This page is referenced by:
Digital Paxton would not be possible without the early and sustained support of institutional partners at the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. This project is by design ongoing and open-ended. As students, educators, and researchers discover and use the site, we invite suggestions to improve it as a digital collection, critical edition, and educational tool using the Contact page.
To that end, Digital Paxton relies upon the contributions of some two-dozen research libraries, archives, and cultural institutions, arranged alphabetically.
- American Antiquarian Society: Nathan Fiske (Photographer), Molly Hardy (former Director of Library and Archives at Cape Ann Museum), and Marie Lamoureux (Collections Manager and Image Librarian). Thanks also to the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, whose Lapidus Initiative Digital Collections Fellowship (2017-2018) supported the digitization of Pennsylvania Gazette issues.
- American Philosophical Society: Bayard Miller (Digital Projects and Metadata Librarian), Joseph DiLullo (Library Technical Assistant), Patrick Spero (Librarian and Director), and Scott Ziegler (former Head of Technology).
- British Museum
- Circle Legacy Center: Sandi Cianciulli (Executive Director) and MaryAnn Robins (President) .
- Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Sarah Horowitz (Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts and Head of Quaker and Special Collections. Thanks also to Peter Silver (Associate Professor of History, Rutgers University), who helped to identify key manuscripts from the Friendly Association Papers.
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania: Lee Arnold (Senior Director of the Library & Collections and Chief Operating Officer), GVGK Tang (2016 summer intern), Samantha Miller (former Digital Services Imaging Technician), Kaitlyn Pettengill (former Digital Services Archivist), Vicki Russo (Digitization and Metadata Specialist), Steve Smith (Public Services Librarian), Page Talbott (former President and CEO), and Andrew Williams (Project Specialist and R&R Coordinator).
- John Carter Brown Library, Brown University
- Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts: Chris Lippa (Library Imaging Assistant, Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text & Image), Eri Mizukane (Administrative and Reprographic Services Coordinator, Kislak Center), Mick Overgard (Head, Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text & Image), and John Pollack (Curator, Research Services, Kislak Center).
- LancasterHistory: Heather Tennies (Director of Archival Services), Marianne Heckles (Research Assistant & Coordinator of the Photographic Collections), and Stephanie Townrow (Museum Educator).
- Library Company of Philadelphia: Eleanor Grace Andersen (2018 fall intern), Concetta Barbera (Digital Outreach Librarian & Curatorial Assistant), Michael Barsanti (Director), Jim Green (Librarian), Raechel Hammer (Chief Development Officer), Hunter Johnson (2016 summer intern), Clarissa Lowry (Events and Programs Coordinator), Julian David Perrin (2019 fall intern), and Nicole Scalessa (Chief Information Officer).
- Library of Congress
- Library of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain
- Moravian Archives of Bethlehem: Thomas McCullough (Assisant Archivist). Thanks also to Scott Paul Gordon (Professor of English, Lehigh University), who supported the digitization and transcription of congregational records.
- National Archives
- Newberry Library: Jen Wolfe (Digital Initiatives Manager)
- New York Public Library
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: Alexander Till (Assistant Registrar)
- Pennsylvania State Archives
- Philadelphia Museum of Art
- Presbyterian Historical Society: Charlene Peacock (Reference Archivist) and Natalie Shilstut (Digital Collections Archivist).
- University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center
- University of Michigan, William L. Clements Library: Jayne Ptolemy (Reading Room Supervisor and Curatorial Assistant) and Austin Thomason (Michigan Photography)
- University of Pittsburgh Library System: Miriam Meislik (Media Curator, Archives & Special Collections).
Benjamin Bankhurst is assistant professor of History at Shepherd University. Dr. Bankhurst’s research focuses on migration to the Appalachian frontier in the colonial and revolutionary periods. Before Joining the History Department at Shepherd, Dr. Bankhurst held teaching and research appointments at the London School of Economics; the Institute of Historical Research; and Queen Mary, University of London. His articles have appeared in the Pennsylvania Magazine for History and Biography, The Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies, and Eire/Ireland. The American Council for Irish Studies awarded his first book Ulster Presbyterians and the Scots Irish Diaspora, 1750-1763 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) the Donald Murphy Prize.
