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Digital Paxton features five keyword essays that provide conceptual and interdisciplinary approaches to the Paxton corpus. At present, we have two essays from literary scholars, two from historians, and one essay that explores visual culture (authored by an historian).
Our approach modeled upon the work of Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler’s Keywords for American Cultural Studies.
Similar to an historical overview essay, each keyword is edited to ensure that it’s accessible to students, yet retains the research of a traditional journal article. In fact, all five of the essays develop or extend arguments that authors originally pursued in books or journal articles. The key difference is that each essay historicizes or theorizes a concept central to the Paxton print debate.
Judith Ridner (Associate Professor of History, Mississippi State University) examines how pamphleteers use the objects of eighteenth-century consumer culture to attack opponents in her keyword essay, “Material Culture.” Close reading both pamphlets and political cartoons, she finds Scots-Irish associated with tomahawks, Germans with blindfolds, and duplicitous Quakers subjected to the scrutiny of magnifying glasses.
James P. Myers, Jr. (Emeritus Professor of English, Gettysburg College) takes close-reading a step further in his essay on “Anonymity.” Using the anonymously published Conduct of the Paxton Men as a case study, Myers finds evidence of Thomas Barton’s hand by evaluating its form, style, and rhetorical duplications. His attention to textual features—such as figures of speech and synecdoche—make his piece an excellent entry point for English students and teachers.
Myers’s essay raises an important fact about the Paxton archive: many of these pamphlets were published anonymously or under pseudonyms. Much like today’s Twitter trolls, pamphleteers wrote under handles, didn’t always know who assailed them, and commonly misattributed writings.
In “Condolence,” Nicole Eustace (Professor of History, New York University) explores the role of condolence rituals in diplomacy. Eustace shows how Euro-Americans and Native Americans diverged in their conceptions of condolence ceremonies: Whereas Native Americans sought to use shared grief as a way to promote harmony prior to negotiations, Euro-Americans regarded these rituals as displays of dominance, as a performance rather than shared experience.
Scott Paul Gordon (Professor of English, Lehigh University) has served as one of the project’s earliest and most generous contributors. His keyword historicizes the term “Elites.” While modern readers might assume the Paxtons railed against Philadelphia elites for greater political power, Gordon shows how the frontiersman used violence to compel local authorities to protect settlements. The Paxton Boys were willing to accept an unequal social order as long as that deference secured them protection, loans, and access to opportunities for work and social advancement.
In addition to his keyword, Gordon has also provided several shorter, Wiki-style explanatory tags related to Christian Indians, Moravians, and Edward Shippen.
Next, Ben Bankhurst (Assistant Professor of History, Shepherd University) has contributed an ambitious essay on “Anti-Presbyterianism.” This piece ought to prove valuable for anyone who wants to understand the origins of anti-Presbyterian sentiment, which Bankhurst traces to post-Restoration Britain and Ireland.
Finally, and most recently, Angel Luke-O'Donnell (Liberal Arts Early Career Fellow of History at King’s College London) supplies a special, multi-page keyword dedicated to the role of "Paratexts" in printed materials. O'Donnell traces how backmatter in the form of errata, advertisements, supplementary material, and postscripts encouraged readers to revisit and reinterpret texts, which he posits opens up new ways of reading printed materials from the Paxton pamphlet war.
We welcome new submissions at any time. You can always connect with the editor using the Contact page.
Differences in Worldview
When Swedes and English interacted face-to-face with the Lenni Lenape or Shawnee, they encountered one another in the fundamental differences, not only of language and culture, but of underlying worldview as well. The differences in worldview between Indians and Europeans informed early negotiations between the groups, which involved moving back and forth between differential understandings of property, language and writing, social customs, and notions of reciprocity. This activity introduces the concept of cultural worldview and allows students to understand how Native and European ideas of time, the spirit world, property and social relations differed from one another. Students are encouraged to speculate on how these differences informed both accommodation and misunderstanding between the two groups.
- How has social disagreement and collaboration benefited Pennsylvania society?
- What role does analysis have in historical construction?
- Recognize the idea of worldview as a way of understanding/viewing cultural difference.
- Understand key differences between Native American and European worldview vis a vis time, property, land, communication, and social/political relations, and identify how these differences shaped interactions such as diplomatic negotiations.
- Distinguish different points of view for historical events.
- Recognize point of view in historical narratives and how it shapes the telling of history.
