lowest of its English migrants) can no longer be blamed for its rise and centrality.
Richard S. Dunn's portrayal of the rise of "king sugar" in the early English West Indies accords the crop a deterministic role in the entire region's development with a sugar revolution used to explain broad patterns of economic and social change: above all the shift from indentured to enslaved labor. The sugar revolution concept, despite rigorous reassessment, retains purchase and the broad historiography follows Dunn's claim that, after a brief period of plunder, Jamaica settled into sugar monoculture by the 1690s to give rise to "the starkest and most exploitive slave system in British America." This article draws on research of the last fifty years and new data to reassess this narrative and finds it wanting. Trade and population figures show that "king sugar" was no victor in early English Jamaica, which was a dual economy with a relatively small-scale, diversified agricultural sector alongside a strong entrepôt trade with the adjacent Spanish empire. Nonetheless, this diverse economy rapidly became a fully fledged slave society, in which the unfree outnumbered the free by 1673, and a harsh regulatory regime was put in place. The experience of the enslaved was far more varied than is commonly understood, and the complexities, contradictions, and collaborations involved in the process of building Jamaica's uniquely exploitive labor regime cannot be explained by a sugar revolution.
In sixteenth-century English colonialism the term "plantation" had carried entirely public connotations, but through the 1630s and 1640s English Caribbean settlers consciously muddied this definition and applied the term to private, profit-driven landholdings while seeking to retain its public connotations. This article traces the transformation of the term "plantation" in the region and highlights its implications for the ways that English colonists were able to organize and rationalize their exploitation of people and the environment. The article first charts the ways that the public definition of the plantation shaped early settlement. The next two sections consider the circumstances that drove definitional innovation. English settlers in the Antilles chain responded to the imposition of a proprietary property regime by claiming the public status of the plantation for individual estates. Conversely the Providence Island Company's rejection of private landownership led settlers to use the idea of the plantation to define their private stake in the venture. Ultimately the article's final section demonstrates that elite settlers embraced a new hybrid public private definition of the plantation because it offered them a way to legitimize their pursuit of private profit, and it helped to structure and justify their control over bound and enslaved people.
This paper challenges Dunn's framing of the early Caribbean and the emergence of slavery as "beyond the line" of English laws or justice or even social norms. It situates his claims within a longer and more elaborate historiography that portrays slavery as emerging within colonies themselves and via the actions of independent colonists. Then it challenges the assumptions of that framing by investigating the extent of English involvement in their empire, via imperial officials and policies including war and treaties and legal strategizing. Exploring the connections between different colonies amid the early legal and political uncertainty during the first decades of English settlement in the Americas illuminates how and why imperial support for slavery was crucial to its development.
In Sugar and Slaves, Richard Dunn used the 1680 census of Barbados to depict the island as a place where stunted population growth and brittle bonds of community plagued the island's white settler society. Dunn attributed Barbados's demographic disruption to low marriage and nuptiality rates. However, by reexamining population reports from Barbados between 1673 and 1715, "Greater Numbers of Fair and Lovely Women" reveals that low nuptiality and birth rates were symptoms of a greater problem: Barbados was hemorrhaging white men. Between 1673 and 1715, the number of white women and children on Barbados remained stable, while more than four thousand men drained from the colony. This new demographic analysis of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Barbados explores how white women came to form the foundation of their communities as white men left the island to seek new opportunities. Despite Barbados's reputation as a masculine and exploitative space largely bereft of the "civilizing" influence of white women and families, by the turn of the eighteenth century, the preservation of Barbados's settler society had fallen almost entirely to white women.
The yellow fever epidemic that struck Barbados in 1647 was a hinge point in the development of English slavery. European newcomers to the tropics were more likely than West Africans to succumb to the effects of both yellow fever and malaria, diseases that originated in Africa and became more prevalent in the Americas with the expansion of the slave trade. The "Africanization" of the Caribbean disease environment after 1647 hastened the transition to slave economies. The impact of the first Barbadian yellow fever epidemic and the spread of yellow fever and falciparum malaria through the sugar islands has been underemphasized in the specialist literature on the rise of slavery in English Caribbean. The change in the disease environment shaped many aspects of slave societies. It played a role in the trajectory of the sugar frontier, in the development of gang labor, in the rise of large integrated planation units, and in colonial debates about the classification and inheritance of slave property.
Knowledge of daily winds—gained from prolonged residence in the region—shaped life in the seventeenth-century English Caribbean. As colonists gathered, recorded, and deployed knowledge about breezes, winds, and gales, they learned the peculiar aeolian geographies of the Caribbean. In this maritime space, wind distorted distance. It took longer to sail one direction than the other. This article charts how colonists gradually adapted their economic, social, and material worlds to the rhythms of the winds. They came to realize that winds dictated sailing times, routed travel, scheduled commerce, and informed how and where colonists built structures, especially fortifications. It took even longer, though, for officials in London to grasp winds' power over daily life in—and the geography of—the Caribbean. Lack of lived experience in the Caribbean initially stymied metropolitan efforts to understand the region's climatic realities. Through continued correspondence with island residents throughout the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, metropolitan officials learned the importance of aeolian knowledge to maritime affairs. As it circulated in letters, reports, and maps, this knowledge became crucial to the commercial and military success of the British Empire, especially as that empire expanded in the eighteenth century.
This article analyzes the intersection of racial status and subjecthood following the mid-seventeenth-century English invasion of Spanish Jamaica by focusing on the experiences of a group of Spanish Jamaican captives of African descent from the Porus region. By tracing the violent transformation of the Porus captives from individuals with claims to Spanish subjecthood into "slaves," this article shows that the captives did not disappear or die out as historians have assumed; rather, they were forcibly removed. Bridging historiographic and archival divides reveals the alchemy of their erasure both at the time and in modern historical practice. In the end, the forced transportation of the Porus captives from Jamaica underscores the vulnerability of people of African descent in a Caribbean world shaped, if not yet by sugar and slavery, then certainly by enslavement and warfare.
