American history Assignment 4 Essay

1. Puritan faith:  The Puritans sent settlers to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1628, under the leadership of John Winthrop.  They believed that England and Europe were due to suffer a heavy scourge and judgment from God.  The Puritans, through a special providence, had entered into a covenant with God.  God ordered them to fly into the wilderness of the Americas and create a “City upon a Hill” – a holy commonwealth upon which all the eyes of the people would focus.  (p. 78) Church and state were partners, and women were excluded from office.  They set up what they called a “mixed democracy” — the church members as the least depraved part of the population, should select their rulers from a circle of men who would carry out God’s laws as interpreted by the Bible and their ministers.  The same few men were continuously elected to the highest office.  They remained part of the Anglican Church while in England.  In America, the Puritans used the Separatist theory that each individual church had its own covenant.  The members chose their pastor, teachers, elders, and deacon. 

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To join, a person had to accept Puritan theology and, if male, had to testify publicly to experiences convincing him he was worthy of church membership.  No deviation was tolerated.  They wanted to establish a “true church” — one that would set an example and lead to the regeneration of the Church of England.  It failed.  Even when the Puritans who remained n England overthrew the monarchy, they declined to reform the Church of England alone the lines suggested by the New Englanders.  The New Englanders then created a new denomination, the Congregational Church.  The “City on a Hill” never came to be.  The Puritans who came to the colonies never especially lived up to John Winthrop’s ideal of their being a shining example to others, but they did obtain freedom to try.

In the Congregational Church, the local congregation became the highest ecclesiastical authority.  Church members were the “visible saints” – only those who had testified of being consciously redeemed by the saving grace of God.  Their place of worship was a meetinghouse rather than a church, which became a square wooden structure without a steeple.  Both men and women sat on backless benches on separate sides of the church.  All church officials were elected by the church members.

The Salem witchcraft trials began after January 1692, when several young girls began to suffer from convulsions, loss of hearing, speech and sight, and hallucinations.  Rather than seek a natural cause, doctors and ministers determined that the girls were possessed by Satan.  At that time, few doubted the existence of witches, either in America or Europe, even though the American definition of “witch” included unmarried women, women who claimed to have medical or magical skills, or women who had conflicts with their neighbors.  The girls in Salem accused one “Tituba”, a West Indian slave; and two elderly women Sarah Good and Sarah Osburn, of bewitching them.  Tituba confessed and implicated the others.  All three were imprisoned by the Magistrate.  After this, two church members, Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse, were also accused of witchcraft.  John Proctor, whose servant was one of the afflicted girls, warned the public that the young women’s testimony was not reliable.  Soon he, along with Martha Corey’s husband, and several more women were accused of witchcraft.  The imprisoned grew to hundreds of suspects, with fifty people confessing and implicating others to save their own lives.  The “evidence” was mainly something called “specter” testimony – the accuser’s statement that she or he had seen the specter or image of the defendant.  Thirteen women and six men were eventually hanged, even after Rev. Cotton Mather and eleven other ministers came out against the use of specter evidence alone.  Finally on October 3, 1692, Increase Mather told a conference of ministers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that it was better to free ten suspected witches than hang an innocent person.  The new Governor of Massachusetts, whose wife was an accused witch, suspended further proceedings and pardoned those who had been sentenced to death.  The General

Court compensated the families of those who had been executed.

2. Great Awakening:  As the number of religious denominations increased, formal church membership declined in the eighteenth century.  There were many causes for the decline, including the struggle of new immigrants to establish their lives and livelihood; the isolation of frontier life; the formalized and sterile doctrines preaches in many of the churches; and the churches’ rigid admission requirements.  The colonists also had to cope with the eighteenth century wars and accompanying economic dislocation; numerous epidemics; and natural disasters.  Ministers searched for an approach to meet both the spiritual and emotional needs of the average colonist that would bring them back to church with their tithes.

