The Eccles Centre fellowship has greatly enriched my transatlantic PhD project which examines the impact of the Jacobite uprising of 1745-46 on British imperialism in North America in the years preceding the American Revolution, says Nicola Martin, Eccles Centre Postgraduate Award in North American Studies recipient 2015.
I undertook a ten day research trip at the British Library, generously funded by the Eccles Centre for American Studies. The purpose of the trip was to consult a number of manuscript materials for my PhD project, which considers the impact of the Jacobite uprising of 1745-46 on British imperialism in North America in the years preceding the American Revolution. The project examines the process of militarisation and, particularly, pacification in the Scottish Highlands and considers how this affected the way that
British army officers and government officials approached and countered military threats in North America. It seeks to show what cultural preconceptions existed in the minds of members of the British imperial elite and how these were altered by militarisation in two separate fringes of the British Empire.
I consulted a wide range of manuscripts from several collections in the British Library including the Haldimand, Hardwicke and Newcastle Papers. As the project is concerned with the experiences of the British army, the Haldimand Papers were of particular interest as they document the military experience of Henry Bouquet during the French and Indian War in North America and Sir Frederick Haldimand during the same period and later commanding in various colonies and acting as Commander-in-Chief during the absence of Thomas Gage. The papers of these two officers provide a vast trove of correspondence between various army officers in the colonies and members of the British government in Whitehall. This provides a detailed account of the militarisation of North America and the encounters of a number of military officers in different colonies with colonial settlers, Native Americans and French Canadians. In particular, Haldimand’s correspondence during his time stationed in the Floridas and upon his temporary promotion to Commander-in-Chief of the forces in North America illuminates the hardening attitudes of many in the British army and government towards the disaffected colonists.
One consideration of my current research is the importance of trade, and particularly government control over trade, as a method of pacification in Scotland and North America. Studying correspondence from the period after the Jacobite uprising and the papers of the Commission of Forfeited Estates in the National Records of Scotland highlighted that the annexing of forfeited estates in the Highlands and the appointing of a committee to manage them and introduce industry and manufactures was a key aim of the British in order to ensure long-term peace in the region. A number of documents within the Hardwicke Papers supported this point, emphasising that such a plan was the quickest and easiest way to ensure peace in the Highlands and to improve that region. As well as confirming the importance of a well-regulated trade in the Scottish Highlands, my research at the British Library also illuminated that members of the British imperial elite at home and in North America were convinced that a well-regulated trade was similarly important for ensuring lasting peace in the North American backcountry. The importance of regulating and controlling trade there is stated numerous times in various manuscripts and collections and this will allow me to draw connections between attitudes and policy in Scotland and those in North America, particularly with regards to Native Americans.
One interesting and unforeseen connection between Scotland and North America uncovered during my research at the British Library was found in the Haldimand Papers in a series of letters from Thomas Gage, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in North America, to Henry Bouquet in October 1764 during Pontiac’s War. Gage questions what the fate of colonists who have conspired with the Native Americans should be and notes that in Scotland during the Jacobite uprising those who were rebelling against the British crown were treated as traitors to their country and tried by the civil courts. He suggests that, similarly, those in North America currently rebelling against the crown ought to be treated in the same way. However, it is clear in his correspondence that Gage is only referring to those settlers who have been fighting with the Native Americans and not the Native Americans themselves. The Native American tribes fighting the British were treated as guilty by association so that not only the fighters but whole villages were killed or had their houses destroyed. Despite Gage’s claim that all the rebels in Scotland were treated as traitors and tried by civil courts many Highlanders were in fact treated similarly to the Native Americans and assumed to be guilty through association. This meant that many, including women and children, were killed or lost their homes without facing trial. As a result, this is a very valuable letter which documents a previously unexplored connection between events in Scotland and North America. Additionally, it provides useful evidence that will be further explored as to how the eighteenth-century rules of warfare regarding different types of combatants were interpreted by military officers at that juncture.
In addition to the documents themselves, which were valuable resources for my project, the experience of researching at such a prestigious institution has certainly contributed to my development as a researcher. Discussing my research with one of the curators of American materials at the library during an earlier trip gave me the opportunity to focus on the documents that would prove most relevant for my research and encouraged me to think more widely about my topic in order to discover some interesting manuscripts I may have previously passed over. Having a set period of time to examine the many relevant materials I had picked out honed my ability to quickly analyse a large amount of material and find the relevant information from it. Not to mention ten days pouring over eighteenth century letters improved my eye for deciphering awkward handwriting! These skills will be of much use moving forward with both my PhD and future research as I have large volumes of material in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom still to examine.
I thoroughly enjoyed my research at the British Library and look forward to detailing my findings in my dissertation. Additionally, I will be using some of the evidence discovered at the British Library to support my thesis in an upcoming conference paper I will be giving to the European Association for American Studies in April. At that conference I will be part of an Eccles Centre panel considering transatlantic experiences of empire and I am delighted that my involvement with the Eccles Centre will carry on to that conference.
Nicola Martin is a PhD student in the department of History at the University of Stirling.