Jack Brubaker is the author of Massacre of the Conestogas: On the Trail of the Paxton Boys in Lancaster County (The History Press, 2010), the first book to examine the massacre of 1763 and its aftermath in detail. Brubaker also has written Down the Susquehanna to the Chesapeake (Penn State Press, 2002) and a dozen other books and magazine articles. He is at work on a book about the reconciliation between North and South between the Civil and Spanish-American wars. Brubaker has worked as a journalist since 1970. He was a member of a team of Lancaster Newspapers (LNP) reporters that won national awards for stories investigating the shootings of 10 Amish girls at the Nickel Mines school house in Lancaster County in 2006. He retired as an investigative reporter for LNP in 2013. He continues to write a weekly LNP column about the history and culture of Lancaster County. He lives with his wife, Christine Brubaker, a teacher and conservationist, in Lancaster County's Manor Township, not far from where the first Conestogas were massacred in December 1763.
Jay Donis is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Lehigh University. His dissertation examines the political culture of the Mid-Atlantic frontier in the Revolutionary era as Anglo-Americans migrated from western Virginia and western Pennsylvania into Kentucky. The project focuses on the constitutional practices and beliefs of frontier communities as those communities contributed to the evolution of American rights in last third of the eighteenth century. His publications include an article on the Black Boys in the Journal of Early American History and an historiographic article on frontiers and borderlands in the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society.His most recent piece is a forthcoming article in Pennsylvania History that discusses Anglo-American violence toward Native Americans and government officials in the Virginia borderlands.
Nicole Eustace is professor of History at New York University, where she directs the Atlantic History Workshop. She writes and lectures on the history of the Atlantic world, with a particular emphasis on eighteenth-century British America. Her focus of analytic inquiry is the history of emotion. She is the author of two monographs: Passion Is the Gale: Emotion, Power, and the Coming of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, 2008 / paper 2011) and 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism (Philadelphia, 2012) and is the co-editor, with Fredrika J. Teute, of the essay collection Warring for America: Cultural Contests in the Era of 1812. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous journals including The American Historical Review, The Journal of American History, The William and Mary Quarterly, and The Journal of Social History. In addition, her work has appeared in many edited collections including David Lemmings and Ann Brooks, ed.s, Emotions and Social Change: Historical and Sociological Perspectives (Routledge, 2014) and Susan Matt and Peter N. Stearns, ed.s, Doing Emotions History (Unive rsity of Illinois Press, 2014). She serves on the advisory boards of Early American Studies, the Early American Places Series of New York University Press, as well as on the H-NET listserv, H-Emotion and is currently serving in her second term as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.
Michael Goode is associate professor of early American and Atlantic World History at Utah Valley University. His research and teaching focuses on religion and political culture, colonization, and the relationship between peace and violence in the early modern British Empire. His current book project, A Colonizing Peace: The Quaker Struggle for Gospel Order in Early America, examines the role of peace as a language and practice of government in relationship to colonization, slavery, and imperial warfare. His most recent article, “Dangerous Spirits: Alcohol, Native Revivalism, and Quaker Reform,” appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Early American Studies. In addition to his solo-authored book, Professor Goode is co-editing a volume on peace and violence in the colonial Americas with Dr. John Smolenski, University of California, Davis. Professor Goode was the Friends of the MCEAS Dissertation Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies in 2010. He currently serving as Associate Editor for Peace & Change and is on the executive committee for Peace and Justice Studies at Utah Valley University.
