In 1767, settlers on the western frontier of Georgia in North America sent a dire petition to their governor begging for protection. They claimed that local Creek Indians had stolen their horses and planned imminently to destroy their livestock and to kill their families. Before the governor could respond, the settlers crossed the Indian boundary to loot and burn a Creek village. In doing so they galvanized the imperial legal order into action – not against Creek horse thieves but against settler vigilantes on Creek land. At the urging of London officials, the governor of Georgia had the settlers arrested and charged, first with a felony, and when that failed, with ‘abuse and misdemeanour at common law against government’. However, Georgia's jurors refused to hold them accountable on either charge.
* Lisa Ford is a PhD Candidate at Columbia University. Many thanks to Professors David Armitage, Lauren Benton, Evan Haefeli and Bruce Kercher for their help in the preparation of this paper. An early version of this paper was presented at the Harvard Graduate Student Conference on International History. She can be reached at If290@columbia.edu.