By Eric Hinderaker and Rebecca Horn
This article traces the long-standing effort to develop a common history of the early Americas and argues for the ongoing importance of that project. It grows out of the annual William and Mary Quarterly–University of Southern California Early Modern Studies Institute Workshop held at the Huntington Library in May 2009 and includes consideration of the eight papers presented there. Though nationalist impulses traditionally have been the predominant force in shaping colonial histories, scholars have also written histories that cross the boundaries of European empires in the Americas in various geographic, methodological, or conceptual ways by employing continental, borderlands, comparative, Atlantic, or entangled perspectives. The authors consider each of these approaches and argue that the early modern Americas share a common history, shaped in fundamental ways by the indigenous societies that inhabited the western hemisphere before European contact and the indigenous demographic catastrophe and European and African diasporas that followed. It was shaped, too, by the experience of having been colonized in the early modern era, a distinct period that imparted common political, social, and cultural characteristics to the American colonies. More than ever before, historians of the early modern Americas working in various countries and languages recognize the necessity of a hemispheric perspective.
Seventeenth-century New England dissent, usually defined by the religious debates that mark the familiar history of Massachusetts, is better understood when placed in a transatlantic early modern context of radical politics, theology, and economics. Scholars have often dismissed as unreadable the allusive density, syntactic contortion, and breathless prolixity that characterize Samuel Gorton’s 1646 tract, Simplicities Defence against Seven-Headed Policy. This article analyzes Gorton’s writing instead as an instance of the antimonopoly ideas and aesthetics that he shared with the English Levellers. Far from interfering with his message, Gorton’s abstruse style is instead a central part of his radical critique of what he saw as monopolistic economic and political practices in New England.
By Dale Miquelon
Article 15 declares the Five Nations Iroquois to be “subject to the power of Great Britain,” but calls this French concession into question in a further sentence and makes of the interior beyond New York and Montreal a kind of Anglo-French and Native-free trade zone quite out of keeping with the mercantilist assumptions of the time. The article is not so much a British diplomatic victory, as it is generally seen to be, as it is a knot of contradictions that resulted from linking British aspirations and French policy considerations of long standing. The French government, which distrusted the linking of Canada’s fate to far-flung native alliances, anticipated in the last sentence the determination of a firm boundary between French and British based on their respective native friendships and fur trades. In the interim both European nations would have to share with Native Peoples the trade of an undifferentiated interior. The opening declaration of the close relationship between the British Crown and the Five Nations Iroquois was no obstacle to these ends. Such is the conclusion imposed by a close reading of the Utrecht diplomatic correspondence, being attentive alike to what it says and to what it leaves unsaid.
Standard accounts of the negotiations leading to the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo—or Pinckney’s treaty—between the United States and Spain and its implementation overlook Native Americans in the region most affected: the Gulf South. The particular focus of the article is the Chickasaws, a group of whom came in December 1796 to the Chickasaw Bluffs. The Spanish had been allowed after much negotiation to establish a post there, which they now had to evacuate to meet the terms of the treaty. The spokesman for the Chickasaws, the chief Ugulayacabé, angrily objected to what he saw as the Spanish abandonment of the Chickasaws. This dissent took the form of what the Spanish source that accompanies the essay calls an “arenga,” or harangue. Contextualizing that harangue provides a needed Native American perspective on a regional diplomacy that allowed native groups to play one Euro-American group against another in the course of the eighteenth century, a strategy that seemed now to be coming to an end.
The six manuscript poems by Ruth Bryant of Massachusetts, published here for the first time, are possibly the only surviving poems written by a female youth during the War for Independence, although revolutionary newspapers occasionally printed poems written by girls. The original poems are archived at the Bureau County Historical Society in Princeton, Illinois, where they were preserved because of the author’s connection to her nephew, the nineteenth-century poet and editor William Cullen Bryant. Bryant’s poems reveal that girls could participate in the diffusion of revolutionary ideals not only through the rhetoric of “republican motherhood” evoked by adult women but also through a juvenile model of martial femininity. Bryant’s poems show a passion for the battlefield often absent from adult women’s poetry. And yet Bryant’s poems also operate comfortably within expectations for female poets during the eighteenth century, using typical feminine genres such as extempore courtship verses, elegies, and acrostics. The poems shed light on how, under revolutionary pressure, the gender system could bend without breaking.