Scott Paul Gordon is professor of English and the Andrew W. Mellon Chair at Lehigh University, where he has taught since 1995. Gordon has served as Director of Lehigh University Press (2006-2011) and as chair of the Department of English (2011-2016). His first projects focused on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British literature: The Power of the Passive Self in English Literature, 1640-1770 (Cambridge University Press, 2002) and The Practice of Quixotism: Postmodern Theory and Eighteenth-Century Women's Writing (Palgrave, 2006). His current research focuses on early America, in particular the Moravian experiment in Pennsylvania. One project brings into print for the first time the extensive correspondence of Mary Penry (1735-1804), who immigrated from Wales in 1744 and lived as a single sister in Moravian communities at Bethlehem and Lititz for nearly fifty years. Another focuses on religion, social ambition, and patriotism in colonial and revolutionary Pennsylvania by exploring the lives of “worldly Moravians.” Pieces of these projects have appeared in The William and Mary Quarterly, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Early American Studies, and The Journal of Moravian History. In 2010 the Jacobsburg Historical Society published Gordon’s study of the Delaware chief Gelelemend (1737-1811), titled Two William Henrys: Indian and White Brothers in Arms and Faith in Colonial and Revolutionary America.
Kevin Kenny is professor of History at Boston College. His principal area of research and teaching is the history of migration and popular protest in the Atlantic world. His latest book, Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn's Holy Experiment (2009), explains how Pennsylvania's early religious tolerance and social harmony disintegrated during the eighteenth century, with disastrous consequences for the province's Indians. Covering the period from Pennsylvania's foundation in the 1680s to its dissolution during the American Revolution, the book traces the emergence of intensifying forms of colonialist expropriation, from the flawed utopian vision of the founder, through the rapacious avarice of his sons, the French and Indian War, and Pontiac's War, to the consummation of a harsh new order during the Revolution. At the heart of the story is the extermination of the last twenty Conestoga Indians by a group of frontier settlers known as the Paxton Boys.
Professor Kenny's earlier work concentrated on the history of Irish migrants in the Atlantic and British imperial worlds. His first book, Making Sense of the Molly Maguires (1998), examined how traditions of agrarian protest in nineteenth-century Ireland were translated into an American industrial setting. His second book, The American Irish: A History (2000), offered an interpretive survey of Irish migration to North America from 1700 to the present, including the Irish preconditions to mass emigration and questions of labor, social mobility, religion, race, gender, politics, and nationalism among the Irish in the United States. He is also the author of a short pictorial history, The Irish: Towards the U.S.A., published in Italy as Gli irlandesi che hanno fatto l'America (2006) and contributing editor of Ireland and the British Empire (Oxford University Press, 2004), a collection of historical essays that launched the Companion Series to the five-volume Oxford History of the British Empire. He is currently researching various aspects of migration and popular protest in the Atlantic world and laying the groundwork for a long-term project investigating the meaning of immigration in American history.
Darvin L. Martin specializes in the impact of colonialism with Native American communities at the local level. In addition to publishing the booklet A Clash of Cultures: Native Americans and Colonialism in Lancaster County (2008), Martin frequently conducts tours of local Native American history and gives presentations on this topic to a variety of interested groups. He serves as a historical adviser for the Lancaster Longhouse in connection with the Hans Herr House, and Circle Legacy Center, and he has chaired the Lancaster Family History Conference since 2003.
James P. Myers, Jr. is emeritus professor of English at Gettysburg College, where he taught, among other subjects, courses in Shakespeare and Irish literature. For the past several decades or so, he has researched and published some twenty articles on colonial cartography and aspects of frontier life in Pennsylvania during the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary periods, the latest (Pennsylvania History 2011) an examination of Pennsylvania’s persecution of the Rev. Daniel Batwelle, Anglican missionary for York and Cumberland counties. In 2010, he published his fifth book, a biography, The Ordeal of Thomas Barton: Anglican Missionary in the Pennsylvania Backcountry, 1755-1780. Most recently, he has written several articles on the eighteenth-century Franco-American farmer, cartographer, writer and, possibly, spy, Michel-Guillaume St. Jean de Crèvecoeur (a.k.a John Hector St. John).
