Terror to the Wicked: America’s First Trial by Jury That Ended a War and Helped To Form a Nation

Pantheon. Mar. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781101871713. $29. HIST
Plymouth Colony, 1638. A Nipmuc man, Penowanyanquis, is killed by a group of escaped indentured servants led by Arthur Peach. The murder has ramifications for English and Indigenous relations, as well as intertribal relations between the Nipmuc, Wampanoag, and Narragansett nations. Pearl’s background in law and international relations shines through in this work, as vivid details show the complicated social, political, and economic landscape of 17th-century New England. Governor Roger Williams (c. 1603–83) of Providence, RI, and Governor John Winthrop (1588–1649) of Massachusetts Bay Colony, important figures in the history of early New England, play critical roles. Governor Thomas Prence (1600–73) of Plymouth Colony, the stalwart Puritan known as “terror to the wicked,” prosecuted the Peach gang for murder. At the trial in Plymouth, Narragansett men gave testimony, with Williams providing an Algonquian translation. The development of the British law system is contextualized, especially with regard to the growing autonomy of jurors empowered to make important decisions about their communities. Also discussed are topics concerning Indigenous and indentured servitude in early New England.
VERDICT Advanced readers of American history, political science, and law will enjoy this detail-rich and erudite example of crime and justice in early America.
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