On this day in 1661, the York County Court was gaveled into session, and with all appropriate fuss the presiding judge demanded the immediate arrest of one William Clutton, servant: “It evidently appearing that ye said Clutton hath at several times & places uttered & spoken mutinous & seditious words tending to ye tumultuous and dangerous behaviour of severall servants in Yorke parish.”
The court also ordered the overseer John Parkes to “take speciall care, & have strict, dilligent eye uppon Isaack friend his servant, who appeares of a turbulent & unquiett spiritt.”
Mutiny. Sedition. Tumult. Danger. Turbulence. And unquiet spirits. So what on earth happened?
Well, a few weeks before, on January 6, a servant called Thomas Collins testified that Friend was the sort to complain of “hard usage,” this being a euphemism for the fact that the servants were fed nothing but corn and water with no meat. When the idea of a petition to the king was shot down (who was going to deliver it?),
Issack said that they would get a matter of fforty of them together, & get Armes & he would be the first & have them cry as they went along, ‘who would be for Liberty, and free from bondage,’ & that there would enough come to them & they would goe through the Countrey and kill those that made any opposition, & that they would either be free or dye for it …
Ahh. Mutiny, sedition, tumult, danger, turbulence: check, check, check, check, and check. But who was this fellow Clutton?
According to another witness who also testified on January 6, Clutton, like Friend, was a complainer, always wanting meat, bread, cheese, and “as many cowes for milke as hee himselfe thought good.” Which, according to the overseer John Parkes, set the other servants “to further discontent & murmuring,” the said servants having been “very well sattisfyed till William Clutton came.”
Isn’t that always the way.
IMAGE: Tobacco Production in Jamestown by Sidney King (National Park Service)