Clergymen of all denominations began to preach emotional sermons about personal reform, public penance, and the performance of good deeds.  The brilliant Congregational preacher Jonathan Edwards believed that peoples’ emotions and intellect must be engaged to heighten the quality of individual religious experiences.  His most famous sermon was “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”; with his description of the fate of unrepentant sinners go graphic he frightened his congregation members to win them to the kingdom of heaven.  The Great Awakening “officially” began (according to Reich) when George Whitefield, a circuit riding Anglican  evangelist, came to America and preached his way up and down the Atlantic Coast from 1739 to 1741.  He preached to large audiences who wanted to know, “What must I do to be saved?”  His listeners always cried, confessed their sins, and promised to live better lives in the future.  Whitefield made seven trips to America and preached more than 18,000 sermons.   Methodists, an Anglican reform group founded by John and Charles Wesley, teaching human perfectibility and possible salvation for all, spread rapidly in the colonies with the arrival of Francis Asbury, also a traveling evangelist.  Asbury traveled 270000 miles, preached 16,000 times, and enrolled 200,000 members in the Methodist Church.

As a result of the Great Awakening, many young people, especially men, joined churches and started attending regularly.  Religion became a major influence in colonial society.  The Awakening also increased religious freedom in the colonies as new churches, such as the Baptists and Presbyterians, became established.  Colleges were started to train ministers.  Reform movements (improvement of orphanages and conversion and more humane treatment of Native Americans and African-American slaves) grew out of the emphasis on good works.  The Great Awakening promoted democracy in America through the preaching that all people were equal before God.

3.  Colonial colleges:

(a) Harvard:  In 1636, the Massachusetts General Court allocated funds to start a seminary at Cambridge.  The first students were admitted in 1638 when John Harvard left half his estate and his entire library to the institution, and the name was changed to Harvard.  Harvard University’s 1650 charter stated that it was not merely a theological seminary but was to advance all good literature arts and sciences.

(b) William and Mary:   In 1693 the King of England granted a charter to William and Mary College to train Anglican ministers, foster the liberal arts, and Christianize the Native Americans.  It was located at Williamsburg, the capital of Virginia.

(c)Yale:  The ministers of Connecticut founded Yale to produce ministers and teach its students the liberal arts.  It opened in Say brook, Connecticut in 1701; moved to New Haven in 1716; and in 1718 changed its name to Yale

(d) Princeton:  In 1746, Princeton was founded in New Jersey to train Presbyterian ministers and to educate ministers and other students in the liberal arts and sciences in response to the growing need for more professionals in the colonies.

(e) Columbia:  Columbia College in New York was chartered by King George II in 1754, to train Anglican ministers.  Although it was first called King’s College, it was renamed Columbia after the Revolution.  Because of pressure from New York’s Presbyterians, Columbia accepted all applicants regardless of religious affiliation.

(f) University of Pennsylvania:  The University of Pennsylvania began in 1751, due to the encouragement of Benjamin Franklin, who sensed the colonies’ need for a nonsectarian college that would teach more useful subject that Latin and Greek.  It began as the “Academy and Charitable School of Philadelphia”, supported by a combination of private and public funds.  In 1755, when higher lever courses became available, the name became the College of Philadelphia.  It also came under Anglican control.  Under William Smith’s leadership, the College of Philadelphia changed its curriculum to:  1/3 – classics; 1/3 in ethics and metaphysics; 1/3 in advanced mathematics, physics, chemistry and other science.  This college opened the first department of medicine in 1765 and later changes its name to the University of Pennsylvania.

(g) Brown:   Brown College in Rhode Island was established in 1764 as the College of Rhode Island, to train Baptist ministers.  It also expected its students to master liberal arts and sciences.  The charter waived all religious requirements for admission and promised all students full liberty of conscience.

(h) Rutgers:   The Dutch Reformed Church wanted its own trained ministers.  Theodore Frelinghuysen requested that Amsterdam church authorities approve a school.  Queen’s College was approved in 1766.  In 1771 it opened in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  After the American Revolution, it reopened early in the 19th Century as Rutgers College.