Angel-Luke O'Donnell is a Liberal Arts Early Career Fellow in History at King’s College London. He is the fellows liaison for the Georgian Papers Programme (GPP), a partnership between King’s College London and the Royal Collections Trust, and the programme is joined by primary United States partners the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture and William & Mary College. Other key U.S. institutions participating in the GPP include the Library of Congress, Mount Vernon and the Sons of the American Revolution. Angel has published work on the audience and the material text as well as the role of print professionals in the Paxton Boys debate. His current book project analyses the role of cheap print in the popular political movement that culminated in the 1776 Pennsylvania State Constitution.
Judith Ridner is professor of History at Mississippi State University, where she teaches early American history, immigration history, material culture, and oral and public history. To date, her research in early American history has focused primarily on the communities and peoples of the eighteenth-century Pennsylvania back country with particular emphasis on the Scots-Irish. She is the author of The Scots Irish of Early Pennsylvania: A Varied People (Temple University Press, 2018) and A Town In-Between: Carlisle, Pennsylvania and the Early Mid-Atlantic Interior (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010) as well as the recipient of the Philip Klein Prize from the Pennsylvania Historical Association. Her current research project, “Clothing the Babel,” is exploring how the material culture of ethnic identity in the eighteenth-century mid-Atlantic served as one model for the negotiation of pluralism in early America.
Ridner also has research interests in oral and digital history. During her previous academic appointment at Muhlenberg College (1998-2011), she helped to lead a community oral history project focused on postwar African American life and civil rights in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. An article from that project appeared in Oral History Review in 2014. More recently, she has been working with a group of Mississippi State librarians and history graduate students on “A Shaky Truce: Starkville Civil Rights Struggles, 1960-1980,” an award-winning digital oral and public history website that examines the civil rights movement in the Mississippi town where we live with particular emphasis on the local fight for school desegregation.
About the Editor
Will Fenton is the Director of Research and Public Programs at the Library Company of Philadelphia, the editor of Ghost River: The Fall and Rise of the Conestoga (Red Planet Books & Comics, 2019), and the founder and editor of Digital Paxton. He earned his Ph.D. from Fordham University in August 2018 (Department of English).
In his role at Benjamin Franklin’s library, Fenton manages both the research fellowship program (50-60 fellows annually) and public programming, which include book talks, seminars, symposia, and research colloquia. He launched the institution’s Innovation Award (2018), First Book Award (2020), and Innovation Fellowship Program (2020) to recognize work that critically and creatively the possibilities of humanities scholarship. Fenton hosts the library’s weekly Fireside Chats webinar series and Talking in the Library podcast series.
Fenton specializes in early American literature and the digital humanities, for which he has received support from the American Philosophical Society; Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections; Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory; Library Company of Philadelphia; Modern Language Association; New York Public Library; NYC Digital Humanities; and Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture. His writings have appeared in academic journals (American Quarterly, Common-Place, and ESQ); academic blogs (Eighteenth-Century Common, MLA Connected Academics, Omohundro Uncommon Sense, and the Organization of American Historians); and public platforms (including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Slate, Inside Higher Ed, and PC Magazine).
James P. Myers, Jr.
The most popular author in this Paxton archive is Anonymous. Alongside pseudonyms like "Pennsylvania," "Philalethes," and "Philanthropos," Paxton critics and apologists often published materials without any attribution in order to avoid public scrutiny or reprimand. Indeed, this archive features nearly two dozen pamphlets and political cartoons published without any attribution, including popular materials such as A Battle, A Looking-Glass, and A New Song in High Vogue in Northampton County. Elsewhere, historians and archivists have labored to discern authorship by examining biographies, correspondence, and deconstructing stylistic features that reveal an author's hand. This essay seeks to use Thomas Barton's The Conduct of the Paxton Men, Impartially Represented as one such case study. However, unlike other pamphleteers who chose to mask their identities for personal reasons, Barton was coerced into a political role that he must have loathed.
