Creating and Contesting Carolina: Proprietary Era Histories

Creating and Contesting Carolina: Proprietary Era Histories

Creating and Contesting Carolina: Proprietary Era Histories

Creating and Contesting Carolina: Proprietary Era Histories

Synopsis

The essays in Creating and Contesting Carolina shed new light on how the various peoples of the Carolinas responded to the tumultuous changes shaping the geographic space that the British called Carolina during the Proprietary period (1663-1719). In doing so, the essays focus attention on some of the most important and dramatic watersheds in the history of British colonization in the New World.These years brought challenging and dramatic changes to the region, such as the violent warfare between British and Native Americans or British and Spanish, the no-less dramatic development of the plantation system, and the decline of proprietary authority. All involved contestation, whether through violence or debate. The very idea of a place called Carolina was challenged by Native Americans, and many colonists and metropolitan authorities differed in their visions for Carolina. The stakes were high in these contests because they occurred in an early American world often characterized by brutal warfare, rigid hierarchies, enslavement, cultural dislocation, and transoceanic struggles for power.While Native Americans and colonists shed each other's blood to define the territory on their terms, colonists and officials built their own version of Carolina on paper and in the discourse of early modern empires. But new tensions also provided a powerful incentive for political and economic creativity. The peoples of the early Carolinas reimagined places, reconceptualized cultures, realigned their loyalties, and adapted in a wide variety of ways to the New World.Three major groups of peoples--European colonists, Native Americans, and enslaved Africans--shared these experiences of change in the Carolinas, but their histories have usually been written separately. These disparate but closely related strands of scholarship must be connected to make the early Carolinas intelligible. Creating and Contesting Carolina brings together work relating to all three groups in this unique collection.

Excerpt

In the fall of 1711, six men traveled up the Neuse River in North Carolina in quest of wild grapes and to discover how far inland the river remained navigable. The adventurers—the Swiss baron and founder of the New Bern settlement, Christoph von Graffenried; the colony’s surveyor general and sometime Indian agent, John Lawson; two black slaves; and two Indians—alarmed residents of Catechna, a leading Tuscarora town, prompting its chief to seize them. A terrified Graffenried managed to broker a separate peace with his captors, but Lawson met his end at the hands of warriors (and women) frustrated with the colonists’ corrupt trading practices. Lawson’s execution and Graffenried’s capture precipitated a conflict known to colonists as the Tuscarora War, which proved to be the most violent and destructive episode in the colonial history of North Carolina. In the space of two hours, 130 colonists were killed. The Indians targeted men, women, and children, slave and free alike, then set fire to homes, destroyed crops, and slaughtered or drove off livestock. Colonists retaliated ruthlessly. Military forces from South Carolina (made up of a few white soldiers and a much larger contingent of allied Indian warriors) enslaved hundreds of Tuscaroras. A second expedition, led by Colonel James Moore Jr., burned several hundred people, including women and children, to death in Fort Neoheroka.

Less than four years later, on the night of April 14, 1715, events at the leading Yamasee town of Pocotaligo, in what British colonists considered South Carolina, showed an eerie similarity to those of Catechna. A British delegation, including former Indian agent John Wright and current agent to the Yamasee, Thomas Nairne, claimed to be delivering a peaceful message, but many Yamasee suspected that they had come not to make peace but rather to spy. In the end, only two of the British ambassadors survived the night; the rest were put to death by torture. More important, the events at Pocotaligo presaged the outbreak of another wrenching and devastating war, this time in the southern Carolina and later called the Yamasee War by the British victors.

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