Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Leading Early American Scholarship Since 1943


William and Mary Quarterly

3d ser., 74, no. 3 July 2017


Bloody Minds and Peoples Undone:
Emotion, Family, and Political Order in the Susquehannock-Virginia War

By Matthew Kruer

Susquehannock Indians and Virginia colonists had a long history of friendship and alliance, but they unexpectedly went to war in 1675 over a misunderstanding about stolen pigs. That war, which has seldom attracted attention from historians except as the spark for the colonial insurrection known as Bacon’s Rebellion, remains poorly understood. The Susquehannock-Virginia War lasted longer than the short-lived rebellion it spawned and produced more far-reaching transformations among both peoples, above all the growth of racialized divides in Virginia and the forging of new bonds between Susquehannocks and their indigenous neighbors. The key to understanding the causes and consequences of this conflict is an appreciation for Susquehannocks’ and Virginians’ distinct cultures of emotional experience and expression. These cultures were epitomized by the paradoxical fusion of grief and violence in the Susquehannocks’ practice of mourning war and by the tangled relationship between fear and love embedded in the Virginians’ patriarchal ideal. Such emotions were foundational to both peoples’ conceptions of political and social order, and they shaped the pattern of conflict that continued for a decade. The fateful clash between emotional cultures reveals the centrality of grief and fear to the violent unfolding of settler colonialism.

A “wicked commerce”:
Consent, Coercion, and Kidnapping in Aberdeen’s Servant Trade

By Timothy J. Shannon

A trade in kidnapped servants allegedly flourished in Aberdeen, Scotland, during the 1740s, spiriting away hundreds of adults and children into indentured labor in the American colonies. The person responsible for exposing this trade was its most famous victim, Peter Williamson, a native of Aberdeenshire who published “A Discourse on Kidnapping” in 1758 and successfully sued the magistrates and merchants he considered responsible for his abduction. Williamson was a witness of limited credibility, and testimony recorded for his lawsuits exposed inconsistencies in his story. Nevertheless, his prolonged legal battle generated an extensive archive of materials that makes it possible to reconstruct Aberdeen’s experience within the broader context of the Atlantic servant trade. These sources reveal the spectrum of consent and coercion involved in recruiting adults and children for the servant trade, as well as differing perspectives on the legality of the trade, its utility as a form of poor relief, and the age of consent for entering into an indenture. Williamson’s depiction of Aberdeen’s servant trade was hyperbolic and self-serving, but his lawsuits exposed the operations of a business that preyed upon Aberdeenshire’s most vulnerable inhabitants at a time when they had few other options for improving their lot.

The Weight of Necessity:
Counterfeit Coins in the British Atlantic World, circa 1760–1800

By Katherine Smoak

Though ubiquitous in the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world, counterfeit coins have received little scholarly attention. This article reconstructs the imperial trade in counterfeit foreign coin in the latter half of the eighteenth century, a time when British and American merchants, ship captains, and even officials strategically exported bad coin to the Caribbean, profiting from the region’s heterogeneous money supply and rapidly shifting economic and political conditions. Examining the counterfeit trade from Rhode Island to Jamaica in the 1770s and then from Birmingham to the eastern Caribbean in the 1790s highlights the trade’s size, persistence, complexity, and eventual expansion from a colonial commerce to a metropolitan industry. Colonial governors’, the Board of Trade’s, and eventually Parliament’s fraught attempts to demonetize bad coin reveal how embedded counterfeits were in economic life. Caribbean residents used bad coins in ways that best suited local circumstances, sometimes in implicit and sometimes in outright violation of metropolitan policy and the king’s prerogative to regulate coin. Decades before the official rejection of commodity coin, people on the fringes of empire insisted that money’s value came from ease of use and widespread acceptability, rather than metallic content. Debates about counterfeits thus became important sites for questioning the limits of metropolitan authority and the very definition of money itself.

Witnessing African War:
Slavery, the Laws of War, and Anglo-American Abolitionism

By Jeffrey Glover

African warfare was a subject of intense controversy in the debate over slavery and abolition that unfolded in Great Britain and the British colonies during the eighteenth century. According to the Roman laws of war, conquerors fighting a just war had the right to enslave and sell defeated enemies to recoup losses suffered in battle. Apologists for slavery in the British colonies frequently invoked conquerors’ rights, claiming that planters had purchased slaves from victorious African princes and thus enjoyed legal rights to captured slaves. Abolitionists such as Anthony Benezet, Thomas Clarkson, and Ottobah Cugoano challenged this justification for slavery by arguing that the conduct of many African wars violated the tenets of just war, thus invalidating a conqueror’s right to enslave enemies. To prove African slavery wars were unjust, abolitionists documented African warfare, collecting letters from travelers, interviewing witnesses, and publishing their own experiences of capture and enslavement. Eyewitness accounts of African war had a significant effect on the debate over slavery. Many pamphlets and books delved into the details of African conflicts, and parliamentary committees investigating the slave trade devoted considerable attention to the causes and conduct of African wars.