Starting in the 1620s, Englishmen, enslaved Africans, and Indigenous people from the greater Caribbean lived and labored on the Caribbean island of Barbados. Through free and forced migrations, they carried unique understandings of how to make and consume alcohol with them. Once on Barbados, American, African, and European ideas and technologies coexisted and sometimes intersected. By the 1640s, rum emerged from this maelstrom—it was an invention of the Atlantic world. A close examination of the alcohols that early inhabitants made and consumed complicates assumptions that ideas and innovations from one region could conquer the Atlantic world. It unveils how the colonization of Barbados and attendant enslavement of African and Indigenous people unleashed the creative collisions of skilled practitioners, agricultural products, technologies, and ideas surrounding consumption. Initially designed to satisfy local tastes, tracing the processes of invention surrounding rum and other alcoholic beverages demonstrates how experimentation and the development of taste preceded commodification. Understanding how rum became the "native produce" of Barbados shows us how cross-cultural interactions in the early modern Caribbean—which tied together the broader Atlantic world—created new worlds for all.
The 1710 assassination of Daniel Parke, the royal governor of the English colony of the Leeward Islands, was a sensational event, especially as the killers were not rebellious enslaved people or foreign attackers but instead some of the wealthiest and most respected white men of the Antiguan plantocracy. This murder has been described as one of "the most lurid episodes in English Caribbean history," an occurrence that "summed up many long years of life on the tropical firing line." But although the murder of a colonial governor, a man who had been appointed as the sovereign's personal representative within this colony, was deeply shocking to Englishmen at home and abroad, it was not as unprecedented as it might seem initially. An obscure and anonymous text that circulated in London soon afterward shows that Parke's assassination could be incorporated into the histories of the ancient world and earlier Stuart England alike. The epic poem Forty One in Miniature offers a prism through which readers can better understand the political culture of the eighteenth-century English Caribbean, helping them to appreciate its relationship to metropolitan values and practices.
This essay explores the enslaved people brought to London by planters, merchants, and others from Barbados during the later seventeenth and very early eighteenth centuries. The domestic service that most of these enslaved people undertook was a far cry from the horrors of the Middle Passage or the fast-developing sugar plantation labor system emerging in Barbados, and well-dressed enslaved personal attendants may have helped normalize slavery in the eyes of Londoners who saw these Africans as being similar to the city's tens of thousands of white domestic servants. It was slavery nonetheless, and isolated, sometimes manacled, and always just one step away from a return to the Caribbean, the people featured in this essay all attempted to escape from their enslavers. The essay builds from the scant information contained in the newspaper advertisements published by their enslavers, as well as other sources such as parish records to show the determination of the enslaved to secure a measure of freedom, the ways in which Barbadian enslavers sought to strengthen slavery on both sides of the Atlantic, and the creation of the first "runaway slave" newspaper advertisements.
Summer 2022, Vol. 20.3
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Diabolical Duos: Witch Spouses in Early New England
Paul B. Moyer
A significant proportion of witchcraft prosecutions in early New England targeted married couples. Although these cases have not received much attention, they open up a window onto witch-hunting in the region and how it compares to that in other parts of the English-speaking world. An examination of New England's witch spouses reveals how witchcraft intersected with demographic change as well as the social and religious outlook of its Puritan inhabitants. During the opening decades of settlement when colonists were few in number and couples' childbearing capabilities were essential to the survival of the New England colonies, spouses who fell short in this regard sometimes fell victim to suspicions of witchcraft. However, as the century advanced and the population expanded, the pressure on couples to produce children shrank while anxieties over family governance grew. Thus, New Englanders increasingly envisioned witch couples as bad parents rather than failed child-bearers. Moreover, the high frequency of accusations against spouses in New England was a product of the important place marriage held in the Puritans' worldview. They viewed it as the foundation of a godly society and, as a result, commonly envisioned witchcraft as a dark alter ego of nuptial relations.
Remembering the Ladies: Eighteenth-Century Female Letter Writers and Patriarchy
Conor William Howard
This article examines how elite, white women in England and New England participated in the construction of masculinity during the long eighteenth century. In their correspondences, elite women frequently expressed their ideas about what an ideal man should be. In letters to their female friends and family members, they offered examples of men whom they thought either embodied their high ideals or who served as ideal counterexamples. In their letters to their sons and younger male relatives, these letter writers were often very direct in offering their opinions and guidance on how to be good men and good patriarchs. None of the letter writers examined in this article overtly challenged the patriarchal social order in which they lived. Rather, these privileged women championed values like attention to the home and Christian morality that enabled their elite, male kin to become successful providers, heads of households, and leaders in their communities. This was no less true in the new United States after 1783 than in England in the 1740s, suggesting a long-lived pattern of elite women's role in ensuring the continuity of patriarchal societies, even if some aspects of the ideal man did change over time.
Praying Soldiers: How Continental Soldiers Experienced Religion during the Revolutionary War, 1775–1783
Roberto Oscar Flores de Apodaca
While enduring the hardships of battle, many Revolutionary War soldiers recorded more about their personal religious lives than perhaps any other single topic. New and extreme circumstances tested the religious preconceptions of those who enlisted in ways that they had rarely encountered in civilian life. Their religion took on new importance for them as soldiers relied on it both as an interpretive lens and as a source of stability amid a chaotic war. This article examines how the exigencies of the Revolutionary War affected the religious lives of Whig soldiers across denominations and colonies. It will argue that ordinary soldiers' religious worldview caused them to interpret the war in ways distinct from that of their ministers and commanding officers, who have often overshadowed them in analyses of the Revolutionary movement. Neither wholly political nor militaristic, the war, for many soldiers, was a formative religious experience.
This article explores the way in which the papacy and public opinion in the Papal States interpreted the American Revolution. It also considers how those interpretations evolved between the beginning of the AngloAmerican crisis and the invasion of the Papal States by the French revolutionary armies in 1798. The article shows that papal officials were not worried that the American Revolution might become the beginning of a broader wave of revolutions—of an "Age of Revolution," as historians call it today. They understood the events in America as little more than a "mutation in dominion" and an opportunity for the Holy See to obtain protections for North American Catholics' freedom of worship. Holy See views of the events in America, however, started to evolve after the outbreak of the French Revolution, which introduced a new notion of "revolution" and turned what had been papal pragmatism and flexibility into firm conservatism. By reconstructing this process, the article undermines traditional views of the eighteenth-century papacy as inherently opposed to all kinds of social and political change and as a naturally counterrevolutionary actor. It also calls into question the notion that the American Revolution marked the beginning of the "Age of Revolution."