- Apology of the Paxton Volunteers
- Correspondence, Israel Pemberton captive inquiry
- The Number of What is Killed and Captivated in Bethel Township, Lancaster County
- Grievances of the Back Inhabitants
- Worldview worksheet
- The Indians Giving a Talk to Colonel Bouquet..., an engraving by Benjamin West. According to "An historical account of the expedition against the Ohio Indians," the Muskingum camp was selected as the site for the negotiation of prisoners because many Native American settlements were situated in close proximity to this location. It was the intention of the Europeans to display their military strength and to easily engage these numerous settlements in battle if the negotiations were not successful.
Suggested Instructional Procedures
1. Warm up: Activate prior knowledge by conducting a warm up exercise in which students react quickly to a series of words related to the colonial encounter of Native Americans and Europeans. Explain to students that you will be reading a series of words related to Native Americans and when Europeans first encountered one another on North American shores. Ask them to write down the first word that comes to mind when they hear each term. You will then call out each term and give them only about 10 seconds to write a response. The effectiveness of this exercise is to determine the prior knowledge of the students and to turn their minds towards thinking about words associated with the unit. Words you might use include:
2. Infer worldview: Have students examine the engraving The Indians Giving a Talk to Colonel Bouquet... by Benjamin West, from An historical account of the expedition against the Ohio Indians, in the year 1764.
Note the location of the engraving: The caption of the engraving reads, "The Indians giving a talk to Colonel Bouquet in a conference at a council fire near his camp on the banks of the Muskingum in North America in Oct. 1764." It is important to note that according to An historical account of the expedition against the Ohio Indians, the Muskingum camp was selected as the site for the negotiation of prisoners because many Native American settlements were situated in close proximity to this location. It was the intention of the Europeans to display their military strength and to easily engage these settlements in battle if the negotiations were not successful.
In groups have students quickly write down the differences in the ways Native Americans and Europeans are represented in the engraving. You can either hand out a print out of the engraving or use a Smart Board or projector. Some patterns they should notice include:
- Native Americans are seated on the ground; Europeans are seated on chairs.
- Native Americans are all leaning forward listening intently to what is being said and have intense expressions on their faces; Europeans are writing everything down.
- Native American figure in the center is gesturing dramatically and holding something in his hand (wampum); Europeans are partially turning away and one man pulls his body away with his hand across his chest.
- Native Americans are positioned in the engraving so that their background is of the landscape; Europeans are framed by a man-made wooden structure.
- Ask students to infer what the implications of these patterns are for communication modes. Observe, for example:
- Native Americans have a comfort with nature and more open body posture.
- Native Americans use oral communication; Europeans rely on formal writing.
3. Introduce and discuss the concept of cultural worldview. Ask the class "Who created the engraving?" Tell students that the engraving is an example of the worldview the Europeans held during the colonial era. Describe worldview as a kind of "cultural sunglasses" through which we see and experience the world. Discuss how worldview is a deep kind of cultural understanding that shapes our reality but usually lies beneath the level of everyday awareness. Thus, worldview seems "natural" even though it is cultural.
Compare and contrast Native and European worldviews in terms of time, relationship to nature, ownership of property, and social interaction. Using the Worldview worksheet, create a diagram with students that map out these differences. Have students discuss, in pairs or small groups, how the patterns represented in the engraving embody these differences.
4. Process ideas. Write two of the following questions on the board:
- What do you think would be the worldview from a Native American perspective?
- What do you think a European’s worldview be?
- Given differences in worldview, what challenges did Native Americans and Europeans face when interacting with one another?
- How might these differences of worldview have led to misunderstandings or conflict even when both parties had good intentions?
ExpansionTo take this lesson deeper, have students read Apology of the Paxton Volunteers in light of the documents about grievances, killings, and capture. Discuss the differences in worldview. Examples include city residents (Quakers) vs frontier residents (volunteers) and Europeans vs Native Americans. Some possible discussion questions include:
- How would you describe the Quakers relationship with the Native Americans? With the volunteers?
- Should the Volunteers be punished for murdering Native Americans?
- Do you think this deposition swayed the pubic to the side of the volunteers?
- Diplomacy: negotiation between nations.
- Native American: indigenous or original inhabitants of the Americas prior to European arrival.
- Negotiator: an individual who has the authority to represent or speak for a nation or other entity during a diplomatic conference or any other process whereby diverse parties resolve disputes, agree upon courses of action, or bargain for advantage.
- Paxton Boys: frontier settlers who attacked Indians living at Conestoga, Lancaster County, in 1763.
- Treaty: binding agreement under international law.
- Worldview: an integrated system of deeply held, largely unconscious beliefs and concepts about the universe (natural and/or supernatural), society, and the self.
Download a printable version of this page.
