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Common Law and the Rhetoric of Social Exclusion in Early New England

By Nan Goodman

Publication Year: 2012

A community is defined not only by inclusion but also by exclusion. Seventeenth-century New England Puritans, themselves exiled from one society, ruthlessly invoked the law of banishment from another: over time, hundreds of people were forcibly excluded from this developing but sparsely settled colony. Nan Goodman suggests that the methods of banishment rivaled—even overpowered—contractual and constitutional methods of inclusion as the means of defining people and place. The law and rhetoric that enacted the exclusion of certain parties, she contends, had the inverse effect of strengthening the connections and collective identity of those that remained.

Banished investigates the practices of social exclusion and its implications through the lens of the period's common law. For Goodman, common law is a site of negotiation where the concepts of community and territory are more fluid and elastic than has previously been assumed for Puritan society. Her legal history brings fresh insight to well-known as well as more obscure banishment cases, including those of Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams, Thomas Morton, the Quakers, and the Indians banished to Deer Island during King Philip's War. Many of these cases were driven less by the religious violations that may have triggered them than by the establishment of rules for membership in a civil society. Law provided a language for the Puritans to know and say who they were—and who they were not. Banished reveals the Puritans' previously neglected investment in the legal rhetoric that continues to shape our understanding of borders, boundaries, and social exclusion.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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p. vii

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Introduction. A Banishment Primer

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pp. 1-26

COMMUNITIES MAKE MEMBERS. Working from the principles articulated in contracts, constitutions, or even simple screeds, communities create a sense of belonging among their inhabitants that draws people in, binds them together, and fosters a collective identity. This sense of membership has been a commonplace in the history of communities from the city-states of ancient Greece ...

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1. “To Entertain Strangers”

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pp. 27-57

GOVERNOR WINTHROP’S STATEMENT in the epigraph above reminds us that while banishment was popular among the Puritans, it was not the only nor even the most sensible means of ridding the community of undesirables. For one thing, it was arduous and time-consuming. All the legal actors and instruments required for a trial had to be marshaled …

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2. The “Predicament of Ubi”

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pp. 58-85

IN BANISHING MORTON and Hutchinson, the Puritans made it clear that they would not tolerate people who entered their jurisdiction only to turn around and make offers to others to do the same—people who came in as guests, in other words, but turned into hosts in short order. They said little, however, about strangers who did not take up these identities. …

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3. “To Test Their Bloody Laws”

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pp. 86-114

THE QUAKERS’ RESPONSE to the use of banishment as a punishment in Puritan New England was, more than that of any other individual or group who came before or after them, calculated to achieve certain legal and political ends. With an almost military precision that entailed planning the place and time of their border crossings, ...

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4. Deer Island and the Banishment of the Indians

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pp. 115-140

TO INCLUDE A chapter about the Indians in a book about banishment in early America would seem almost to go without saying. After all, as many historians of Native American culture have shown, the story of the Indians’ relations with the white English settlers was from the start about the loss of territory and social exclusion. …

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Conclusion. The Ends of Banishment: From the Puritan Colonies to the Borderlands

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pp. 141-162

IN THE WORDS of a Supreme Court case from 1958, banishment is a “fate universally decried by civilized people.”1 In that case, Trop v. Dulles, a former U.S. army private who had been convicted of desertion from the army in 1944 was denied a passport and effectively “de-nationalized” more than eight years after his crime was committed and his time had been served. ...


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pp. 163-196


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pp. 197-202

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pp. 203-206

The stories I tell in this book—of banishment and social exclusion—bear no resemblance to the story of what it was like to write it. Over the course of the many years it took to research and write this book, I experienced a sense of inclusion—of making new friends and connecting in new ways with old friends—that exceeded my wildest expectations. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812206470
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812244274

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 822017902
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Banished

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Subject Headings

  • New England -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
  • Exile (Punishment) -- New England -- History -- 17th century.
  • Common law -- New England -- History -- 17th century.
  • Puritans -- New England -- History -- 17th century.
  • New England -- Civilization -- 17th century.
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