The delegates to the Federal Convention of 1787 needed to know the population of the United States in order to distribute representation. They faced problems, however, in doing so. They had only fragmentary and often outdated census estimates. Some delegates unhelpfully withheld information from their colleagues about their state's population. The legacy of the Confederation Congress influenced them to be more concerned about the relative rather than the absolute size of states' populations. For whatever reasons, the population estimates of states which circulated among them disagreed among themselves. Furthermore, skepticism about quantification remained strong, and the ability of the delegates to do numerical analysis was limited. Consequently, the population estimates they put in the Constitution were significantly revised by the Census of 1790, but because of ambiguities in the Constitution about apportionment, Congress struggled to reallocate representation. In sum, numbers were malleable agents in shaping Constitutional affairs in transactional ways, not precise yardsticks to resolve conflicts. The gradual introduction of quantification into public affairs in the late-eighteenth century, represented by the creation of the United States census, increased contentiousness rather than resolved differences. These events remind Americans in the twenty-first century that counting the nation's population has always been a difficult and contentious endeavor.
Spring 2022, Vol. 20.2
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“ ‘I Hear that God Saith Work’: Wunnampuhtogig and Puritans Laboring for Grace in Massachusetts, 1643–1653,” details how beliefs about life after death transformed, and were transformed by, labor practices for both wunnampuhtogig (“praying Indians”) and English colonizers as they navigated the fraught terrain of seventeenth-century colonial encounters. This article argues that beliefs about the afterlife and those about labor were mutually constitutive, building distinctive and sometimes paradoxical worldviews for wunnampuhtogig and English alike. Traumas wrought by virulent epidemics among Eastern Algonquian polities catalyzed reassessment of eschatology and labor practices, the two variables appearing profoundly intermeshed in the conversion narratives spoken in Wôpanâak by wunnampuhtogig and translated for English readers across the Atlantic. Epistemological emphasis on the confluence of labor and cosmology was not a foreign imposition, but an engrained element of Eastern Algonquian cultural histories. Labor and eschatology converged in English evangelists’ rhetoric in ways that both reinforced and strained key tenets of Puritan covenantal theology, pointing toward scriptural tensions that preoccupied colonial evangelists. This article examines how religious beliefs about death and afterlives organized, inflected, and recast the labor performed by Indigenous and settler communities in Massachusetts throughout the mid-seventeenth century.
By a ceremony of prise de possession held at Sault Ste-Marie in June 1671, a subdelegate of the intendant named Daumont de St-Lusson formally laid claim to the North American interior for France. This incident is frequently cited in early American literature and consistently misunderstood. Though he purported to act in the name of Louis XIV, St-Lusson was actually engaged in a somewhat shady fur trading operation, in defiance of the governor of New France and against the wishes of imperial authorities. The general impulse to expand into the west came from Canadian traders, missionaries, and colonial officials; and the specific origins of St-Lusson’s expedition lay in a competition for spoils pitting the governor against the intendant. “France” as embodied by the king and his naval minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, sought to consolidate its hold on the St. Lawrence Valley, avoiding any spatial dispersal of efforts. This article demonstrates that “the French” did not form a monolith with a unified, centrally directed approach to colonialism. Instead, the Sault Ste-Marie case illustrates the complex dynamics of imperial expansion, which typically involves metropolitan governments, colonists on the periphery, and Indigenous peoples, all pursuing divergent interests in fluid circumstances.
The majority of early English settlements in America were by definition coastal, but critical attention on Puritans and the environment has largely focused on the terrestrial landscape. While recent interventions have argued for an oceanic focus, such a reorientation remains blind to the unique influences of coastal environments and the cultural conflicts that happened there. Drawing largely on Cotton Mather’s maritime sermons written between 1704 and 1726, with particular emphasis on The Fisher-mans Calling (1711), this essay argues that early New England Puritan communities had a nuanced and difficult relationship to the liminal coastal, environmental, and sociocultural worlds around them. The cultural conflict, in particular, is best represented by fishermen as a distinct subset of the local population. Unlike merchant mariners and deepwater sailors, fishermen were often local citizens who consistently bridged the gap between maritime and terrestrial worlds. They were themselves liminal figures who presented unique problems around community inclusion for civic and ecclesiastic leaders. Understanding the problems fishermen posed for Puritan community leaders offers new insights into the ways environment and culture interacted in early America.
Following the Boston Tea Party and passage of the Port Act, General Thomas Gage, the new royal governor of Massachusetts, moved the seat of government to Salem. Upon his arrival, Gage was greeted by dueling addresses signed by 48 of Salem’s Royalists and 125 of its Whigs. The addresses exhibit contrasting political ideologies; however, the signers’ backgrounds reveal each group embraced views that served its interests. On the one hand, Royalists supported a polity that promoted order, stability, and the rule of law, a system that benefited an interrelated group of old elite families with lucrative kinship ties to the Bay colony’s political establishment led by former Governor Thomas Hutchinson. On the other hand, Whigs demanded a government that protected people’s rights, especially their property rights. This suited artisans, master mariners, and rising merchants determined to preserve meager or recently acquired holdings from Englishmen, whom Salemites asserted had “an interest in laying burthens upon us for their own relief.” The property that Whig signers sought to defend served various purposes. It provided economic security, and it was a source of personal liberty, masculine pride, and a voice in government.
Although historians have generally framed Prince William Henry’s time in occupied New York City—September 26, 1781, to November 4, 1782—as an interesting side note to the American Revolution or a brief blip in the future king’s adolescence, the royal’s tenure in the New World has more to reveal. As the first member of the British royal family to visit colonial America, the sixteen-year-old prince rested at the confluence of a muddled-but-important dyad: for Loyalists, the prince defined how dreams of monarchical aid clashed with the reality of declining royal influence in colonial America, while Patriots also used him to assert their fantasies of republican liberty while lambasting the shortcomings of British Hanoverian monarchy. Ultimately, Prince William’s presence in colonial America confused as much as clarified, forcing all parties involved to confront the messiness of revolution as monarchical rule in the thirteen colonies was steadily replaced by equally muddled notions of American republicanism.
In the 1820s, incarcerated workers constructed Sing Sing Prison between the Hudson River and a limestone quarry. The prison’s name evoked the site’s legacy of conquest and colonization, while the War of 1812 served as a catalyst for large prisons like Sing Sing where confinement would be shaped by labor, violence, and coercion. During the war, both the British and the United States held captives in large prison complexes in North America and England. Initially envisioned as humane alternatives to earlier prison ships, British and U.S. military prisons soon became sites of intimidation and violence. Soon after, the cultural memory of the war helped reshape the meaning and experience of incarceration at Sing Sing. This led prison advocates, including veterans of the war, to reject the religious idealism of earlier prison advocates without rejecting prisons altogether.
