This essay rereads the works of Roger Williams that pertain to his banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in an effort to uncover not their much-examined religious perspective but their previously unnoticed common-law framework. In their rise to prominence in the early to mid-seventeenth century, certain principles of the common law—including the use of precedent and the law’s responsiveness to changing human needs—Shelped alter many aspects of the law, including the law of jurisdiction, which was of particular relevance to banishment. Indeed, as a result of a proliferation of jurisdictions and a growing uncertainty about the legal boundaries between them, banishment, the essay argues, in the form of a previously unrecognized kind of narrative—what I will call the banishment narrative—came to prominence as an entirely new way of figuring who the early modern, and in particular the white English, colonist really was.


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pp. 109-139
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