On the foundations of settler sovereignty: John Smolenski, ‘Murder on the Margins: The Paxton Massacre and the Remaking of Sovereignty in Colonial Pennsylvania’, Journal of Early Modern History, 19, 6, 2015, pp. 513-538
Abstract: On December 14 and 27, 1763, rioters in western Pennsylvania attacked and killed nearly two dozen Conestoga Indians living near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Five weeks later, two hundred and fifty men, calling themselves the Paxton Boys, marched on Pennsylvania to kill Indians housed there for their protection. These events sparked outrage, as pro- and anti-Paxtonite authors debated the attacks. Defenders of the massacre claimed that they had not only the right but the duty as good British subjects to kill “alien” Indians within the colony’s borders. This article argues that these efforts to articulate the civic rights and duties in the aftermath of the massacre represented a subtle attempt to redefine imperial authority on the frontier. The Paxton rioters, in their actions and their post-hoc justifications, seized sovereign power of life and death and the ability to delimit the meanings of allegiance, casting themselves as sovereign subjects on the frontier.
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