Printed in Philadelphia in 1764, The Conduct was written partly to rebut Benjamin Franklin's anonymously published attack on the Scots-Irish instigators of the Paxton Boys' disturbances, A Narrative of the Late Massacres. Accordingly, The Conduct sought to justify and defend the actions of the (largely Scots-Irish Presbyterian) Paxtonians, to impugn the motives, pacifism, and inaction of the Quaker-dominated General Assembly, and to discredit the reputation of the murdered Conestoga Indians.
Although the pamphlet's title page does not identify an author, it is generally accepted that the Rev. Thomas Barton, itinerant Anglican missionary in Lancaster, wrote The Conduct. This attribution, however, contradicts all that we know of Barton's previously expressed feelings about the Scots-Irish and the Native Americans. Why would he precipitously betray his mission? The probable answer is that the Penn proprietary (Pennsylvania's executive arm) and the Scots-Irish, long at odds with one another, found common cause in checking the legislative power of the Quakers. Lest he betray the government's strategy, however, Barton had to write as someone other than the most eloquent and literary Anglican divine then in the colony. Anonymity also assuaged his personal scruples.
Barton succeeded in remaining unknown. Although some might have suspected Barton's hand, his authorship remained secret until his own great-great-grandson, George Maurice Abbot, identified him in 1873. Notwithstanding Abbot's attribution and the scholarly agreement accorded it, a careful reading of the tract, set against what can be established of Barton's life and outlook, raises significant questions.
Why would Barton, whose correspondence consistently expresses aversion to both mob rule and overly assertive dissenters, especially New Side Presbyterians, advocate the cause of largely Scots-Irish Presbyterian vigilantes? A missionary committed to Christianizing and educating the Native Americans, moreover, Barton would seem an unexpected apologist for the slaughter of twenty baptized Conestogas peaceably settled on a reservation near Lancaster.
The case against Barton
If George M. Abbot had known of a family tradition identifying Barton as the author, that tradition would most likely have derived from Abbot’s great-grandfather and Thomas's eldest son, William. Yet William, eight years old at the time of the December murders, never once alludes in his biography of his uncle, David Rittenhouse, to his father's attitude toward the rioters (William Barton 146-50). William expends over three pages on the disturbances themselves without referring either to his father's contemporaneous preaching in Lancaster or to his supposed authorship of the tract. Either William Barton knew nothing of his father's relationship to the Paxton affair, or, more likely, he suppressed the information.
Another factual challenge to Barton's authorship comes with the pamphleteer's teasing reference to his residence: "Dated from my FARM-HOUSE, March 17th, 1764." Barton did not reside on or own a farm in 1764. It was only after 1768 that Barton began to cultivate what appears to have been his first and only farm in Lancaster county, ironically located on the Conestoga Manor (Klein and Diller 30-32). This reference thus needs to be understood as a further attempt to mislead the reader.
Thomas Barton's known attitudes also don't align with the pamphleteer's expressed feelings toward the Paxtonians and the Indians. At least one contemporary polemicist perceived that The Conduct was executed in a spirit far from the title's self-publicized impartiality, so shrill was its defense of the rioters and its vilification of the Indians (An Answer to the Pamphlet Entitled "The Conduct of the Paxton Men").
In his introduction, the anonymous author of The Conduct pointedly disavows having any "political Ends to serve . . . [and] nothing to hope or fear from Party Connections." Professing objectivity, he pointedly dissociates himself from any incendiary or insurrectionist impulse, unequivocally repudiating vigilantism: "Such violent Steps can never possibly be productive of any thing, but WILD UPROAR and CONFUSION." He swears "to bear his Testimony against, and to discountenance by every Means in his Power" whatever might offer "the least Insult to the LAWS and GOVERNMENT of his Country."