Winter 2022, Vol. 20.1
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Letter from the Editors
Rosalind J . Beiler, Judith A. Ridner
With this issue, Early American Studies marks a milestone—its twentieth year of publication. It is also our first issue as the new coeditors of the journal. We are honored to join the editorial staff of EAS, a journal that has become an important forum and a leading voice for our interdisciplinary field over the past two decades. We look forward to building on the fine work of our predecessors—Laura Keenan Spero, Roderick A. McDonald, C. Dallett Hemphill, Elaine Forman Crane, and George W. Boudreau—who published high-quality scholarship from a broad range of disciplines and topics. We also want to acknowledge and thank the current members of the editorial board as well as those who have served on the board over the past two decades.
Alcohol was a subject of deep concern for Indigenous nations and settler governments in early America, but, though all agreed that the alcohol trade was dangerous, they did not assess the problem or its remedies in the same ways. This essay disaggregates seventeenth-century alcohol ordinances from their enforcement by examining laws and diplomacy as separate from court records. In considering prohibitions and prosecutions as distinct yet interrelated, it uncovers the differences between Indigenous and Dutch interpretations of alcohol's destructive effects to community and sovereignty. In the context of New Netherland diplomacy, Indigenous and settler authorities could reach consensus over alcohol trade prohibitions, but decisions about how to prosecute the laws fell to Dutch magistrates, who used alcohol cases to impose their particular visions of colonial communities upon ordinary settlers, especially women. Historians have long understood that ordinances regulating the alcohol trade were ineffective but have generally pointed to lax enforcement as the source of the laws' shortcomings. This essay focuses instead on examples of when the laws were strictly enforced, revealing how prosecutorial decision-making became a gendered method of enforcing segregation between settler and Indigenous populations, demarcating settler homes as off-limits to Indigenous people.
This article argues that conflicts and competition over the form of English slave trading in the Atlantic world during the late seventeenth century elicited the use of a common language of government corruption. Contrary to common historiographical assumptions that government officials could pursue private investments through their public duties without controversy in the English colonies during this period, contested slave trade networks both in the Caribbean and Carolina reveal that colonists actively applied typical English notions of entrusted power to police the borders of acceptable government conduct. Whether in the African slave trade or in the trade in Indigenous captives, monopolies and other regulatory regimes required the active support of government officials on the ground. As a result, these officials became the primary vectors for undermining slave trade regulations and promoting smuggling. Evidence of the extent to which government officials were complicit in illicit slave trading survives in the archive primarily because English observers in Atlantic ports chose to protest such conduct using a recognized metropolitan language of corruption.
As a range of recent scholarship attests, "the history of the book in America is not a history of American books." This approach has led to a focus on the trans-Atlantic nature of the book trade and the relationships between printers and booksellers in print centers such as London and Edinburgh with retailers in colonial cities such as Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. Still, recent scholarship has not fully addressed a central facet of colonial book trade networks: the history of the book in America is not simply the history of books and the economics of book exchange, but, rather, the history of much larger economic networks that facilitated the circulation of print throughout the colonies, in rural as well as urban areas. This essay explores the impact of one of these larger economic networks, built around tobacco, on the book trade in the colonial Chesapeake. The efforts of Scottish tobacco merchants, in particular, in stocking books created new avenues for print circulation in the Chesapeake and helped serve the needs of a population of readers within the colonial interior. Studying their efforts as booksellers emphasizes the wide range of cultural exchanges that the tobacco trade helped facilitate.
This article examines the ways that three elite white women—Marie Anne Péborde Laussat, Manon d'Albis de Gissac Dessalles, and Anna Bence de Saint-Catherine Dessalles—furthered their families' social and economic status around the nineteenth-century Atlantic basin. It demonstrates that these women, and the enslaved and free African- descended servants who accompanied them, adapted eighteenth-century strategies for household advancement in response to the increased constraints on French women's legal and economic positions in post-Napoleonic France and also different social, legal, and political responses to racialized chattel slavery throughout the French Caribbean. For elite white women, such adaptations included not only more frequent travel around the Atlantic but also extended periods apart from other family members, all of which required them to independently make decisions for their extended households based on their knowledge of local circumstances and often their own resources. For the enslaved and free African-descended servants who moved between colonial and metropolitan France, differing social and legal regimes provided opportunities for personal and family advancement, in particular de facto freedom, which further blurred the line between enslaved and free status.
Nowadays scholars accept Sarah Kemble Knight's authorship of an early eighteenth-century New England travel journal as fact; but when it was first published in 1825, some questioned its authenticity. By 1839 doubts led Massachusetts historian Rev. Joseph B. Felt to describe her as a "fictitious author" even as he included a quote from the journal that "appears to be true." This essay uses a case study of the controversy surrounding Knight's journal to explore how nineteenth-century Americans sought to determine the authenticity of the published works they read. Historians, historical editors, and readers used at least three methods to decide whether a given work was genuine: authority, evidence, and expectations. Theodore Dwight's editorial decisions in presenting the journal deprived it of his authority. While many reviewers accepted the journal, others argued it was a fake based in part upon failure to match their expectations. By midcentury, historians Frances Caulkins and William R. Deane authenticated Knight and the events in her journal through accrual of corroborative evidence. Ideas of historical authenticity shaped the development of modern historical practices and helped determine how editors compiled document collections in the nineteenth century.
Fall 2021, Vol. 19.4
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Louisiana Bohemians: Community, Race, and Empire
In 1720, thirteen deported French Bohemian (Romani) families disembarked in the floundering Louisiana colony. Anti-Bohemian sentiment combined with a growing French Empire in need of able-bodied and reproductive laborers to dislocate these families from their already precarious lives. Over the next century, as Louisiana increasingly developed along new and more intransigent racialized lines, Bohemians navigated and helped construct this emergent racial order in diverse ways. Despite the formation of an initial Bohemian community in eighteenth-century Louisiana, their descendants were eventually distributed into new colonial racial categories. The racial potential of Louisiana Bohemians declined as their actions, especially their sexual choices, determined where they, and their descendants, might racially situate. Both self- and other-ascribed Bohemian identity eventually, if unevenly, lost relevance in French, Spanish and U.S.-controlled Louisiana as other more powerful racialized categories and identities prevailed. This article attends to the history of the colonial Louisiana Bohemian community in order to broaden the historical knowledge of the Romani diaspora, complement the existing scholarship on the Louisiana colony and state, and continue to fine-tune our understandings of racial formation in early America.
