New World Orders
Violence, Sanction, and Authority in the Colonial Americas
John Smolenski and Thomas J. Humphrey, Editors
2005 | 376 pages | Cloth $59.95 | Paper $26.50
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Table of Contents
Introduction: The Ordering of Authority in the Colonial Americas
PART I. NARRATING VIOLENCE AND LEGALITY
Introduction to Part I
1. Law's Wilderness: The Discourse of English Colonizing, the Violence of Intrusion, and the Failures of American History
2. Dialogical Encounters in a Space of Death
PART II. AUTHORITY AND INTIMATE VIOLENCE
Introduction to Part II
3. The Authority of Gender: Marital Discord and Social Order in Colonial Quito
4. Private and State Violence Against African Slaves in Lower Louisiana During the French Period, 1699-1769
5. Violence or Sex? Constructions of Rape and Race in Early America
PART III. COLONIAL SPACE AND POWER
Introduction to Part III
6. The Murder of Jacob Rabe: Contesting Dutch Colonial Authority in the Borderlands of Northeastern Brazil
7. Forging Cultures of Resistance on Two Colonial Frontiers: Northwestern Mexico and Eastern Bolivia
8. Sorcery and Sovereignty: Senecas, Citizens, and the Contest for Power and Authority on the Frontiers of the Early American Republic
PART IV. RACE, CITIZENSHIP, AND COLONIAL IDENTITY
Introduction to Part IV
9. Early Modern Spanish Citizenship: Inclusion and Exclusion in the Old and the New World
10. Natural Movements and Dangerous Spectacles: Beatings, Duels, and "Play" in Saint Domingue
—Gene E. Ogle
11. Racial Passing: Informal and Official "Whiteness" in Colonial Spanish America
List of Abbreviations
Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]
Introduction: The Ordering of Authority in the Colonial Americas
In 1720, Experience Mayhew published an account of the state of the Wampanoag Indians living on Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts. Mayhew's text celebrated the missionaries' success at improving the Indians' spiritual and material conditions. Although the island's native population was "very much diminished," Mayhew noted the increasing number of Wampanoags who "have Houses of the English fashion" and had adopted English modes of husbandry. He also predicted that island Indians would adopt English principles of governance as readily as they had adopted English religion, dress, shelter, and farming. His hopes were not entirely misplaced; by 1720, most Indian settlements had replaced the sachemship with a form of government that was "more akin to a town meeting"—the fabled institution at the center of colonial New England.
At first glance, Mayhew's account epitomizes the dramatic success of colonial Anglo-American "ceremonies of possession." The spread of English housing and husbandry was part of a larger transformation of the landscape. Patricia Seed has argued that English colonists, alone among Europeans in America, viewed the enclosure and development of "waste" land as the only legitimate means of taking possession of territory. The erection of houses and fences thus reflected and effected the spread of colonial authority. Certainly, in Mayhew's mind, the remaking of physical space was an assertion of English cultural and legal mastery: space, culture, and sovereignty were isomorphic. Fences, farms, and livestock were only the most visible signs of a colonial project that included the reformation of the Natives' political and spiritual worlds as well. His account thus embodied the prototypical "planting" discourse in which claims to sovereignty were rooted not merely in English law but also in assumptions about race, identity, and superiority that provided the ideological foundation for Anglo-American colonization.
But treating these changes in landscape and authority merely as manifestations of a colonizing discourse would be misleading. As David Silverman has recently shown, some of these changes resulted from Native choices. Island Wampanoags benefited from selective adoption of English farming and herding practices, which provided an important source of food and an economic boost. But incorporating animal husbandry into their communities offered Vineyard Indians more than "protein and profit": establishing claims to the land through signs and practices that colonists recognized as legitimate helped some keep their land in the face of English expansion. "The Wampanoags," Silverman writes, "had adopted the colonists' animals, but most of them had not embraced the colonists' values. The fence and the animals it enclosed were no longer only symbols of English expansion, but now, also, of the Wampanoags' commitment to the land, one another, and their communal traditions." Similarly, the decline of the sachemship at Christiantown and Chappaquiddick allowed these communities to prevent individual sachems from selling communal land to settlers. Thus, the move toward town-meeting governance helped some communities to resist pressures that had forced other Native communities in New England off their lands.
