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Dr. William Kerrigan Selected for Prestigious Research Fellowship at The Washington Library, Mount Vernon, VA, Will Also Participate in Yale University Seminar

Dr. William KerriganDr. William Kerrigan, the Cole Distinguished professor of American History at Muskingum University, has been has selected as one of 17 leading history scholars who will receive fully-funded research fellowships at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington for the 2016-17 academic year.

Dr. Kerrigan teaches courses in colonial, revolutionary, early national, and Civil War era history. He is also the author of Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard (2012), a biography of the wandering apple tree planter and a microhistory of the apple in America. He applied for and was awarded a competitive one-month residential fellowship which will allow him to conduct research on his current book project, the story of a revolutionary-era privateer named Gideon Henfield.

Kerrigan’s book employs the story of the trial of Henfield, a sailor accused of violating American neutrality to explore questions of citizenship in an age of revolution and to illuminate the cultural and political landscape of the early national period. He will be researching the legal case United States v. Henfield, which took place in Philadelphia in the summer of 1793.

The case against Henfield has some significance in the history of American law, raising questions about citizen’s obligations during peacetime, the legal authority of a presidential proclamation, and is also an early example of jury nullification (when a jury ignores the instructions of a judge), explained Kerrigan.

“I will be devoting most of that time to reading through Washington’s correspondence with his cabinet on the question of neutrality and the Henfield affair,” Kerrigan said. 

“Because of my interest in apples and orchards, I also plan to spend a few days studying Washington’s personal papers about the gardens and orchards he laid out at Mt. Vernon, for a different project on the founding fathers’ orchards.”

Kerrigan was also selected to participate in a seminar on slave narratives at Yale University. The seminar brings together 25 faculty members of Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) institutions to read and discuss some of the most important autobiographies written by slaves, including Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of a Slave and Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery.

The seminar will be led by Yale Professor David Blight, a leading historian of slavery and Civil War memory. It is supported by the Andrew Mellon foundation and the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History. After a week at Yale, Kerrigan plans to visit Salem, birthplace of Henfield, and spend a week doing research in the Phillips Library in Salem. There he will be poring over maritime records in an effort to recover additional details about Henfield’s life.