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.