Faced with a colonial project that drew sharp boundaries between "civilized" and "savage" practices, Vineyard Indians crafted a third option. More than simply a technique of "resistance," the evolution of their farming practices and political institutions challenged the system of legality through which colonists defined and took control of their world. The colonists' response reveals the seriousness of the challenge; having justified their claim to "waste" lands on the grounds that Indians had done nothing to improve (and thus possess) them, some colonists threatened violence when faced with Indian fences marking the boundaries of native lands. Thus, what Mayhew saw as a process of acculturation—Wampanoag Indians' evolutionary transition from a lower to a higher stage of civilization—was really part of a process of transculturation in which Vineyard Indians integrated aspects of English life into their own society, but with Native meanings, for Native ends.
The disjuncture between Mayhew's narrative and the Wampanoags' experience is instructive. The Indians' continued presence on the land belied Mayhew's assumption that the boundaries of colonial sovereignty were coterminous with the limits of English cultural space; mastery in one realm did not automatically follow in the other. Nor were the links between legal claims to sovereignty and extralegal claims to cultural authority as natural as Mayhew assumed. English settlers may well have believed that their agricultural improvements had transformed vacuum domicilium—legally vacant land outside any civil jurisdiction-into property under provincial authority. But their resistance to Wampanoag efforts to develop their own farms and herds suggests that colonizers found these practices legitimate only when performed by English subjects; the Wampanoags, understandably, disagreed. Thus, the meaning of legal rules emerged through debate, not simply from rote application. Finally, it is unlikely that the Wampanoags would have ignored the role of violence—actual or threatened—in defining colonial authority, as Mayhew had. Threats to resolve debates over the cultural and legal meanings of particular practices through force revealed that violence was never absent from assertions of sovereignty.
That the critique of Mayhew's account as a colonizing discourse seems so familiar to historians of the colonial Americas and yet fails to account for the lived experience of the Wampanoags under colonization should caution us to be cognizant of the gap between the assertion and achievement of colonial sovereignty and of that between legal and extralegal claims to rule. It highlights the difficulties that historians have had in understanding the operation of colonial power, their difficulty in crafting narratives of colonization flexible enough to incorporate analysis of ideologies with accounts of Native resistance and adaptation. The chapters in this collection address that conceptual gap by reexamining the relationship between violence, sanction, and authority in the colonial Americas. The authors explore a number of themes, including the wide variety of legal and extralegal means through which social order was secured, with a particular emphasis on how extralegal behavioral norms were defined and used; the relationship between legal and extralegal efforts to create colonial authority; the problem of containing violence within structures of colonial legality or illegality; and how these attempts to construct authority, embedded within other forms of colonialism, created cultural, legal, social, or imperial "spaces" in the Americas. Eschewing a narrowly regional analysis, these chapters collectively cut across imperial boundaries, exploring the dimensions of colonial rule throughout the hemisphere.
Uniting these case studies is a common interest in understanding the role of sanction in constituting colonial power. The term "sanction" carries multiple—and seemingly contradictory—meanings. It can mean to permit, authorize, ratify, countenance, encourage, or make legal—or it can mean to penalize for the violation of a legal rule or norm. It can refer to the imposition of a punishment itself or to the recognition (implicit or explicit) of a practice as valid. But sanction's multiple meanings—as prohibition and permission, as the judgment and its enforcement-are only seemingly contradictory. The notion that the expression of power has productive and repressive effects is certainly familiar to scholars in the wake of Michel Foucault's work, but it was likewise familiar to earlier legal authorities. The jurist William Blackstone noted that "human legislators have for the most part chosen to make the sanction of their laws rather vindicatory than remunatory," demonstrating an awareness of the fact that the encouragement of legality and the punishment of illegality went hand in hand. But sanctioning, in both its senses of permission and prohibition, is more than the simple application of legal (or extralegal) norms. Sanction has an evaluative, interpretive dimension: it defines norms in the process of enforcing them. Sanction, then, encapsulates the process through which order is produced through the distribution of punishments and rewards. Through their examination of sanction in its multiple dimensions, the authors in this volume demonstrate that colonial authority—be it cultural, legal, or political—did not exist in inert form; it was constituted through its expression.
