Eras Journal – Boulware, T. Abstract

Abstract of Boulware, T., “A ‘dangerous sett of horse-thieves and vagrants’: Outlaws of the Southern Frontier during the Revolutionary Era”.

This paper focuses on a particular group of ‘social deviants’ who played a critical role in shaping frontier society in the American South during the Revolutionary era. This essay examines the threat this “dangerous sett [sic] of horse-thieves and vagrants” posed to the establishment of settled agriculture on the fringes of the British Empire.[1] It demonstrates more precisely how outlaws and other ‘marginals’ significantly influenced the definition of self and society – a process that was increasingly defined by a small, yet aggressive, group of planters and aspiring planters.

In the recent past, scholars have oftentimes failed to thoroughly connect the social ills of the mid-eighteenth century southern frontier to the ‘uncivil war’ that later erupted during the Revolution. We must recognise, however, that those who distressed the emerging planter class near mid-century were the same ones that took advantage of the dislocation caused by the war with Britain. The outlaw problem, therefore, needs to be placed in a broader context. It should be seen not as an anomalous and brief uprising of moral deviants, but rather as evidence of a larger social conflict that plagued the southern borderlands for much of the long eighteenth century.


[1]South-Carolina Gazette (Charleston), 26 September 1768.