WMQ-EMSI Workshop

William and Mary Quarterly
Third Series, Volume LXVII January 2010

Model Empire, Lost City: Ancient Carthage and the Science of Politics in Revolutionary America

By Caroline Winterer

Ancient Carthage (ca. 804–146 BCE), mighty rival to Rome for supremacy in the ancient Mediterranean, is here restored to its important place in early modern British and revolutionary American political thought. Along with ancient Greece and Rome, Carthage supplied early British empire builders with an example of an enduring, stable republic that was also a profitable sea empire. Britons frequently summoned Carthage as an example as they founded colonies in the Atlantic. The ancient republic also captivated James Madison and John Adams in the 1780s as they sought a model for the new American Republic that was both politically stable and expansively commercial. Yet since most of its archaeological and literary remains had not survived, Carthage also exposed problems in the emerging idea that politics could be a science that rested on knowable facts and principles. How could politics claim to be empirical if its evidentiary base rested on examples such as Carthage, about which frustratingly little could be discovered? The article suggests that some of the epistemological dilemmas revealed by the case of Carthage in the Constitution-making period marked the beginning of a modern era in which political science turned away from antiquity and toward other sources of evidence.

Order and Authority in New Netherland: The 1653 Remonstrance and Early Settlement Politics

By Simon Middleton

Anglo-Dutch relationships inflected debates concerning order and authority in early New Netherland. The article focuses in particular on a remonstrance drawn up by English and Dutch settler representatives at a meeting convened at the height of the First Anglo-Dutch War, 1652–53, when the colony’s future as a West India Company colony looked uncertain. Tracing the earlier settlement (some may call it infiltration) of those who served as English representatives, the article investigates the role of key English figures in debates concerning the administration of this Dutch colony. Thereafter, and acknowledging the interpretive limits connections drawn between motives and the meaning of political arguments, the article evaluates the settlers’ arguments for what they indicate of a common European heritage and political language. It was this heritage and language of politics, invoking themes and experiences we might label civic-humanist, that allowed the settlers to construct the kind of alliance indicated by a 1653 remonstrance. Particularly noteworthy, and perhaps the reason that colonial governors such as Petrus Stuyvesant have enjoyed such unenviable historiographical reputations, is the stress the settlers placed on the relationship between the civility of officeholders—extending to words, manners, and disposition—and the legitimacy of their provincial authority.

The British Army, “Military Europe,” and the American War of Independence

By Stephen Conway

Recent British scholarship, reacting against the dominance of the Atlantic perspective, has sought to highlight the European orientation of the eighteenth-century British and Irish. This article emphasizes, and seeks to demonstrate, European consciousness in the British army employed to put down the American rebellion. The transfer of personnel, technology, ideas, and institutions among the different European armies, and their common commitment to the Eurocentric laws of war and a shared military etiquette, all helped to create the sense of a European occupational fraternity that transcended national distinctions. British and Irish military men were an integral part of this transnational soldierly society. The place of the British army in military Europe should matter to historians of the Revolution because it helps to explain why so many British officers and even common soldiers reacted so negatively to Americans in arms, both rebels and loyalists. The British army’s superciliousness, resented bitterly by many Americans, probably owed less to the contempt that metropolitan Britons had for provincials than to the feelings of superiority European professional soldiers felt for military amateurs.

Sources and Interpretations
Reassessing the “Sankofa Symbol” in New York’s African Burial Ground

By Erik R. Seeman

This article reconsiders the origins of a heart-shaped design made out of tacks on a coffin lid excavated in Manhattan’s African Burial Ground. Scholars have claimed that this design was a sankofa symbol of the Akan people of West Africa’s Gold Coast. But there is no evidence of the sankofa symbol in West African deathways before the twentieth century. Moreover archaeologists have found numerous examples of hearts made out of tacks on eighteenth-century Anglo-American coffin lids. The African Burial Ground heart, therefore, is most likely an Anglo-American mortuary emblem. Other grave goods unearthed from this cemetery, however, are undoubtedly of African origin. Considered as a whole, the material record of the African Burial Ground demonstrates the hybrid deathways that Africans created in eighteenth-century urban settings.

“Slideing into Monarchical Extravagance”: Cato at Valley Forge and the Testimony of William Bradford Jr.

By Mark Evans Bryan

In May 1778 officers of the encamped Continental army performed Joseph’s Addison’s tragedy for an audience that included George Washington. The author investigates the material circumstances of theatrical production in the cantonment, the position and predicament of theater during the period of the American Revolution, and the perspective of the only witness whose account is extant. Though traditional interpretations of the traces of this Cato have understood the performance as a reflection of the republican virtues of the play’s embattled hero, the evidence from a young William Bradford—who demonstrated a great enthusiasm for drama as well as a conservative interpretation of the article that enjoined theater production in the Continental Congress’s 1774 nonimportation accord—suggests that the play’s performance points instead to the aristocratic impulse of the striving subalterns in Washington’s army and the persistence of desire for proscribed imperial indulgences, even in the direst periods of privation in revolution.