Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn's Holy Experiment

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Overview


William Penn established Pennsylvania in 1682 as a "holy experiment" in which Europeans and Indians could live together in harmony. In this book, historian Kevin Kenny explains how this Peaceable Kingdom--benevolent, Quaker, pacifist--gradually disintegrated in the eighteenth century, with disastrous consequences for Native Americans.

Kenny recounts how rapacious frontier settlers, most of them of Ulster extraction, began to encroach on Indian land as squatters, while William Penn's sons cast off their father's Quaker heritage and turned instead to fraud, intimidation, and eventually violence during the French and Indian War. In 1763, a group of frontier settlers known as the Paxton Boys exterminated the last twenty Conestogas, descendants of Indians who had lived peacefully since the 1690s on land donated by William Penn near Lancaster. Invoking the principle of "right of conquest," the Paxton Boys claimed after the massacres that the Conestogas' land was rightfully theirs. They set out for Philadelphia, threatening to sack the city unless their grievances were met. A delegation led by Benjamin Franklin met them and what followed was a war of words, with Quakers doing battle against Anglican and Presbyterian champions of the Paxton Boys. The killers were never prosecuted and the Pennsylvania frontier descended into anarchy in the late 1760s, with Indians the principal victims. The new order heralded by the Conestoga massacres was consummated during the American Revolution with the destruction of the Iroquois confederacy. At the end of the Revolutionary War, the United States confiscated the lands of Britain's Indian allies, basing its claim on the principle of "right of conquest."

Based on extensive research in eighteenth-century primary sources, this engaging history offers an eye-opening look at how colonists--at first, the backwoods Paxton Boys but later the U.S. government--expropriated Native American lands, ending forever the dream of colonists and Indians living together in peace.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In 1682, the Quaker William Penn established a colony where settlers would attempt to coexist peacefully with Native Americans. But 80 years later, his vision had been destroyed by violence, ideology and greed. Boston College historian Kenny (The American Irish), in this mostly fast-paced account, offers new insights on the demise of Penn's "holy experiment," focusing on a violent group of militiamen called the Paxton Boys, who in 1763 wiped out a group of Conestoga Indians living on land ceded to them by Penn. As Kenny points out, Pennsylvania moved from its peaceful ideal through the greed and deceit of Penn's sons (who swindled Indians out of their lands), the carnage of the French and Indian War, and the ruthless brutality of the Paxton Boys, who declared that the Indians' land belonged to them by right of conquest. Although the provincial government denied the Paxton Boys the land, it never prosecuted them. Kenny concludes that the Boys' attitude toward the Indians and their attacks on the ruling powers presaged the military and political activities of the American Revolution and the new nation's mistreatment of the Indians. 39 b&w illus. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199753949
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/13/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 808,689
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Kenny is Professor of History at Boston College where he specializes in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Atlantic migration. He is author of Making Sense of the Molly Maguires and The American Irish: A History, and editor of Ireland and the British Empire.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Part I: False Dawn
1. Newcomers
2. Settlers and Squatters
3. Expansion
4. Fraud
5. A Hunger for Land

Part II: Theatre of Bloodshed and Rapine
6. Braddock's Defeat
7. Pennsylvania Goes to War
8. Negotiations
9. Westward Journeys
10. Conquest

Part III: Zealots
11. Indian Uprisings
12. Rangers
13. Conestoga Indiantown
14. Lancaster Workhouse
15. Panic in Philadelphia

Part IV: A War of Words
16. The Declaration and Remonstrance
17. A Proper Spirit of Jealousy and Revenge
18. Christian White Savages
19. Under the Tyrant's Foot

Part V: Unraveling
20. Killers
21. Mercenaries
22. Revolutionaries

Appendix: Identifying the Conestoga Indians and the Paxton Boys Acknowledgments Abbreviations Notes Bibliography Index

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