Through their examination of authority emerging through practice rather than in principle, these authors extend Christopher Tomlins's recent call for legal historians to shift the object of their inquiry from an analysis of law in history to an examination of the history of legality. Legality, as Tomlins defines it, is the process through which legal power is expressed. "Legalities," he writes, "are the symbols, signs, and instantiations of formal law's classificatory impulse, the outcomes of its specialized practices, the products of its institutions. They are the means of effecting law's discourses, the mechanisms through which law names, blames, and claims." If the law's authority is often grounded in its claims to reason and timelessness—as the legal scholar Paul Kahn has argued in his critical inquiry into the "culture of rule of law" in the Euro-American tradition—then exploring legality is a tool for grounding legal analysis in a social and historical context. Similarly, Tomlins suggests that the concept of legality can also include unofficial practices, customs, and traditions that carry the sanction of social authority—practices which themselves should be seen as historical products rather than timeless. In examining histories of sanctioning—the points at which actions are interpreted, evaluated, debated, and defined—the chapters in this volume provide a means of understanding how legalities, official and unofficial, were produced in the colonial Americas.
This volume builds upon an already well-established literature addressing the process of colonization in the Americas. It is by now commonplace to point out that historical narratives such as Mayhew's—triumphalist master narratives of the colonial Americas that render Natives either passive receptors of a superior European culture or a swiftly vanishing vestige of the precolonial past—represented colonizers' fantasies rather than historical fact. Scholars have attempted to write against these master narratives by foregrounding the development and operation of colonial authority in the Americas as an object of historical analysis rather than a providential inevitability; these efforts have generally followed one of three tracks. First, many historians and anthropologists have examined the processes through which indigenous peoples resisted and adapted to colonial rule. These studies—often, but not always, focused on the colonial experience of a specific people—have emphasized the role Native agency played in shaping colonial rule, casting Native peoples as subjects in a contest for power and not simply objects of colonial power. Second, historians and literary critics have interrogated the imperial ideologies of the various European colonial powers in the Americas. Through their critiques of the cultural underpinnings of the colonial project, these scholars have shown how European discourses of law, religion, and civilization naturalized and legitimated colonization; indeed, some of these authors would seem to suggest that the colonial discourses that legitimated European rule were among the colonizers' most powerful tools of domination. And third, many historians have shown how interactions between colonizers and colonized created hybrid cultures in the Americas.
These three strands of scholarship have done much to further our understanding of colonial power in the Americas. At the same time, however, each has, in its own way, hindered greater understanding of the establishment and maintenance of colonial authority. Studies focused on Native agency, for example, have defined colonial authority as something acted against, obscuring it as a topic of analysis in its own right. Meanwhile, studies of colonial ideology have, in making their critique, often assumed the dominance of colonial sovereignty. By treating colonization as a discursive or performative project, this approach ignores the ongoing process through which colonial rule was secured. As Lauren Benton has pointed out, such critiques have tended to focus on the moments of taking possession or justifications for conquest, missing the fact that the exigencies of exercising colonial jurisdiction frequently transformed the culture of colonial legality. In addition, some critics have charged that scholars foregrounding the significance of "middle grounds" in colonial history have exaggerated the significance and durability of these hybrid cultural spaces. Admitting that a localized balance of power might facilitate the temporary emergence of communities of interest marked by a rough harmony, critics note, does little to mitigate the overall level of violence and conflict that marked colonial-Indian relations.
In any case, synthesizing these different approaches has been problematic. It is in some ways difficult to see how one can reconcile John Locke's intellectual justifications for dispossessing Indians of their land—so central in David Armitage's and Anthony Pagden's discussions of the English conception of empire—with the actual course of colonial settlement on the eastern coast of North America in which colonizers and Indians frequently lived side by side. Despite frequent outbreaks of violence, in practice the tenor of Anglo-Native relations was dictated more by extralegal customs governing social and economic exchange than by the formal justifications for English power. And while colonists may have in theory denied Indians' legal title to land, in practice they recognized Native title when doing so expedited land purchases. Thus, historians have struggled, often unsuccessfully, to integrate insights gleaned from these burgeoning historiographic traditions into a more coherent account of the linkages between assertions of sovereignty and expressions of authority in other social and cultural domains in the development of the colonial Americas.
