3d ser., 71, no. 3 July 2014
Maritime predation in the Caribbean experienced an important transition during the mid-seventeenth century, in which Jamaica played an unexpected role. Initially, seaborne raiding against Spanish targets originated in Europe, relying lightly if at all on local resources, whether material or human; raids arising in the West Indies region itself were a later phenomenon, one that was dependent on a growing resident population of Europeans and the creation of a pool of potential pirates. Scholars have assumed that local communities of raiders existed from the arrival of the first Europeans, making it plausible that the commander of the English forces on Jamaica could write to buccaneers on Tortuga in the 1650s to invite them to move their base of operations to that newly conquered island. That he did not do so, and indeed could not have done so, becomes clear with a closer examination of the relevant sources. This article offers a new interpretation of the rise of Caribbean piracy, one grounded in the material conditions necessary to sustain such activities.
By Paul Musselwhite
From 1704 to 1708, conspiracy rumors swirled around Maryland politics. Maryland governor John Seymour repeatedly accused Richard Clarke, a member of a respected planter family, of piracy, forgery, arson, and rebellion, yet Clarke managed to evade capture for four years. During those years stories about Clarke’s exploits indicated both real resentments on the part of Clarke and his coconspirators and the imagined fears of his accusers, who formed the new imperial leadership of Maryland’s maturing planter society. Yet the fears and resentments that Clarke’s troubles expose all had one thing in common—their focus on the newly established capital city of Annapolis. By reconstructing Clarke’s actions and the ways in which they were perceived and manipulated by the governor and his allies, we can recover the stakes involved in the imperial project to establish Annapolis as a new urban center for this Chesapeake plantation world. Clarke’s desperate intrigues reveal the ways in which Annapolis was reshaping social, political, and economic power around its plantation hinterland, but stories about the threat he posed were also used by Seymour in an effort to harness provincial legislation for more widespread urban development in the service of imperial goals.
Slave revolts in the Americas during the age of revolutions are commonly viewed as the product of the politicization of the enslaved. Evidence from uprisings in very different settings—cities, mines, and plantations; Portuguese, Spanish, British, French, and Dutch colonies—suggests, however, that slaves were frequently motivated by a rumor that was remarkably stable across time and space. What sparked their rebellions was not a generic desire to be free but rather two specific and connected notions: the king–usually a European, but sometimes an African monarch—had decreed the slaves’ freedom, and local officials and slaveholders were preventing the new law from being introduced. The idea of a thwarted royal emancipation decree was not confined to the age of revolutions. It can be detected in slave communities as far back as the 1660s. Yet in the period after 1789, the combination of antislavery, abolitionist activity, reformist measures, and revolutionary turmoil created fertile ground for the rumor to be born and reborn. Inspired by events that often occurred an ocean away, the rumor was usually forged or reawakened locally. Pursuing liberty without flight, rebelling slaves felt they were free and did all they could to obtain what was legitimately theirs.
By Sarah Knott
The revolutionary era’s call of “tremblez tyrants” placed patriarchy under severe threat, part of a long reconfiguration from unquestioned arbitrary power and divine right to a softer and more questioned modern form. Republican wives and mothers drew on newfound moral agency. Feminists extended natural or universal rights to women. Sentimental gallants offered a third way, beyond the propriety of the domestic sphere or sexual virtue, that was articulated in its most complex form in scandal memoirs. Female memoirists such as Margaret Coghlan and Leonora Sansay exposed the workings of male tyranny. They drew on traditions of gallantry and lower-sort sexuality. They refused the patriarchal prerogative of judging and rebuking women, asserting female sentiments as the highest court of judgment and as a means of protest and self-vindication. And, in an era of transatlantic radicalism, interconnected elites, and international celebrity, they rejected the idea that figures of high politics were off-limits to female commentators. Scandal memoirs crisscrossed the revolutionary orbit. They fretted well-known political men, were handed about among radical and commercial printers, and were privately quoted. As a third and decidedly ambiguous form of antipatriarchalism, sentimental gallantry reveals a hidden genealogy of female liberty and of literary connection in the age of revolutions.