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Scholars Day 2008, Wednesday, April 9

John Stuart's Centralized Power and the Coming of the American Revolution

Between the years of 1763 and 1776, a crisis developed on the Southern Frontier of the settled British colonies in North America. The Indian tribes, now dependent upon Western goods, increasingly fell victim to the unfair trade practices of southern traders and the further encroachment by Virginian land speculators. This angered the Indians, which frightened the colonists who had recently dealt with Indian raids on the edge of the frontier. The defense of the frontier became a problem to the crown’s finances, already in debt from the French and Indian war. The necessary prevention of further Indian wars caused Britain to create the Indian superintendents, two centralized agencies, one in the North and one in the South, to promote fair and moral trade policies and establish boundary lines. This caused the individual colonies to lose their sovereignty in regards to trade with Indians as well as land expansion. During this time in the south, the agency of John Stuart exemplified Britain’s struggle for control of empire and colonial disagreements with the power structure. Stuart, beloved by the Indian tribes, successfully formed several treaties with them that helped prevent the Indian uprisings in the south that had plagued the north before the revolution. Unfortunately, the losers of Stuart’s treaties were the land speculators who lost out on their individual land deals due to the Stuart/Crown boundary changes. The Southern landowners that were at the head of the Revolution used the Stuart metaphor for British tyranny to ruin his career and turn colonists to the patriot cause. Placed in his position for protection of the colonists from attack, he was soon portrayed by the revolutionaries as the guiding force behind potential Indian attacks when the war started. Stuart, now a scapegoat and a piece of patriot propaganda, expanded the southern colonial revolutionary movement for self-government.

Presenter: Allan Beaman (Undergraduate Student)
Topic: History
Location: 217 Hartwell
Time: 2:30 pm (Session IV)