This problem has been exacerbated by a historiographic division between scholars interested in studying relations of power between natives and colonizers and those studying relations of power—legal and extralegal—within colonial communities themselves. While historians of indigenous peoples have not always incorporated insights gleaned from colonial legal history into their studies, legal historians have largely failed to integrate narratives of colonization into their case studies. Historians of both colonial British and Spanish America have grounded legal history in a social context by examining legal culture—that is, the values and attitudes that govern the functioning of legal institutions and processes. By approaching their subject through the lens of legal culture, historians have been able to delineate how various legal practices—assertions of jurisdiction, displays of legitimacy, enforcement of criminal sanctions, regulation of economic life—structured and were structured by concepts of gender, race, and identity or broader patterns of community, hierarchy, and social structure. They have also revealed the importance of extralegal power relations in shaping emerging hierarchies, particularly with respect to the construction of gender and race. This holistic approach has been consistent with the dominant trends in early American social history, where authors of community studies have drawn heavily on the anthropological "culture concept" in their efforts to discern patterns within colonial society; the most significant studies exploring the relations between legal and extralegal power relations have focused on a particular community.
But this holistic approach toward understanding the relationship between law and culture has been problematic as well. Indeed, the concept of legal culture suffers from many of the same problems as the anthropological culture concept itself. Critics of the culture concept have argued that anthropologists and historians have essentialized culture as an object with determinate boundaries and features, often operating with what Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson have called an "assumed isomorphism of space, place, and culture." This logic of cultural sameness and difference has led scholars to overemphasize homogeneity within particular societies or "cultures" and to presume sharp boundaries between cultures. In response to this criticism, cultural anthropologists and historians have altered the scope and emphasis of their work. Both have expanded the boundaries of their inquiry; for colonial historians this has involved looking at borderlands at the edges of imperial rule or the Atlantic dimensions of colonial history, all the while paying closer attention to the cultural diversity and hybridity within American societies more generally. In a similar vein, historians studying the legal dynamics of European colonization have had to come to terms with the very real tensions between local and imperial governance and conflict over the meaning of legal authority. In their analysis of the overlapping and competing layers of authority within colonial societies, however, legal historians have been relatively slow to analyze the legal pluralism within the colonial Americas, particularly within colonial British America.
Tellingly, most Anglo-American historians who have engaged the question of competing legal orders have focused, somewhat narrowly, on conflicts surrounding property rights, most often among Euro-American colonists themselves. The history of this struggle within colonial settlements, however, is infrequently examined in the context of ongoing competition over the definition of property between Anglo-Americans and others. While these studies have made an extremely significant contribution to our broader understanding of the social and economic aspects of legality in early American history, their cumulative effect has been to limit the range of scholarly examination of the interactions between unofficial notions and procedures and official definitions and processes of justice, subsuming it within narratives of popular opposition to capitalism. Institutional efforts to quash plural legal regimes in colonial settings were part of an effort to impose a particular Western conception of property and did advance both colonial and capitalist projects, but the scope of conflict over legal pluralism and property in colonial contexts was far broader than the history of capitalism's rise (and resistance to that rise).
Patricia Seed's comparative history of the means by which various European imperial powers created political authority over the Americas illustrates the potentials and pitfalls of incorporating the insights of the historical study of legal culture with the cultural dimensions of European colonization. Attempting to understand how law influenced the conquest of the Americas, Seed examines the pains Europeans took to render conquest legal. Colonizers secured their authority in the Americas, she argues, "by deploying symbolically significant words and gestures made sometimes preceding, sometimes following, sometimes simultaneously with military conquest." These ritual enactments, in effect, made the conquest legal, at least in the eyes of the colonizing powers. Treating the "rationales and legitimation of the exercise of imperial power as cultural constructions," Seed locates these justifications of rule not in legal theories but in quotidian practices that each power saw as legitimating possession: Spanish legal protocol, French processions, English planting, Dutch mapmaking, Portuguese astronomy. Because each relied on different rituals to establish authority, the various European powers found each other's claims to power mutually incomprehensible and criticized their rivals' colonial projects as arbitrary, unjust, and illegal. Ultimately, Seed suggests that this anthropological perspective on the cultural roots of colonial power offers a way to move beyond historians' tendency to treat the history of colonialism either "as [the] intellectual cultures of dominant peoples, on the one hand, or as the history of resisting peoples, on the other hand."