(i) Dartmouth:  Reverent Eleazer Wheelock opened a school for Native Americans in Connecticut.  One of his students went to English to raise money for this school.  Lord Dartmouth donated generously, and the name of the school became Dartmouth.  New Hampshire provided the land.  Dartmouth College received its charter in 1769, but few Native Americans ever attended.

The colonial colleges formed because of the Great Awakening served two main purposes.  They provided American churches with clergymen so that they were no longer dependent on European trained and educated clergy.  They also served to unite the colonies by attracting students from all colonies and not just their own localities.  James Madison of Virginia attended the College of New Jersey.  Half the students at the College of Philadelphia lived in other colonies.  Baptists from every colony attended Brown.  Four-fifths of the 3,000 living graduates of these colonial colleges chose to support and lead the American Revolution.  22 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence graduated from colonial colleges.  By the middle of the 18th Century most white American men had relatively accessible schools through which they could prepare for the thriving economic, cultural, and political lives of the colonies.

4.  Writers:

(a) John Smith:  John Smith was an early American writer who produced sophisticated promotional materials about the American colonies.  In 1608 he wrote A True Relation of Virginia, which urged settlement and/or investment in that colony.  He also wrote the first promotional tract for New England, titled A Description of New England (1616).  John Smith also wrote the General History of Virginia (1621), promoting both the colony and himself as a central figure in that history.

(a) William Bradford:  William Bradford advertised the Plymouth colony in 1622.  Unlike Smith, in his chronicle Of Plymouth Plantation he minimized his own role in the colony’s success and gave full credit to God.

(c) Michael Wigglesworth:   Michael Wigglesworth wrote the most famous exposition of Puritan theology in verse form.  This book, entitled Day of Doom, was published in 1662.  His poem portrays the fate of the wicked in a lake of brimstone.

(d) Anne Bradstreet:  Anne Bradstreet was the earliest American woman poet.  She was a 17th Century Puritan housewife and mother of eight children.  Much of her poetry was religiously motivated.  She also wrote about earthly love and the beauties of nature.

(e)Phillis Wheatley:  Ms. Wheatley was an African American slave brought to Boston by her owner, John Wheatley.  Her talent was evident, and he allowed his daughters to educate her.  He encouraged her to write verse and in 1773 freed her.  Her poetry was published in a book titled Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.  After emancipation, she continued to write poems, with the most famous being a celebration of the appointment of George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental army.  Phillis died in childbirth in 1784, as the first African American poetess in the colonies.

(f) Ben Franklin:     Ben Franklin was a prolific and secular writer.  Between 1771 and 1788 he produced his Autobiography in three installments but he never completed it.  This work was completely non-religious in nature, with a clear and pithy style and a rags-to-riches plot.  He also authored many short works dealing with the economic and social problems of the times.  He also published Poor Richard’s Almanac, containing calendars, weather information, recipes, advice, poems, saying, and other amusing tidbits.  His Almanac stressed self-reliance, industry, and frugality.

(g) Mary Rowland son:  Mary Rowland son’s book, Captivity and Restoration (1682), recounted her capture by Native Americans during King Phillip’s War and her eventual escape. Such tales of captivity, suffering, and escape were popular topics of colonial times.  This was the earliest and most popular of such books.