His argument, however, trenchantly defends the Paxton Volunteers' destructive actions and criticizes all Indians and the Quaker party's political position. After quoting at length from the petition submitted by the rioters (A Declaration and Remonstrance), the author employs the same phrasing he used on his tract's first page, but he now argues that the insurgents need to be appreciated as other than "RIOTERS, REBELS, MURDERERS, WHITE SAVAGES." Rational men, he elaborates:
"As might be deem'd..." – the Paxton Boys only appeared to defy the state. What has been popularly interpreted as rebellion actually laid "bare the PHARASAICAL BOSOM of QUAKERISM, by obliging the NON-RESISTING QUALITY to take up Arms, and to become Proselytes to the first great Law of Nature."
are sensibly concern'd that [the Paxtonians]
were reduced to the Necessity of having Recourse
to such Methods as might be deem'd an Insult to the Government and Laws of their King and Country
The perceived indifference of the Quaker faction to the frontiersmen and its protection of the Indians, on the other hand, invited condemnation. By insisting that important political and ethical differences separated the proprietary from the assembly, the pamphleteer denies accusations of sedition.
Perhaps the most telling argument against Barton's authorship, however, rests upon the pamphleteer's unmitigated hatred for all Indians. Throughout his entire missionary career, Barton distinguished between hostile and "friendly" Native Americans. Generally, he criticized those allied to the French and eager to attack the British settlers. "Barbarous Savages," "the rude Spoiler," "Heathens or Infidels," "Barbarians," "a Cruel Enemy" – these are the more common nouns and adjectives he uses to describe the hostiles (Thomas Barton to William Smith, 28 October 1755; Thomas Barton to William Smith, 2 November 1755; Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 5 July 1763).
More typically, however, Barton viewed the proposed beneficiaries of his missionary activities with a mixture of condescension and compassion—"poor ignorant Creatures," "tawny People," "miserable unenlightened People," "barbarous Nations who are immersed in the grossest Idolatry," "those poor Heathen who 'sit in Darkness & the Shadow of Death,'" and "rude & barbarous creatures" (Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756; Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 28 June 1763; Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 6 December 1760; Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 23 January 1766).
In one 1764 report, he praises his congregation for having had no part "in the Murder of the Indians in this Place and the different Insurrections occasion’d by this inhuman Act" (Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 16 November 1764). He also castigates the Paxton Volunteers in a letter to Sir William Johnson when he refers in passing to "the Assassination of those hapless Wretches" (Thomas Barton to Sir William Johnson, "supposed May 1763").
The case for Barton
While it is difficult to square Barton's sympathies for improving the Indians' conditions with the pamphleteer's naked hatred of baptized Conestogas, the pamphlet's epistolary form, distinctive prose style, and rhetorical duplication of an earlier Barton tract—combined with external evidence—suggest that Thomas Barton was, in fact, the author.
In addition to combining an apology for the Paxtonians with a polemic against Franklin's Narrative, The Conduct relies upon the convention of the letter. Both the title page and the initial headnote claim to be "A LETTER from a GENTLEMAN in one of the Frontier-Counties, to his Friend in Philadelphia, relating to the Paxton-Men." Barton's brother-in-law, David Rittenhouse might well have been that "Friend in Philadelphia." While the addressee is forgotten once the essay gets fully underway, in one notable passage the author implies that his missive should correct his friend's ignorance of frontier life. The pamphleteer writes: "I am no Stranger to your Fellow-feeling and Humanity:- I well know that you have a Tear for Distress, and a Sigh for Misery." He then diplomatically reminds his friend that "if it were not criminal, I should envy you your happy Lot, in being placed by Providence at some Distance from the Scenes of Destruction and Desolation, of which, I and my Neighbours have been Melancholy Eye-Witnesses." With that, he elaborates a full page of graphic description of recent atrocities enacted in the backcountry.
If the apologist is to be believed, he wrote his letter on 17 March 1764, one month following Rittenhouse's epistolary condemnation of the Paxtonians' march on Philadelphia. William Barton does not quote Rittenhouse’s letter in full, his purpose being to illustrate that his uncle "was zealously disposed to support the legitimate authority of the government, in order to suppress illegal and disorderly proceedings, subversive of the laws and dangerous to the public peace and safety" (William Barton 147).