At the same time, Seed's analysis of the cultural roots of colonial legal authority replicates many of the elements that critics of the culture concept have raised. Seed successfully undermines the notion that there was a single cultural logic of imperialism, showing sharp distinctions between national colonial projects, but in doing so she renders these imperial cultures of power internally homogeneous over time and space. Her treatment of the question of colonial dissent is revealing of this approach. Seed's claim that internal critics of colonization never proffered alternative conceptions of colonial legality describes the positions of critics such as Roger Williams or Bartolomé de las Casas too narrowly. Williams's writings on authority in early New England, for example, drew on an eclectic range of discourses, including his legal and religious background and his pioneering ethnographic work on Indian languages. His work epitomizes the fallacy of reducing imperial efforts to theorize and project authority to a single national idiom. In rendering European rituals of power as relatively fixed "ideal types," Seed ignores the fluidity of colonial negotiations on the ground. French colonizers recognized the value of hybrid "middle grounds" in securing commerce and amity with Natives. English colonial authorities who insisted on their sovereignty over Natives redefined certain crimes as political disputes to recognize Native sovereignty in practice, if not in theory. And Spanish officials affirmed the independence of Indian nations living on the frontiers of Spain's American empire after it became clear that imposing imperium over all the Americas was futile. In other words, the practical difficulties of imperial management frequently prompted a revision of the legal underpinnings of European colonial power. Ignoring this fact dehistoricizes the construction of colonial authority. In the end, Seed brilliantly reconstructs the meaning of these various systems of symbolic authority at moments of conquest without addressing the fact that symbolic systems—in their meaning, their application, and their relationship to society as a whole—change over time.
What the chapters collected here reveal, however, is that in many respects, the methodological difficulties inherent in Seed's ambitious attempt to explain the instantiation of authority in the Americas stem from contradictions in the colonial project itself. European colonialism involved, almost from the beginning, both the description and the production of colonial spaces: explorers, missionaries, settlers, and imperial representatives generated extensive scientific accounts of the Americas. This project involved the creation of maps detailing the region's topographical features and locating major indigenous polities and tribes; the writing of ethnographic accounts of Indian religion, language, politics, and technology; histories of the Americas, based in various degrees on both colonial and native sources; and extensive studies of American plants and wildlife. Moreover, this scientific mapping of the Americas—in both a geographic and a cultural sense—played a crucial political role in colonization. The collection of ethnographic data on the governmental structure and spatial ordering of Indian societies, for example, was not simply part of the articulation of European cultural superiority but was deeply related to European attempts to secure Native allies in their struggles against other indigenous groups and rival colonial powers. Maps also played a crucial role in European colonial rivalries in America: since European states offered maps of their New World territories as evidence of their sovereignty in the region, detailed maps frequently became valuable as these states fought over competing colonial claims. At other times, governments allowed the circulation only of vague, seemingly primitive maps of the Americas, the better to prevent rivals from locating and poaching valuable colonial possessions. Relying in varying degrees on all of these techniques, European colonial powers asserted their sovereignty over the Americas, transforming land into territory—producing it, in effect, as colonial space.