© Historical Society of Pennsylvania
media/The Indians giving a talk - cropped.jpg
When Philadelphia government officials condemned the actions of the Paxton settlers who murdered Christian Indians at Conestoga in late December of 1763, representatives of the rioters answered their critics with an official letter of explanation addressed to Governor John Penn. This essay, delivered in February 1764, in part justified the vigilantism of the Paxton settlers by complaining that the governor had paid “exorbitant presents and great servility” to Indians during treaty negotiations at the expense of defending the lives and interests of settler colonists. They charged that “at the last treaty, not only was the Blood of our many murdered Brethren tamely covered, but our poor unhappy captivated Friends abandoned to Slavery.”
This point of dissatisfaction was reiterated in another essay, “The Apology of the Paxton Volunteers,” which claimed that Indians “insolently boasted of the horrid Murders they had committed, when they saw that our Blood was tamely covered at the last treaty and themselves loaded with presents.” The repeated claim that settler blood had been “tamely covered” referred to a ceremonial practice with deep, but divergent, cultural and political significance for colonists and Indians in early Pennsylvania: the condolence ceremony.
A degree of truth lay beneath the Paxton Boy’s charges that elite leaders had neglected the rituals of grief. In one of his first acts as the new governor of Pennsylvania, in early December 1763, John Penn had convened a treaty conference with representatives of the Delaware nation that disregarded the conventions of condolence by neither expressing nor soliciting grief. Official government minutes recording December 1763 treaty transactions between Governor John Penn and Papounan, a “Mohickon” allied with the Delawares and Nanticokes, reveal the accuracy of the Paxtonites’ assertions concerning the governor’s lack of ceremony. The governor neither demanded nor received any expressions of condolence from the assembled Native Americans. Instead, he explained to the assembly that he would take the dead bodies of the slain settlers and “by this string…bury them and cover them out of sight” (Penn 85). As far as the Paxton settlers were concerned, the governor’s breach of traditional decorum demonstrated his disregard for his subjects.
From early on, European colonists who wished to negotiate with native peoples learned that, in order to do so, they would have to participate in Indian diplomatic traditions. As Daniel Richter has described at length, among these ceremonies, rituals tied to grief for the dead were among the most important and widespread. Although grief rituals had originated with Haudenosaunee (Iroquoian) groups, they had become common among many native peoples in the Pennsylvania region by the latter half of the eighteenth century. Attempting to comprehend the meaning of Indian expressions of grief in the context of diplomacy, Euro-Americans had long labeled these Indian practices “condolence ceremonies.” But this very term should alert us to the culturally incommensurate understandings of mourning that Euro-American and Native Americans brought to rituals of grief.
Euro-Americans regarded the expression of condolences as a ritual mark of respect that paid homage to high-ranking people. Records of treaty negotiations held in Pennsylvania frequently noted that “compliments of condolence for the deaths of persons of distinction [were] exchanged” (Members of the Pennsylvania Council 274). This now-obsolete phrase, the “compliments of condolence,” indicates the role such expressions of shared sorrow played in the Euro-American context (“Condolence”). First, only persons of high rank deserved to be honored with the “compliment of condolence.” Second, the mere expression of shared sorrow did not signify that the person offering condolences was experiencing any inner feelings of grief or sadness, merely that they were paying respect by offering an “outward expression of sympathy with the grief of others.” Euro-Americans made public declarations of grief only when they wished to confer a mark of status on a person of public importance. Whatever private inner experience of sorrow the death of a subordinate member of Euro-American society might generate among family or friends, only leading men were regarded as acceptable candidates for public expressions of mourning. Likewise, showing public deference at the death of a noteworthy man did not necessitate inner emotional sorrow; it simply required an outward tribute.
For the settler colonists at Paxton, the idea that deaths among their members had been quickly covered over during diplomatic meetings, rather than made an occasion for ceremonial mourning, was insulting in the extreme. Their letter complained that “exorbitant presents and great Servility…paid to Indians, have long been oppressive Grievances we have groaned under.” From the Paxton perspective, all Euro-Americans should be regarded as superior to all Native Americans and thus deserving of the “compliments of condolence” from Indians. When Governor Penn “tamely covered” the settlers’ dead without demanding condolences from Indians, he as much as said that he did not regard frontier settlers as worthy of such honorary tribute.
Borderlands colonists assumed that Indians too intended to send a signal of disrespect by not expressing grief. As one pro-Paxton pamphlet writer demanded, “Did we hear any of those Lamentations that are now so plentifully poured forth for the Conestogoe Indians?— O my dear Friends! Must I answer No? The Dutch and the Irish are murdered without Pity.” Backcountry settlers repeatedly complained that colonial leaders’ emotional comportment conveyed more respect for Indians than for their fellow Europeans. They believed that the governor’s omission of the expression of grief at the deaths of their countrymen amounted to an insult to the dignity and value of their lives.