5.  Enlightenment ideas and impact:  While the American colonies were being founded in the 17th Century, scientists in Europe and England such as Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, Leibnitz, and Newton were establishing modern physics, astronomy chemistry, and mathematics.  The American clergy welcomed scientific discoveries as additional ways to comprehend the greatness of God.  Newton was the most influential European scientist.  His opinion that a benevolent God has created the universe and laid down the unchangeable laws to govern it influenced all of 18th Century life in America.  This outlook was known as the Enlightenment or the Age of Reason.  The Age of Reason stressed the dignity and rationality of all people.  People could use their own innate moral and ethical senses and live in conformity with natural laws, ultimately reaching perfection.  This would create a golden age of humanity.  Since the American colonies had no feudalism and there was land to go around, it was an ideal laboratory for these ideas.  This left American colonists free to pursue their dreams in areas other than agriculture.  For example, noted American scientists included Thomas Hariot, astronomer and mathematician and a member of the first Roanoke colony; Dr. Lawrence Bohun studied herbs and therapeutic plants in early Jamestown; John Winthrop, Jr., imported a telescope and discovered the 5th moon of Jupiter.  The most renowned scientist was Benjamin Franklin, who combined research with inventions.  He invented the lightning rod, bifocal glasses, and the Franklin stove.  His research on electricity was translated into French, German, and Italian, and he popularized science.  The Library Company of Philadelphia, which Franklin organized, had the largest collection of scientific books in the colonies.  Scientific information was disseminated in Poor Richard’s Almanac.  In 1769, Franklin activated the American Philosophical Society.  Medical treatments began to improve as more Americans went to Europe, especially the University of Edinburgh, to study medicine.  The first hospital opened in Philadelphia, with half the mortality rate of similar hospitals in Europe.  Art was slower to develop, although there were noted portrait painters.  Craftsmen were in great demand, including silversmiths (Paul Revere).  Huguenot silversmiths made Philadelphia another center of colonial silver making.  Furniture makers flourished and gave their furniture unique and artistic touches that did not copy European styles then in vogue.  While the colonists may not have achieved the desired “golden age”, they had freedom to express themselves and pursue occupations that were not available to them in Europe.

6.  Colonial population increase:  The author believes that the major factor in colonial population grows was natural increase.  The colonies had a higher birth rate and a typically lower age at marriage as compared to Europe.  The mortality rate was lower in the colonies than in Europe.  There was ample food and fuel, generally better living conditions, a more scattered population that helped them avoid epidemics.  There was also a lower colonial infant mortality rate and a slightly lower rate of death in childbirth.  The colonial population was young.  After the earliest years of settlement which primarily was by adults, 40-50 per cent of the colonial population was under the age of 16 years.  Only 2 per cent was over 65 years of age.  In the earlier years and in times of high immigration men far outnumbered women.  By 1750 the male/female ratio was about even.  Life expectancy in New England, and by the mid 18th century in all colonies, was much higher than in any other contemporary European nation.  Males usually died in their early sixties.  Females who survived childbearing years also reached sixty years of age.

7.  Identify:

(a) Deism was a natural philosophy of religion that developed within the beliefs of the Anglican Church as influenced by the scientific theories of Sir Isaac Newton.  Deists believed (as Newton did) that God created the universe and set in motion the national laws that governed it, but they did not believe that God was concerned with human affairs.  From their observation of nature, the Deists believed that only a benevolent and omniscient God could have created the world.  Humans could understand the moral law governing human conduct through their rational thinking, just as they could understand the natural laws.  Divine revelation was not necessary.  The Bible was not the literal word of God.  Deists, a small circle of intellectuals, believed that humans had been created naturally good and moral and knew what good acts to perform.  Anyone who lived a moral life was ensured a happy life on earth and in the world to come.  Deists, who included Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin did not organize separate churches but attended the Anglican Church in the colonies.

(b) The “Half Way Covenant” was adopted by a Massachusetts synod of the Congregational Church (formerly the Puritans) to entitle children and grand-children of the first generation of Puritans to become full church members even though they were unable or unwilling to testify to a singular religious experience that would ordinarily be required for full church membership.  The “Half Way Covenant” permitted the second and third generations to become church members but they could not take Communion or vote in church affairs.

(c)The “Old Deluder Act”, named from its preamble, “It being the chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures”, was an act passed by the General Court of Massachusetts in 1647 requiring that every town of 50 householders establish schools to teach reading and writing and towns of 100 householders establish a secondary school.  These were public schools, open to all, tax supported but with a modest tuition fee.  The Massachusetts act was followed by similar acts in all the New England colonies.  These set two precedents:  education should be compulsory, and public funds should be used to support education.