In 1752, a wounded Spanish ship—laden with gold, silver, indigo, and other valuable goods—wrecked along the Connecticut coast. This episode initially appeared to be a tale of Samaritans rescuing the crew and safekeeping their payload. Such hospitality yielded to avarice as the loosely guarded cargo was plundered. This article looks closely at the county court in New London, Connecticut, to examine how judges, jurors, and local legal officials shouldered the burdens of securing some sense of justice for Spanish officials and British colonists ensnared in what became known as “The Spanish Ship Affair.” It highlights the importance of local colonial courts in maintaining peace, not only in their respective communities, but also in greater imperial contexts. This was especially important in the wake of ineffective responses from the governor, colonial assembly, and vice-admiralty court—institutions purportedly designed to handle inter-imperial conflicts. Emphasis on this county court reveals a flexible judiciary creatively punishing unredeemable criminals, merciful jurors willing to forgive repentant neighbors, and the resultant long-term changes in Connecticut’s political landscape and its legal approaches to shipwrecks.
Black tradeswomen – both enslaved and free African women and those of African descent – played key economic roles in lower Louisiana during the late eighteenth century. This article uses the life of Jeannette, an enslaved-turned-free negra, as a case study of a women who advertised Atlantic ingredients and cloth through West African customs and framework, and in doing so, popularized Afro-Atlantic material culture in North America. Enslaved in 1749 at the Bight of Benin, West Africa, Jeannette was sent by enslavers to Saint Pierre, Martinique, and then New Orleans, Louisiana, during which time she hired out as a tradeswoman. For much of her life, Jeannette fought against enslavement and negotiated for a place in the marketplace, a space that allowed her more access to autonomy and economic resources than plantation work. Examining personal estate inventories and bills of receipt of residents of French, Spanish, and African descent, it becomes clear that she and others found profit-making opportunities both in the marketplace and in the sale of Afro-Atlantic material cultures.
This essay examines British plans to recover prisoners of war following the loss of Lieutenant-General John Burgoyne’s army near Saratoga, New York. In October of 1777, Burgoyne signed the Convention of Saratoga with American Major-General Horatio Gates. In the convention, the two generals agreed that Burgoyne’s troops would receive a free passage to Britain after arriving in Boston, Massachusetts. The Continental Congress discarded Gates’s passage pledge, voided the convention, and ordered Burgoyne’s troops incarcerated. This article argues that in planning and attempting to rescue Burgoyne’s soldiers as an army, British Generals Sir William Howe and Henry Clinton modified European methods of warfare. For a year following Saratoga, the two generals covertly worked to recover the prisoners. British officers had never before attempted to rescue thousands of prisoners by force A close reading of senior British and American officers’ wartime correspondence underlines the importance of recovering Convention Army prisoners into active service. Howe and Clinton’s plans are crucial to understanding senior British officers’ efforts to adapt to local conditions and increase their army’s capacity to wage war in North America.
John Quincy Adams and the Ancient Classics, 1794–1817
Robert J. Penella
John Quincy Adams was, among other things, a scholar, poet, and even scientist. He was unusually devoted to the Greek and Latin classics. This article establishes, through his detailed diaries, the agenda of his classical studies from 1794 to 1817, a period during which, with the exception of eight years back in the United States, he served as an ambassador in Europe. His non-classical intellectual interests during this whole period are included in the story, for Adams’s classical interests were only part—but an important part—of an encyclopedic openness to the whole of learning, which was not untypical of his age.
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.
Spring 2021, Vol. 19.2
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Empowering Appetites: The Political Economy and Culture of Food in the Early Atlantic World
Jennifer L. Anderson, Anya Zilberstein
This special issue of Early American Studies explores the dynamic relationship between food and power in the early modern Atlantic world. Originating from papers initially presented at a conference co-convened in October 2018 at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, "Empowering Appetites" interrogates the complex political, economic, cultural, and environmental histories of food and diet in a range of maritime, plantation, and settler-colonial contexts between the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. Part of the inspiration for this conference—and this publication—arose from the resurgent scholarly interest in food and drink as vital topics of historical inquiry in early American and Atlantic studies.
CULTURES OF SUSTENANCE
Our Best Places: Gender, Food Sovereignty, and Miantonomi's Kin on the Connecticut River
The composite phrase, "our best places," expresses what was at stake in early Indigenous struggles for self-determination and well-being and against colonial invasion in northeastern North America. This article critiques the colonial archive's representation of hyper-masculine Native resistance, by instead asking questions about women's labor and knowledge, about diverse cultivated and foraged plants, and about the place-based dimensions of food sovereignty. Narragansett sachem Miantonomi's organizing activities across the Native Northeast in the early 1640s can be reframed and better understood by applying place-based methodologies to specific sites within the intertribal alliance: in this case, by centering Miantonomi's strong ties of diplomacy and kinship at Suckiaug/Hartford and other Wangunk villages along the lower-middle Connecticut River. There, Wangunk women's knowledge of diverse wetland plants on the floodplains and in the coves of the Connecticut River was integral to food sovereignty. Following recent work in Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS), and drawing on insights from archaeology, environmental history, and political ecology, this essay reconstructs an alternative version of Miantonomi's message to allies at Suckiaug and other inland freshwater sites, replacing colonial authorities' obsession with masculine assertions of Native power with more diverse and nuanced affirmations of gendered environmental knowledge, power over the best places, and collective sustenance.
In the borderlands of northeastern North America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, hunger forced colonists and Native Americans to eat substances they found disgusting. This article reads captivity narratives and missionary accounts to argue that disgust fundamentally tested, transgressed, and reified cultural boundaries in the borderlands, while shaping the archive of early American foodways. In doing so, this article historicizes the concept of disgust and its formation in early America, and examines how colonial disgust formed perceptions of Indigenous food supplies. English and French settlers recorded their disgust with Indian food and claimed that Indigenous people could not even conceptualize disgust. The rhetorical aims of this literature of disgust shaped the colonial written archive, which records far fewer incidences of Native disgust. Nevertheless, these same sources document Native experiences of revulsion at colonial foodways and the foodways of other Native nations, which complicate the colonial narrative of the absence of Indian revulsion. A case study of fermentation and decay in Native and colonial foodways demonstrates that colonists saw Native fermented foods as rotten and thereby understated Native Americans' food supplies, contributing to an imperial discourse on Indigenous "poverty," food systems, and land use that sought to justify colonialism.
