This article recovers the centrality of the concept of "innovation," a pejorative early modern synonym for rebellion, to the confrontations of early American settlement. The new absolutist forms of rule introduced into Virginia in 1609 bred mutinies, both in Jamestown and Bermuda, where the ship transporting the colony's new charter and first governor wrecked that year. Eyewitness reporter William Strachey deems the rebels "innovators," but his candid account reveals that their aims were actually restorative and clarifies that innovation was in fact a key aspect of sovereignty. Linking the shipwreck and mutinies as emblems of contingency via the "murmuring" trope, a seventeenth-century figure for unintelligible dissent, Strachey insists that observably exceptional New World circumstances demand rulers empowered to depart from precedent. Yet the attempt to ground this elite monopoly on the right to innovate in firsthand experience rather than received wisdom backfires when Strachey inadvertently records a damning underclass critique of colonialism's novelty.


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pp. 3-32
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