A community is defined not only by inclusion but also by
exclusion. Seventeenth-century New England Puritans, themselves
exiled from one society, ruthlessly invoked the law of banishment
from another: over time, hundreds of people were forcibly excluded
from this developing but sparsely settled colony. Nan Goodman
suggests that the methods of banishment rivaled-even
overpowered-contractual and constitutional methods of inclusion as
the means of defining people and place. The law and rhetoric that
enacted the exclusion of certain parties, she contends, had the
inverse effect of strengthening the connections and collective
identity of those that remained.
Banished investigates the practices of social exclusion
and its implications through the lens of the period's common law.
For Goodman, common law is a site of negotiation where the concepts
of community and territory are more fluid and elastic than has
previously been assumed for Puritan society. Her legal history
brings fresh insight to well-known as well as more obscure
banishment cases, including those of Anne Hutchinson, Roger
Williams, Thomas Morton, the Quakers, and the Indians banished to
Deer Island during King Philip's War. Many of these cases were
driven less by the religious violations that may have triggered
them than by the establishment of rules for membership in a civil
society. Law provided a language for the Puritans to know and say
who they were-and who they were not. Banished reveals the
Puritans' previously neglected investment in the legal rhetoric
that continues to shape our understanding of borders, boundaries,
and social exclusion.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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