Just as the creation of a colonial space implied a single sovereign, it also implied a kind of cultural unity among colonial subjects, at least in theory. The intensification of colonial states' claims over subjects within their jurisdiction had the effect of sharpening legal distinctions between members of the dominant culture and cultural "others." While this process entailed at various times the equation of nationality and citizenship (as Tamar Herzog has suggested for Spain and Spanish America) or the reduction of civic status to a question of race (as Gene Ogle has observed in Hilliard D'Auberteuil's proposed "Enlightened" reforms in Saint Domingue), the ultimate result was the same: "foreignness" came to mark both cultural and legal boundaries simultaneously. The "legal cartography" of the Atlantic world presumed that the "uncivilized" lived outside the rules of law that governed European nations. In practice, colonization greatly increased the diversity of peoples under European rule, creating new jurisdictional problems. Thus, colonization also involved the construction of colonial space in the Americas through what Pierre Bourdieu has called the mapping of social topologies—the delineation of relationships between individuals within a hierarchical social setting. Government officials throughout the New World were involved in classifying different groups and defining the nature of their relationship to institutions of authority, whether legal, religious, or political: defining colonial jurisdiction involved generating and enforcing legal and social identities along—most prominently but not exclusively—the lines of race, gender, religion, nationality, and free or unfree status. Colonial governments found the problem of defining boundaries within colonial societies exacerbated by the presence of indigenous peoples and diversity caused by the migration, voluntary or involuntary, of Europeans and Africans to the Americas—in other words, by the very diversity of colonial societies. Metropolitan authorities likewise found their efforts to maintain these boundaries in conflict with the wishes of American communities, which often insisted on defining ethnic and racial boundary lines themselves, as Ann Twinam suggests.
Thus, assertions of European sovereignty in the Americas involved the creation of colonial spaces through the mapping of internal and external boundaries demarcating lines of colonial jurisdiction. While colonial officials may have intended their proclamations of authority over the peoples and places as monologue—a performative display that effected the instantiation of rule it announced—their ceremonies of possession turned out in fact to be the opening of ongoing colonial dialogues in which the nature of imperial powers in the Americas was defined through negotiation. European claims to sovereignty in the Americas, despite their pretenses of establishing a single legitimate authority within colonial territory, never extinguished legal pluralism in colonial societies. In fact, by opening up spaces in which definitions and practices of rules could be asserted and contested, these claims to eliminate legal pluralism generated novel pluralisms, a plethora of cultural and social spaces in which alternative conceptions of authority could be articulated. Efforts to create jurisdiction over people and places inevitably created zones of jurisdictional conflict, a fact of which colonial officials were quite painfully aware. Those living under colonial rule, meanwhile, frequently found negotiating these zones of intrainstitutional conflict strategically useful in securing some relative autonomy from one or more sources of colonial power. What Benton has noted about the borderlands of northern New Spain was true throughout the colonial Americas: "[T]he indeterminacy of power on the borderlands reflected a larger structural condition. The border itself-the line between imperial control populated by Christian subjects of the crown and hazardous lands of the 'wild' Indians—was simply a more visible example of the many 'borders' separating groups with different legal and cultural status within the empire."
It would be tempting to dismiss this border trouble as peripheral to the "main" story of the development of authority in colonial societies in much the same way that the historiography on the development of legal cultures in Anglo-America has remained separate from the historiography on colonial-Native relations. But European claims to have achieved sovereignty through rituals of possession cannot be taken at face value, and the efforts of those subject to colonization to shape the nature of authority in the Americas cannot simply be subsumed under the category of "resistance" to an already constituted colonial rule. Indians in the Americas, for example, played an active role in shaping the evolution of colonial legal structures, through their efforts either to remain outside of or to work within imperial legal systems. Even within the brutal slave systems of the Americas the expression and meaning of power was negotiated. This conflict over jurisdiction and the construction of authority was not an anomaly within colonial cultures, an exception to European rule; these contests over the expression and limits of authority were what constituted colonial culture. Greg Urban's analysis of how cultural authority is produced is instructive in this regard. There is nothing inherent in any culture, Urban argues, that allows it to claim superiority over any other culture. Culture, he writes, "is inert. It contains no force that would cause it to spread, to perpetuate itself, in the face of resistance or in the form of alternatives." This motive force, the claim to authority over other cultures or peoples, he continues, can come only from arguing about culture; it is, in a word, metacultural. Thus, all legal authority is inherently metacultural; declarations of sovereignty always involve the assertion—sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit—that competing assertions of sovereignty are inferior and therefore null and void. Urban's discussion reveals the fallacy of separating the study of legal cultures in a "core" from the negotiation of authority on the periphery or of drawing too sharp an analytical line between jurisdictional disputes along internal and those along external boundary lines.