In 1615, the steady stream of bad news about the Virginia Company's Jamestown project was suddenly reversed with the publication of Ralph Hamor's famous True Discourse, which brought the unexpected, almost providential news of Pocahontas's conversion and marriage. The True Discourse described such a sudden and dramatic change in Virginia's fortunes that it required careful attention to concerns of credibility. Hamor and the Virginia Company drew on a collection of texts that aimed to instruct travelers how to render their observations and conclusions credible to readers. In the True Discourse, they assembled a sort of composite text whose final section claimed to provide direct insight into the 'honest inward intentions' of the Chesapeake Algonquians. Although this section was replete with snubs and slights, Hamor preserved these details in order to present himself as a particular sort of eyewitness observer: critical, meticulous, and objective, recording details but leaving his readers to draw inferences themselves. Most of the details that Hamor believed would win his readers' trust in this way related to the foods he was offered, and especially venison, which was a symbol of trust and mutual regard so deeply rooted as to complement Hamor's stance as "objective" observer perfectly.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, French physician Antoine Poissonnier-Desperrièresproposed a fully vegetarian diet for the French Navy in an attempt to combat the effects of scurvy. France was investing heavily in revitalizing its Navy after the Seven Years War in an effort to gain ground against Britain after substantial French losses in the Atlantic world, and scurvy had a devastating impact on these efforts. Desperrières occupied a privileged position in the French Navy that allowed him to implement his plans on a limited number of naval expeditions, although his experimental vegetarian naval ration proved a failure at both preventing scurvy and convincing the Navy to change the ration for dependent sailors. Desperrières' ideas drew from the rise of scientific food expertise in France in this period, if not from the long history of principled vegetarianism in Europe, and his trials contributed to the longstanding cultures of empiricism that marked knowledge production in the Atlantic world. Nevertheless, Desperrières' theories of the causes and cures for scurvy reflected enduring conceptions of the relationship between human bodies, the foods they consumed, and the maritime environment. To his disappointment, Desperrières remained a marginal figure in the wider debates over scurvy that celebrated contemporaries such as James Lind and James Cook.
This article examines how debates and policies concerning the nutritional standards of West Indian slaves were shaped by comparisons to the eating habits of other laboring and impoverished groups in early nineteenth-century Britain and the Empire. Planters and abolitionists argued over the relative adequacy of slaves' sustenance vis-à-vis European laborers since at least the late-eighteenth century. Proslavery figures insisted that the supposed ease of procuring subsistence in tropical colonies rendered such comparisons largely moot. However, abolitionists increasingly mobilized data on the food consumption of English agricultural workers, prisoners, and other subjects in order to prove that the typical rations given to many slaves in the sugar colonies created conditions of malnourishment and population decline. Abolitionists' empirical efforts to quantify slaves' sustenance influenced policies crafted by the Colonial Office to establish a universal scale of food allowances for enslaved laborers on the eve of Emancipation—one of the most advanced dietary reforms concerning a laboring population in the early nineteenth-century British Empire. While the Colonial Office's ration was only partially implemented throughout the slave colonies, the questions that it sparked about what constituted adequate nourishment for plantation labor shaped subsequent debates over the Emancipation Act (1833) and the Apprenticeship System (1834–38).
Potatoes, Populations, and States
Today, dietary guidelines, healthy-eating pyramids, and other nutritional advice are a familiar and expected feature of governance. It was not always so. What we eat has not always been of such interest to the state. That people ate was of course very important; since ancient times rulers have feared the disruptive effects of famine. The minutiae of what ordinary folk ate, in contrast, was rarely considered an important component of statecraft. Over the course of the eighteenth century, however, the diet of working people acquired an unprecedented importance within European notions of statecraft, because of its perceived capacity to foster or impede the development of a higher-quality population. This article reviews these developments, to show how during the Enlightenment, everyday eating habits acquired political relevance. Although scholars often identify the twentieth century as the period when food became an object of governance, food's important instrument of modern statecraft has a much longer history.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fall 2020, Vol. 18.4
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This study explores the relationship between geographic knowledge and imaginative geographies in the early modern English Atlantic. As is exemplified by English efforts to colonize Providence Island, the Western Design and the economic activities it set in motion, and English and Scottish plans to colonize the Darien region of Panama, everyday geographic knowledge contributed to and was informed by English imaginative geographies in ways that shaped English plans to occupy or attack Central America. Despite a maturation of governing institutions, scientific practices, and commercial networks that gathered geographic information by the last quarter of the seventeenth century, imaginative geographies obscured a more sober assessment of Central America's complex social and physical realities—especially in spaces controlled by indigenous peoples living outside colonial control. That greater geographic experience did not contribute to improved designs presents a paradox for a model that expects knowledge accumulation to advance its utility. Instead, geographic knowledge in the seventeenth century informed imperial designs via imaginative geographies built on myths, perceptions, and desires, blurring distinctions between the two.
Security, Taxation, and the Imperial System in Jamaica, 1721–1782
Trevor Burnard, Aaron Graham
White Jamaicans paid relatively high rates of taxation to support a powerful and assertive imperial state in schemes of settlement and security. They paid such taxes willingly because they were satisfied with what they got from the state. Furthermore, they believed they had a significant stake in the processes by which taxes were collected and spent. The power of the colonial state depended on the empire being a loose fraternal alliance. Nevertheless, what worked for imperial and colonial Jamaica did not necessarily work elsewhere. Jamaica provides a case study of how the imperial state worked satisfactorily for imperial rulers and those colonists whom they ruled when both the state and colonial settlers shared common beliefs and when negotiations made it clear that the interests of all parties coincided.