(d) John Peter Zenger was the publisher of the New York Weekly Journal, who wrote and published attacks on Governor William Cosby until he was arrested for seditious libel in 1734.  He was represented and defended by Alexander Hamilton, one of the leading lawyers of the period, who convinced the jury that they should acquit Zenger if the articles were true.  The Zenger case became notorious and encourages other newspapers to censure political leaders and made it less likely that those leaders would retaliate.

(e) Benjamin West: Benjamin West was a painter and native of Philadelphia (1738-1820) who was the first American painter to receipt recognition outside of the colonies.  He became known as the “Raphael” of America.  West returned to England in 1760, became President of the Royal Academy, and encouraged the careers of other American artists who went to England.

8.  Family Structure in Seventeenth-Century Andover, Massachusetts:  The family structure was tied to the economic development of the community.  Andover was originally settled by a group of about eighteen men during the 1640’s.  It was incorporated in 1646 and designed like the English open field villages.  The inhabitants resided on house lots adjacent to each other in the village center, with their individual land holdings distributed in small plots within two large fields beyond the village center, giving each householder about 80 acres total.  Families were large (averaging 8.5 children), with fewer childhood and adult deaths than might be expected.  Andover was geographically isolated from the diseases in other colonies and cities.  Second generation males married late in life, at an average age of 27 years.  The women married late also, at an average age of 22 years.  This was because the second generation males received land with which to support a wife at the discretion of their fathers.  The women received no land or money and had no way to relocate.

Paternal authority over sons did not cease with marriage, especially when the father refused to deed land to a son, even though the son received permission to settle on part of the land.  The son thus could not sell the land or borrow against it without his father’s permission and most had no other means to raise money to live elsewhere.  Even when a son was permitted to marry and build a home on part of his father’s land, he had to pay rent to his father.

This created a general pattern of family structure unlike any others that existed in England or the American colonies during the 17th Century.  The family structure is best called a “modified extended family” a kinship group of two or more generations in a community in which the dependence of the children on their parents continues after the children have married and are living under a separate roof.  Because of the continuing dependence of the second generation sons on the generosity of their fathers, the family was extremely patriarchal in nature.  The first settlers long remained the dominant figures in their families and in the communities.  As a consequence, few second generation sons moved away from their families and their community.  They had no money with which to do so.  More than 4/5ths of the second generation sons lived their entire lives in Andover.  It is thought that the fathers could not be certain that their sons would remain in Andover if they handed over the land too soon.  Later generations achieved their independence earlier and moved away.

9.  “Taking the Trade; Abortion and Gender Relations in an Eighteen-Century New England Village”:    In 1742 in Pomfret, Connecticut, Sarah Grosvenor (19) and Amasa Sessions (27), both from prominent families, had an affair, and she became pregnant.  Amasa did not want to marry Sarah or support a child, so he convinced her to have an abortion through the means available then.  Abortion by taking specified herbs was common in 18th Century New England.  Abortion by insertion of an object in the woman’s uterus was not.  An arranged marriage would have been acceptable as would have been an arrangement for support of the child.  For reasons not clear, Sarah agreed to the abortion.

There was a clear sexual double standard in New England society in the 18th Century.  Amasa was not pressured by parents, friends or the court to marry Sarah.  However, many of Sarah’s peers were prosecuted and fined for bearing illegitimate children.  Sarah’s abortion and death affected the men of Pomfret in that the male family members were not interested in exposing sin but in protecting the family’s reputation.  The women were more conscious of Sarah’s sin and guilt, a desire to avoid conflict among the citizens and families, and a need to confess.  Sarah’s sisters saw the miscarriage as sin and evil not because it killed a fetus but because it was a series of actions and lies designed to cover up the initial sin of having sexual relations outside of marriage.

Women had few legal rights in 18th Century New England society.  This story reminds us of the historically distinctive ways in which socialized gender roles, community and class solidarity and legal culture combine in each generation of excuse or make invisible certain abuses and crimes against women.  Sarah Grosvenor’s death and its cause were excused by the times and the needs of the patriarchal community and family relations.

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