The construction of colonial authority also involved conflicts over sanction—the defining and expression of violence. Violence in the colonial Americas—like violence everywhere, was often "a vivid expression of cultural values," freighted with symbolic meaning. Conceptions of which forms of violence were appropriate (and when) and of who were appropriate objects of violence were culturally bounded. And the colonial encounter in the Americas was, from the beginning, a conflict between cultures of violence. Conflicts between Spaniards and Nahua during the conquest of Mexico, between Dutch and several Indian groups in New Netherlands during Kieft's War, and between English and Wampanoag and Narragansett Indians in King Philip's War in New England witnessed similar phenomena: revulsion at Indian styles of warfare—and the resultant belief that this kind of unrestrained violence placed Natives outside the bounds of civilized society—encouraged European and Creole soldiers to resort to early modern variations of "total war." Conceptions of violence thus helped reinforce boundaries of culture and law through the construction of what Michael Taussig has called "the colonial mirror which reflects back onto the colonists the barbarity of their own social relations, but as imputed to the savage or evil figures they wish to colonize."
Symbolic displays of violence encoded and enforced power relations. Plantation owners and overseers maintained order through theatrics of power incorporating ritualized threats of power as much as through the infliction of violent punishment itself. And among colonials themselves, provincial officials were cognizant of the fact that much of their authority rested not on maintaining a monopoly of violence—one of the traditional definitions of state authority—but on maintaining a monopoly on defining the meaning of violence. The ritualized rebellion William Prendergast led against New York land barons in 1766 provides a case in point. Prendergast's actions symbolized popular justice to provincial tenants but treason to landowners and magistrates, leading to his arrest. After Prendergast's trial and conviction for treason, provincial officials pardoned his sentence of death by beheading and quartering. The incident thus encapsulates the significance of sanction in its multiple dimensions. Just as Prendergast's actions articulated both an alternative conception of property rights and the tenants' legitimate authority to enforce these rights, so too was his trial and pardon a theatrical display of state authority; far from a sign of its weakness, the state's expression of generosity in letting a popular rebel live highlighted its discretionary authority in enforcing punishment.
At the same time, violence was more than a reflection of colonial culture—it was one of its constituent elements. The generative relationship between colonialism and culture, and particularly between colonialism and identity, has been well established. Writing on Anglo-American colonization, Tomlins has written that legalities play an essential role in "defining who is who: who is a British subject, who is not, and how the resources and terms of interaction given to each arise from that initial point of difference." And Benton has noted that under the legal pluralism that so often characterized colonial rule, identity, in as much as it defined legal status vis-à-vis colonial authorities, was "often logically viewed . . . itself as a form of property." But scholars have been more hesitant to explore violence as a foundational element in colonial culture. Urban's assertion that cultural authority emerges only through metacultural arguments about culture leads to a disturbing conclusion: "Violence," he notes, "is metacultural and, indeed, may be a fundamental manifestation of metaculture." Culture, in other words, is at its root a product of violence of some form or another-even more so, perhaps, in a situation in which the definitions and boundaries of cultural authority are unclear, as was the case in the colonization of the Americas. Describing the colonial encounter in Venezuela as a "space of death," Taussig has argued that colonial violence created a culture of terror that was integral to European rule, enjoining scholars to realize that "terror . . . as well as being a psychological state is also a social fact and a cultural construction whose baroque dimensions allow it to serve as the mediator par excellence of colonial hegemony. The space of death is one of the crucial spaces where Indian, African, and white gave birth to the New World."