This essay argues that commerce, and concerns about commerce, played a significant role in driving U.S. elites to define the 1780s as a period of "crisis," shaping both the drive toward constitutional reform and the postconstitutional order. At the outset of independence, American Revolutionaries had grand ambitions for their international trade. They imagined that commerce would be the lifeblood of their new nation's prosperity and security. When the postwar economic situation failed to live up to these great expectations, many Revolutionaries felt that their entire national project was threatened. Commercial crisis provided Americans with a reason to reexamine government under the Articles of Confederation, and then a motive to reform it—a process culminating in the U.S. Constitution and the framing of a new commercial system in the First Federal Congress. Examining the role of trade in the "Critical Period" reveals how the "private" world of commerce intertwined closely with the "public" work of nation-building, contributing more to the dynamics of U.S. political development than historians have at times acknowledged. Reflecting American leaders' theoretical, moral, and practical investment in international trade, the consequences of the commercial crisis of the 1780s are usefully understood as constitutional.
In the 1820s and 1830s, many Americans were fascinated by Napoleon. After his death in 1821, biographies of the French emperor circulated widely in the United States and Jacques-Louis David's painting of his coronation attracted visitors throughout the country. Conduct books lauded the emperor's character, and travelers to France enthusiastically recounted viewing the fallen hero's robes. Against the backdrop of an age that saw both the much-lauded rise of the common man and endeavors to culturally disentangle the United States from Europe, this fascination with a foreign emperor is intriguing. Telling the story of Napoleon as a success story of self-making, however, allowed Americans across party lines to ease tensions between the ongoing appeal of courtly glamour and republican ideals. Acknowledging that this emperor was a self-made man seemed to legitimize the enthrallment with imperial pomp. At the same time, in the context of American westward expansion, the rise of an entertainment culture, and the emerging culture of selffashioning, the French emperor became a lens through which to view contemporary questions of revolution and empire, glamour and spectacle, upward mobility, and the structure of the young nation's social fabric.
Summer 2020, Vol. 18.3
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Intent on preserving their plantations, eighteenth-century British slaveholders created a rhetoric that naturalized African labor in the Caribbean. Examining this history demonstrates the ways in which slavery and the environment are deeply entwined. In the late eighteenth century, West Indian planters began to fear for the long-term future of their plantations on two fronts. First, planters suspected that their enthusiasm for clear-cutting in attempts to maximize cropland had reduced precipitation and made the climate drier. While medical theories held that less rainfall was beneficial to human health, crops began to suffer from drought conditions. Second, parliamentary hearings on the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade threatened the labor supply on plantations. Seeking to preserve the trade, planters argued that only Africans could perform difficult labor, including clearing wooded land, in the West Indies. A close examination of planters' writings demonstrates that their arguments for African labor were in fact early articulations of environmental racism, as they deliberately placed black bodies in environmentally hazardous situations. Considering climatic change and abolition debates together shows how race is essential to the environmental history of the West Indies.
In eighteenth-century North America, slavery was a powerful economic pillar supporting the printing business. Runaway advertisements, for example, were a lucrative and consistent source of revenue for printers. But there was another, largely unnoticed link between slavery and print capitalism: thousands of newspaper advertisements directed readers to "enquire of the printer" for information about the sale of enslaved people. These notices put printers in a position to bring together buyers and sellers of enslaved human beings—effectively acting as brokers of the slave trade. Most printers in eighteenth-century North America seem to have engaged in this practice. Despite complaints from a few late eighteenth-century antislavery writers, who recognized the hypocrisy of placing these advertisements alongside materials that advanced a revolutionary vision of political liberty, American printers continued to broker slave sales until their economic incentives shifted in the early nineteenth century. If newspapers aided the creation of American Revolutionary and national politics, as scholars have long argued, they also contributed to the perpetuation of slavery and the slave trade. Print culture was inextricable from the culture of slavery, just as print capitalism was slavery's capitalism.
This article explores the German-speaking merchant community that arose in mid-eighteenth-century Philadelphia, and its members' efforts to integrate themselves and fellow Central European immigrants into British systems of commerce, credit, law, and politics. These naturalized merchants developed commercial ties around the Atlantic—in Great Britain, Iberia, and the Caribbean—and worked to align their largely colinguistic customer bases with British tastes and goods. They also sought to assist new arrivals through their civic and political engagement, especially through the newly formed German Society of Pennsylvania. After decades of striving to integrate themselves into the British Empire, Philadelphia's German merchants emerged as vocal critics of Parliament's imperial reforms in the late 1760s. They feared that the new laws subverted their economic gains and equality as naturalized subjects. By the 1770s German merchants financed the Patriot war effort and served within the newly independent Pennsylvania government. The merchants' activities reveal how Central Europeans, despite originating beyond Europe's metropoles, became trans-formative figures in the eighteenth-century Atlantic economy as well as in Great Britain's empire and its fracturing in North America.
This article discusses the Canadian republicans' goals during their armed uprising against the British Empire in 1837–38, and analyzes the political and geopolitical North American order in the late 1830s. Whereas the Canadian Rebellion is usually segmented into multiple isolated and short-lived uprisings by historians, this article proposes a more connected North American history that reconsiders the Canadian republicans' ambitions and contributes to a better understanding of the pro-British and conservative American policy during the Jacksonian period. When they rebelled, the republicans, or "patriots," of Lower and Upper Canada envisioned forming sovereign states within the American union. However, although many Americans supported an annexation of the two Canadian colonies, U.S. President Martin Van Buren, the Congress, and Wall Street actively collaborated with the British to crush the attempted revolution. In sharp contrast with the War of Independence and the War of 1812, the United States opposed Canadian republicanism in the late 1830s in order to maintain an Anglo-American continental order. In reaction to this alliance, the revolutionaries began to conceive a new republican experiment, distinct from the "corrupted" American republic, and to imagine a new nation—the "Twin Stars" Republic of the two Canadas.
Spring 2020, Vol. 18.2
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In September 1817 officials of the Russian colony of Ross drafted a protocol of a meeting held with the Kashaya Pomos, the Bodega Miwoks, and other Native Americans. The protocol described how the Russians had promised gifts and military protection to their Native American allies in exchange for the right to continue occupying Métini, a Kashaya Pomo–controlled territory about eighty-five miles north of San Francisco. Soon, reports of the meeting had made their way up and down the coast and across the Pacific, as Native Americans, Russian imperial ministers, and diplomats from Russia's imperial rivals debated its significance. This essay describes how the Russian-American Company used the protocol and other agreements with Native Americans to lay claim to coastal territories, and how Russia's imperial rivals disputed such claims. It argues that company officials used documentation of Native American signs of consent, such as speeches and gestures, to assert ownership of Métini, while Spain disputed the validity of agreements with Native Americans. The meaning that Russian officials assigned to Native Americans' consent enabled the Kashaya Pomos, the Bodega Miwoks, and other groups to exert some influence over Russian colonization and trade.
