Alcohol was a subject of deep concern for Indigenous nations and settler governments in early America, but, though all agreed that the alcohol trade was dangerous, they did not assess the problem or its remedies in the same ways. This essay disaggregates seventeenth-century alcohol ordinances from their enforcement by examining laws and diplomacy as separate from court records. In considering prohibitions and prosecutions as distinct yet interrelated, it uncovers the differences between Indigenous and Dutch interpretations of alcohol's destructive effects to community and sovereignty. In the context of New Netherland diplomacy, Indigenous and settler authorities could reach consensus over alcohol trade prohibitions, but decisions about how to prosecute the laws fell to Dutch magistrates, who used alcohol cases to impose their particular visions of colonial communities upon ordinary settlers, especially women. Historians have long understood that ordinances regulating the alcohol trade were ineffective but have generally pointed to lax enforcement as the source of the laws' shortcomings. This essay focuses instead on examples of when the laws were strictly enforced, revealing how prosecutorial decision-making became a gendered method of enforcing segregation between settler and Indigenous populations, demarcating settler homes as off-limits to Indigenous people.


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pp. 3-42
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