The Newberry Library Seminar in Early American History and Culture
Co-Sponsored by the University of Chicago, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, and Northern Illinois University
Thursday, November 18, 2004
3:30pm-5:30pm, The Newberry Library
"Cheats and Rogueries" in Eighteenth-Century New York City
Serena Zabin, Carleton College
In 1741 the New York Supreme Court, suspecting a conspiracy, ordered the execution of thirty slaves and four whites and the expulsion from New York of more than seventy other people. In all, close to two hundred people were arrested and interrogated. Two individuals were the driving force behind these trials: Supreme Court Justice Daniel Horsmanden and his chief witness, Mary Burton, a sixteen-year-old indentured servant. Through the figures of Horsmanden and Burton, I examine the relationship between financial credit and personal credibility, in a city where the economy was beginning to incorporate the international into the local. Both Horsmanden and Burton, although separated by status and sex, were typical eighteenth-century New Yorkers. Like the confidence tricksters and counterfeiters who found their way to the city, Horsmanden and Burton took advantage of New York's role as an entrepot for people and goods in order to achieve financial and personal success.
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