When Carmelite nuns from Europe crossed the Atlantic in the late eighteenth century to found the first women's convent in the original United States, they brought with them a poetic tradition that can be traced back to the founder of the reformed Carmelite order, Saint Teresa of Avila. In poems that describe their struggles in Europe to escape religious repression, their arduous ocean voyage to America, and finally the foundation of the first convent for religious women in the state of Maryland, the Carmelites who traveled from Europe to the United States both recounted their extraordinary experiences and paid homage to their spiritual mother, Teresa of Avila, who had instigated a tradition of convent poetry in sixteenth-century Spain hundreds of years earlier. These previously unstudied and unpublished poems, presented in this article for the first time, are the earliest known evidence of the spirituality and literary tradition of Teresa of Avila in the United States.
A controversy over land in the Grand River Valley of Michigan reached the United States Attorney General's office in 1837. The quarrel warrants attention not only because the lands had value but because it engaged several groups with competing understandings of their rights to property. Native Americans confronted settlers, who confronted one another. At one level, the dispute pitted two forms of customary rights—one exercised by Indians and the other by squatters—against the demands of capital and the discipline of the state. But on another level, the contest reveals how in the early national period, irregular settlers could look to law, Native people could speak the language of improvement and look to text, and advocates of federal order could invoke imaginary violence.
Lewis Henry Morgan has long been regarded as one of U.S. anthropology's founders. Much of the recent scholarship on Morgan explores his depiction of indigenous culture and his theory of progress. Focusing on his early thought, this article demonstrates how in the 1840s he moved from a moralistic to an increasingly ethnological understanding of advancement, and how his evolving view of Native peoples and the human passions underpinned this change. As a temperance reformer in the early 1840s, Morgan equated progress with economic growth, territorial expansion, and the spread of democracy. Additionally, he feared that the immoral passions of drinkers, radicals, and Native peoples threatened these gains. By 1843 he began attributing to European colonists the destructive passions he had formerly assigned to indigenous peoples, and came to view progress as a destructive force detached from human agency and morality. His 1851 League of the Iroquois links the passions to progress, but he saw these drives primarily as social phenomena, some of which stymie advancement while others enhance it. This study thus links Morgan's early temperance work to the ideas expressed in League of the Iroquois and in his 1871 Ancient Society, illuminating the symbols that Victorian Americans employed to represent progress.
Summer 2019, Vol. 17.3
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This article investigates European and Euro-American desecrations of Native American graves from the early colonial period through the era of Indian Removal. It shows that though colonial-era grave desecration was driven by a variety of motives, such as animosity and greed for looted grave goods, from the time of the American Revolution grave desecration acquired an ideological dimension. By plundering and destroying the resting place of the Native dead, white American soldiers and citizens symbolically contested the continued indigenous ownership of territory claimed by the expansionistic U.S. republic. These acts of erasure represented a facet of the early republican myth of the "Vanishing Indian," and in the increasingly racialized climate of the early nineteenth-century era of Indian Removal, grave desecration imbued the ongoing process of dispossession and territorial conquest with scientific legitimacy, as the study and display of stolen Native remains and artifacts provided tangible evidence of the allegedly inevitable decline and disappearance of Native populations.
In response to a 1695 report of silver discovered in an "uninhabited" part of Carolina, the English Board of Trade commissioned the Carolina silver project. Richard Traunter, a factor in Colonel William Byrd's Virginia Indian trade and a partner in the silver project, led two overland journeys, in 1698 and 1699, to locate the silver mines and assess the viability of mineral extraction. Traunter traveled on Indian trade paths from Byrd's store at Appomattox, Virginia, to James Moore's residence on Goose Creek in South Carolina, and he recorded his journeys in "The Travels of Richard Traunter," an unpublished travel narrative. This article examines Traunter's "Travels" along with the silver project records of the Board of Trade and Treasury to investigate Moore's efforts to undermine the project and its partners so that he could secure for himself a similar royal patent for silver discovery. Additionally, this article analyzes Traunter's claims in "Travels" that his journeys contributed to the "common Good" of the English colonial enterprise, not only through the silver project, but by providing traders with route guidance and by establishing Anglo-Indian alliances he thought necessary to advance intercolonial commerce.
This study examines the role that British convict transportation and penal servitude in America played in the early history of humanitarianism. During the eighteenth century Britons' and Americans' ideas about moral obligations and suffering changed drastically toward traditionally detested people, including transported convicts, enslaved Africans, sailors, and the poor. Historians have made it clear that people in the eighteenth century created unprecedented ways to understand the human condition, and studying coerced labor of all kinds tells scholars more about how unfreedom shaped the language, ethics, and practices of the early stages of humanitarianism. In the eighteenth century British courts banished over 50,000 convicted men, women, and children to the American colonies, many of whom were sold as convict servants. This study argues that emerging ideas of punishment, morality, and unfreedom evoked by convict labor created new moral responsibilities, widened the plane of sympathies, and inspired novel denunciations of suffering in eighteenth century Anglo-American culture. Institutional banishment and convict servitude had unintentional consequences for both Britain and America, and moralists and elites constructed a new discursive environment that raised complex questions and generated new debates about labor, coercion, and cruelty in the Age of Enlightenment and Revolution.
Swiss Myths: The Swiss Model and the American Constitution
Robert W. Smith
The founding generation made extensive use of history in the framing of the American republic. The Swiss confederation did not figure as prominently in American thought as ancient and English history, but it does illustrate how American statesmen used history in political arguments. John Adams saw the histories of the individual Swiss cantons as proof that every society, no matter how simple, needed a balanced government to preserve liberty. For the Federalists, the Swiss, along with all other loose confederacies, demonstrated the inadequacy of a league of friendship, as provided by the Articles of Confederation, and the need for a stronger union. The Anti-Federalists made great use of Swiss history in two particulars. First, they saw the Swiss as a successful confederacy, pointing to its survival rather than its instability. The Swiss demonstrated there was no need for a stronger union. Furthermore, the Anti-Federalists believed the Swiss proved that a nation could survive in the midst of hostile nations without recourse to a standing army. The Framers' use of Swiss history demonstrated how their reading of history was shaped by their political agendas.