Because the actual Barton/Rittenhouse correspondence has been lost or destroyed, we cannot examine whatever letters Barton may have penned to Rittenhouse on this subject. One thing about the pamphlet is nevertheless clear: it was written in part to defend the actions of a people who felt that government apathy had abandoned them to Indian savagery and to exonerate the backsettlers from such criticism as Rittenhouse expressed in his 16 February letter, when he wrote: "I have seen hundreds of Indians travelling the country, and can with truth affirm, that the behaviour of these fellows [the Paxonians] was ten times more savage and brutal than theirs" (William Barton 148).
Not unlike handwriting, style reveals evidence of identity, even in instances where an author might try to alter it. Barton's annual epistolary reports to the Anglican church, war journal, and the exhortation Unanimity and Public Spirit all disclose what might be described as eighteenth-century journalistic style: Barton's prose stands out for its energetic, spirited, if at times glib, "flow"; its numerous parenthetical, interruptive, and exclamatory statements; its predilection for paired synonymous, often alliterated nouns, and for paired adjectival, over adverbial, modifiers; its frequent use of the figures of speech metonymy and synecdoche in emotionally stressful descriptions. Perhaps reflecting the fast pace of his writing, Barton reveals a fondness for the dash or the dash combined with a period to mark a sentence's end. Any or a few of these would scarcely serve to particularize Barton's prose, but combined with one another and set forth with rhythms and cadences as distinctive as the grain patterns that distinguish oak, cherry, maple, or walnut, his style announces itself readily.
One of Barton's favorite figures of speech involves a synecdoche employing images of the wounded or bleeding heart and blood/bleeding. It invariably occurs in his descriptions of Indian atrocities and of his reactions thereto. In a 8 November 1756 annual report to his superiors, he writes: "my Heart bleeds in relating what I am an Eye Witness to" (Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756). He tells Thomas Penn that "My Heart bleeds for the poor People" (Thomas Barton to Thomas Penn, 7 April 1758). The author of The Conduct expresses himself similarly: "My Heart has often bled" and "what good Man is there, whose Heart does not bleed . . . ?" Barton uses personification to express the magnitude of suffering in the backcountry: "our bleeding Country"; "their bleeding Country." (Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756; Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 5 July 1763). Similarly, The Conduct's author rebukes the Quakers "who have so long suffer'd the Province to bleed beneath the Savage Knife."
The image of fire offers another powerful symbol of backcountry warfare. In one letter, Barton describes the country's seeming "to be one general Blaze” (Thomas Barton, Pennsylvania Gazette), anticipating the pamphlet's "all burnt to Ashes in one general Flame." This phrasing echoes similar descriptive usage elsewhere: the pamphlet's "their Country rescued from total Ruin" and an earlier letter’s lament that all is "ready to sink together in one general Ruin!" (Thomas Barton to Thomas Penn, 28 February 1757).
The author of The Conduct shares with Barton a fondness for doubling adjectives and descriptive nouns to heighten emphasis. Compare the following characteristic examples from the pamphlet and Barton's earlier writings. The Conduct: "Distresses and Sufferings ... Infamy and Odium ... WILD UPROAR and CONFUSION"; "Lenity and Mercy"; "meek and peaceable . . . Protection and Security ... Vengeance and Destruction"; "Noise and Hubbub"; "Vassalage and Slavery"; "Ruin and Desolation"; "Cruelty and Inhumanity"; "LAWS and MAGISTRACY"; and "LIBERTY and FREEDOM." Barton's earlier works: "The general Cry & Wish is for"; "Miseries and Distresses"; "Beggary and Despair"; "Objects of Charity and Commiseration"; "Sighs and Groans"; "calamity [SPACE] and distress"; "dangers and trials"; "barbarous and cruel"; "Hardships or Distresses" (Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 5 July 1763; Thomas Barton, Pennsylvania Gazette; Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756; Thomas Barton to Thomas Penn, 28 February 1757).