As the authors in this volume demonstrate, colonial identities emerged in the Americas through the relationship between sanction and violence. On both an individual and a social level, colonial communities worked to establish a common repertoire of ways of violence among their members. Colonial identities were created in some degree through economies of violence—the range of permissible exchanges of violence in colonial society that defined who could inflict violence against whom and under what conditions. As Ogle, Block, Vidal, and Gauderman show, the meaning of race and gender in everyday life was defined by sanctioned expressions of violence. As colonial authorities struggled to define specific acts of violence—such as determining the limits of a slave owner's authority when it conflicted with either the king's authority or racial regimes of violence in Louisiana and Saint Domingue, respectively—they affirmed the notion that the legitimate use of violence in the colonies was increasingly a generalized prerogative available to all white men, especially with respect to violence against African Americans. Likewise, Richard Price shows that the contest to define the meaning of colonial violence created a space within which alternative identities and communities could be created, as the objects of colonial violence—enslaved African Americans and their descendents—crafted their own narratives of plantation violence in which masters' and magistrates' claims to power were held up to ridicule and censure. Discussions over what forms of violence would be sanctioned—in both senses of the term—were crucial in defining colonial space and culture, whether such debates took place in courtrooms, through networks of community gossip, or in hybrid colonial-Native settlements along the colonial periphery.
These studies hardly exhaust the possibilities for the further exploration of the myriad strategies used to establish power in the Americas or how the nature of colonial authority changed through its enforcement. Indeed, they collectively offer two things about the future study of colonialism in the Americas. First, they suggest that we focus less on social and cultural order in the colonies, and instead on ordering—the practices through which authority was maintained. Through their focus on sanction—the evaluative process through which punishments or permissions were distributed—the authors demonstrate how thoroughly entwined conceptions of colonial legality and sovereignty were with extralegal discourses of race, gender, and civilization. They likewise amplify the historical dimensions of colonial power by tracing its emergence not merely through assertion of conquest but through constant creation and re-creation, revealing the colonial origins of contemporary notions of sovereignty and power. Their findings that the application of colonial "rules" was at times fluid—that governments and communities sometimes chose to sanction behaviors that they ordinarily might not have—do not mitigate the severity of American colonialism but instead uncover a flexibility that both helped colonial governments maintain control when they could not unilaterally enforce their will and created a space in which colonial rules might be challenged and rewritten. Interrogating the space between the discourse and the experience of colonization, they show how narratives of colonial sanction might themselves provide new ways of evaluating the legitimacy of colonial authority in the past as well as its historical resonance in the present.
Second, these chapters demonstrate the necessity of examining the questions of violence, sanction, and authority in hemispheric perspective. Organized not by political (imperial) boundaries but thematically, they reveal significant commonalities as well as differences throughout the colonial Americas. This thematic unity and geographic diversity reflect the volume's origins. The chapters in New World Orders are drawn from a conference of the same name, held in Philadelphia in October 2001. In organizing the conference the program committee—two historians of British North America and one historian of colonial Mexico—believed that local histories of violence and colonial power could fruitfully be analyzed as examples of a larger phenomenon of American colonization. Bringing together scholars of different regions, the conference forced participants to resituate their work in a wider context, to productive effect. The individual case studies presented challenged participants' assumptions about the larger contours of colonial authority in the Americas, while placing their own work within the history of the Americas writ large allowed authors to see local or regional histories in a new light.
Of course, it may be, in practical terms, impossible for any book, any scholar, or even any collection such as this to offer a truly comprehensive analysis of the various ways in which colonial authority was defined, established, and challenged or through which colonial spaces and identities were created. But in their common efforts to trace the threads of this process in a variety of times and places these authors begin to outline, at least, what such a project might look like. As Experience Mayhew's narrative of the history of the Vineyard Indians shows, the ordering of the colonial Americas was a multifaceted affair; both his account and the Wampanoags' actions in the face of this transforming colonial project involved a mapping and remapping of social, cultural, political, religious, and physical landscapes. By juxtaposing case studies of this process from Brazil, Venezuela, New York, and California with treatments of broader trends within Anglo-America or Spanish America more generally, the studies in this volume collectively render Mayhew's narrative more and less familiar to historians of the colonial Americas. They are less familiar, perhaps, in that they erode the sense of singular mission—of exceptionalism—that informed his Puritan historiography and has too often divided Anglo-American ("US-onion") historiography from the rest of American history; but more familiar, hopefully, to the extent that the story of that colonial encounter can now be seen as one aspect of a common history of the Americas. By rendering the histories of the colonial Americas simultaneously more and less familiar, these authors reveal hidden linkages within a broader story as well as the conceptual and historiographical gaps that need to be bridged for that common American history to be written more fully.