In reality, the native peoples of Pennsylvania brought a very different set of social expectations and cultural understandings to the ceremonies of grief that they made central to their diplomatic practices. Native American diplomatic protocol relied on many opening ceremonies that were designed to bring participants at treaty conferences into a harmonious state of mind before negotiations began. For Indians, the shared experience of grief was a way to create a community of feeling that could unite former enemies. Indians expressed grief at the deaths of all people, regardless of the rank of the deceased. The point of mingling tears and then wiping them away was to merge disparate peoples together as a unified whole.
Expressions of mutuality were a key element of Native American condolence rituals. As a Native American leader known as, “The Belt,” said in 1756, “kind Expressions of condolence” indicated that Indians and English had “experienced a common Loss [that] affected you as well as us, thereby signifying that we were one people and our Cause the same” (Old Belt 1). For Euro-Americans, subjective feelings of sadness were far less important than statements of tribute that demonstrated the respect in which the deceased was held; the very definition of condolence specified that it involved the ceremonial outward expression of sympathy on the occasion of a death rather than any great inward experience of sorrow. By contrast, Indian grief rituals were supposed to create a deep inner communion between peoples. For more on condolence ceremonies, reference White, Shannon, Gustafson, and Sayre).
Fundamentally, then, the Euro-American term “condolence ceremony” redirected and misrepresented the Indian tradition. First, Euro-Americans were interested in ceremonial performance, not emotional experience. Secondly, whereas Euro-Americans regarded a successful demand for condolences as an effective display of dominance, native peoples regarded a genuine sharing of grief as a means of sweeping away divisions among peoples, a key element in the resumption of peaceful relations.
When Governor John Penn “tamely covered” the settler dead at the December treaty conference, he did so with the primary goal of smoothing over frontier tensions and returning the colony to peace and stability. Far from seeking to melt away distinctions between Indians and Europeans in a flood of shared tears, Penn wanted to strengthen and secure his colony’s boundaries. But neither did he hesitate to skip the Indian custom of grieving for all deceased people. In the aftermath of the Seven Years War, Penn was much less concerned with affirming the lives and fortunes of the colony’s frontier inhabitants, than with moving past lingering Indian issues and on to pressing domestic policy concerns. Of course, such a statement made sense in diplomatic terms; if statements of grief constituted calls for action, then the decision to omit demands for condolences underscored the governor’s desire to dampen the spread of Indian conflicts in favor of a quick and uncomplicated peace.
The tragedy of the truncated condolence ceremony in December of 1763 is that the assembled Indians likely intended to follow Penn’s lead and to relinquish grief in favor of peace, not to further provoke the colony by conveying disrespect for the settler dead. Yet, in part because condolences were not asked or offered, backcountry settlers exacted revenge on their Christian Indian neighbors, undercutting the very peace that the Indians had sought to ensure. Their action did little to force respect from Governor Penn, much less from the Indians. Yet, by the following July, it did result in a new official policy allowing “that there shall be paid…to all and every person…premiums and Bounties for the prisoners and Scalps of Enemy Indians that shall be taken or killed within the Bounds of this Province.”
This essay draws upon research from two chapters of Nicole Eustace's book, Passion is the Gale: Emotion, Power, and the Coming of the American Revolution (UNC Press 2011). To learn more about Nicole Eustace, visit the Creators page.
- “Condolence, n.” definition 2 a, Oxford English Dictionary Online, Oxford University Press 2016.
- Sandra M. Gustafson, Eloquence Is Power: Oratory and Performance in Early America (Chapel Hill: UNC Press 2000).
- Members of the Pennsylvania Council, “On Considering the Several Matters Set forth in the Minutes of Council… Dec. 24, 1754,” in Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania, from the Organization to the Termination of the Proprietary Government, Volume VI (Harrisburg, PA: Theo. Fenn & Co., 1851), 274.
- Jane Merritt, At the Crossroads: Indians and Empires on a Mid-Atlantic Frontier, 1700-1763 (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2003).
- Old Belt, speech as reported by Governor James Hamilton, “At a Council held at Carlisle, Thursday the 15th January, 1756,” PA Provincial Council Minutes, V. VII, 1.
- John Penn, as quoted in notes taken “At a Council held at Philadelphia on Saturday the 10th December, 1763,” Pennsylvania Provincial Council Minutes, V. IX, 85.
- Daniel Richter, The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Ear of European Colonization (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1992).
- Gordon M. Sayre, Les Sauvages Américains: Representations of Native Americans in French and English Colonial Literature (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1997).
- Timothy J. Shannon, Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire: The Albany Congress of 1754 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000).
- Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983).