Barton and the author of the pamphlet also like to alliterate their doubled nouns and modifiers. A sampling from Barton's known works: "Cries & Confusion"; "the Pulpit & not the Press"; "sudden and savage Death"; "Division and Distinction"; "Advice and Assistance"; "Grand & Glorious work"; "Danger & Distress"; "an Interest with, & an Influence upon"; "all Health & Happiness" (Thomas Barton to William Smith, 2 November 1755; Thomas Barton to William Smith, 28 October 1755; Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756; Thomas Barton to Thomas Penn, 7 April 1758; Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 11 April 1758; Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 18 July 1758).
Even though The Conduct's author shows a greater inclination for simple descriptive, often redundant, doublets, he also employs alliteration to achieve added emphasis: "Application and Addresses"; "drunken, debauch'd"; "Discord and Dissention"; "Gallows or the Gibbet"; "Honour and Hospitality"; "Destruction and Desolation"; "lawful and loyal Methods"; and "QUAKERS and DON QUIXOTES."
Barton's frequent use of the verb and the verbal noun groan finds its parallel in the pamphlet. Compare "groaning under a burden"; "miseries they now sadly groan under"; "calamities under which they have groan'd"; "Signs and Groans" (Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756; Thomas Barton to the Bishop of Oxford, 12 March 1757; Thomas Barton, Pennsylvania Gazette) with the pamphlet's "Groans of the People."
Stylistically, Thomas Barton and the writer of The Conduct favor recurring figures of speech, synecdoche, and metonymy. The two authors also show a predilection for the epistolary form. And both rely upon a specific, common vocabulary and rhetorical strategy. Less open to analysis is the similar rhythm, cadence, and syntax that characterize each as journalistic at times, and hortatory at others. Finally, on an admittedly subjective level, reading passages from Barton and The Conduct aloud physically reinforces the sense that we are, in fact, reading the same writer.
This essay is based upon James P. Myers's chapter "A Stark Naked Presbyterian," in The Ordeal of Thomas Barton: Anglican Missionary in the Pennsylvania Backcountry, 1755-1780 (Lehigh University, 2010). To learn more about Myers, visit the Creators page.
- H. M. J. Klein and William F. Diller, The History of St. James's Church (Protestant Episcopal), 1744-1944 (Lancaster, 1944).
- William Barton, Memoirs of the Life of David Rittenhouse (Philadelphia, 1813).
- Thomas Barton, Pennsylvania Gazette, 28 July 1763, no. 1805.
- Thomas Barton to the Bishop of Oxford, 12 March 1757, transcription, Miscellaneous File, no. 15212, York County Historical Society, York, Pennsylvania.
- Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 5 July 1763, Peters Papers, 6:10, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 11 April 1758, Peters Papers, 3:377, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Thomas Barton to Richard Peters, 18 July 1758, Peters Papers, 3:452, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Thomas Barton to Sir William Johnson, "supposed May 1768," Documentary History of New York, 4:382.
- Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 8 November 1756, S.P.G. Letter Books, Series B, vol. 21, no. 1.
- Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 6 December 1760, S.P.G. Letter Books, Series B, vol. 21, no. 8. Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 28 June 1763, S.P.G. Letter Books, Series B, vol. 21, no. 13.
- Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 16 November 1764, S.P.G. Letter Books, Series B., vol. 21, no. 14.
- Thomas Barton to the Secretary, 23 January 1766, Historical Collections Relating to the American Colonial Church, William S. Perry, ed., vol. 2: Pennsylvania (Hartford. Conn., 1871), 400.
- Thomas Barton to Thomas Penn, 28 February 1757, Penn Papers, Official Correspondence, 8:239, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Thomas Barton to Thomas Penn, 7 April 1758, Penn Papers, Official Correspondence, 9:21, , Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Thomas Barton to William Smith, 28 October 1755, the Hawks Manuscript Collection, Records of the General Convention, Archives of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A., S,I,19-6-58.
- Thomas Barton to William Smith, 2 November 1755, Historical Collections Relating to the American Colonial Church, William S. Perry, ed., vol. 2: Pennsylvania (Hartford. Conn., 1871), 559.