Crime, justice, and order in the North Carolina Piedmont, 1760-1806

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jason Michael Stroud (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Greg O'Brien

Abstract: This dissertation examines crime and disorder in the North Carolina Piedmont between 1760 and 1806, exploring the ways that criminal justice and the law were enforced in the region. It is rooted in an analysis of the colonial and state Superior Court records from Salisbury and Hillsborough and traces the process by which authorities—first the colonial government and then the revolutionary state—attempted to establish and maintain order in the region. This most basic function of criminal justice necessarily involved the identification of individuals and groups of people as criminals by the state. I argue that understanding this legal and juridical process, which marked many of the people of the region as unfit subjects and citizens, helps provide a framework for understanding the turmoil and disorder that characterized the Revolutionary era in the region. As the North Carolina government sought to assert its legitimacy through imposing order, it marked presumptively disorderly men and women including horse thieves, land squatters, “Regulators,” Loyalists, and, significantly, the enslaved, as outlaws. Faced with alienation from legal and political legitimacy, these people resisted, articulating in the process a different conception of justice, one rooted in the social, political, and cultural realities of the region. This dissertation, then, traces a pattern of conflict and turmoil that reveals very different, and at times diametrically opposed, understandings of justice between governing elites and local men and women in the Piedmont. Moreover, by focusing on the interrelated issues of criminality, justice, and order, this work attempts to deepen scholarly understanding of the Revolution in the North Carolina backcountry, in particular the ways it affected the relationship between individuals and the state. It stresses the coercive character of the revolutionary experience in the region and argues that the Revolution was a turning point in the process of state consolidation that began with the Regulator revolt of the 1760s. Emphasizing the experiences of those criminalized by the state sheds light on a process by which conflicting conceptions of justice, inflected by factors including wartime exigencies, racial attitudes, religious values, and the lex talonis, established the boundaries of an emerging republican society.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Colonial, Crime, Justice, North Carolina, Piedmont, Revolutionary
Criminal justice, Administration of $z North Carolina $x History
Punishment $z North Carolina $x History
Crime $z North Carolina $x History
Slavery $z North Carolina $x History
North Carolina $x History

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