Archive for the ‘Americana’ Category

8
May

Perspectives of Freedom and Marriage

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Kelly Vaughan, for prof. Chris Hager’s course, ENGL 329: Civil War Literature]

“The Yearning of his Heart for His Loved Ones:” Perspectives of Freedom and Marriage from Former Slaves Peter and Vina Still

Kelly2The Kidnapped and the Ransomed: Being the Personal Recollections of Peter Still and his wife “Vina,” after Forty Years of Slavery describes the life of Peter and Vina Still. Peter was a former enslaved man who lived in Kentucky and Alabama and attempted to collect money to purchase his wife from her master after successfully purchasing, and thus freeing, himself.[1] Peter Still was kidnapped as a young boy when he was living in New Jersey and enslaved in the South for forty years, where he met his wife, Vina, and had children with her. Still was a slave for 40 years when he was able to escape to Philadelphia through use of the Underground Railroad. When he arrived in Philadelphia, he not only coincidentally reunited with his biological brother, William, but formed an alliance with a white abolitionist named Seth Cocklin. After Still raised $5,000 in hopes of purchasing his wife and children back, Cocklin aided Peter in his rescue attempt. During their travels from Philadelphia to Alabama, Cocklin, who was impersonating a slave holder, was caught alone from Still and arrested, and soon after killed.[2] This is one example of the measures abolitionists would take in order to aid runaway slaves.

While the transcription of this particular narrative exists online, the original copy exists in Trinity College’s Watkinson Library. This book was published in 1856 by William T. Hamilton in Syracuse, five years before the Civil War started. The book, which is bound in an evergreen colored cover, is 409 pages long, with advertisements for other published slave narratives at the end, including the notable Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years A Slave. The book itself is not large, no more than approximately 6”w x 8”h.

This particular narrative is unique among the majority of slave narratives because it was not actually written by Still himself. Still told his story to Kate E.R. Pickard, who then transcribed Still’s story into this biography.[3] The entire collection of narratives introduces other characters in their life (particularly the numerous slave masters both Peter and Vina had), the early days when Peter was sold repeatedly to different plantations, Vina’s life on the plantation, the momentous moment when Peter purchased himself and traveled to Philadelphia where freedom was waiting for him, and in the final Chapter 37, the reunion between Peter and Vina. The introduction to the text, written by a Unitarian minister by the name of Samuel May, provides a short biography of Kate Pickard and her personal relationship with Peter Still. Pickard was a schoolteacher living in the same vicinity where Peter and Vina were enslaved; Peter would occasionally assist in the same offices Pickard was working in. There, she developed a fondness for his cheerful spirit and polite tone. She was moved by his grit and aimed to use this narrative as a platform to share the humanity and humble love many slaves like Peter had. Additionally, May writes in his introduction that this narrative intends to illustrate:

all the qualities of our common, and of our uncommon humanity–persistence in the pursuit of a desired object; ingenuity in the device of plans for its attainment; self-possession and self-command that can long keep a cherished purpose unrevealed; a deep, instinctive faith in God; a patience under hardship and hope deferred, which never dies; and, withal, a joyousness which, like a life-preserver, bears one above the dark waves of unparalleled trouble.[4]

Kelly1May addresses the contested moral underpinnings of slavery and reinforces the importance of faith and a strong relationship with God among slaves.

“The Marriage” highlights fifteen-year-old Vina’s loneliness as a slave on Mr. McKiernan’s plantation. For her, marriage to Peter would provide a companion, despite her young age. Kinship and procreation was one of the most popular motivations for slaves to marry, as well as the opportunity to strengthen one’s Christian faith. After they married, Peter ran away to the North, freeing himself and then dedicating his time as a free man to designing a plot that would save Vin and their family. Through this narrative, readers learn about the difficulty and repetitive nature of slaves being separated; however, Vina’s marriage provided her with fulfillment rather than anguish, despite their physical separation at the time. Pickard also emphasizes that Peter felt he had never received anything for himself before, despite his work ethic and impressive behavior. Historian Tera Hunter writes that slaves “lived under the auspices of masters who controlled the terms of their most intimate relationships,” including marriage.[5] This highlights the political and personal autonomy of slaves prior to the Civil War.

Since Peter was noted as being favored by Vina’s master, it is unsurprising that they were granted permission to marry. Theoretically, their master could threaten to separate them if they behaved poorly. However, a marriage would be beneficial to a slaveholder if the couple procreated and raised children who could become slaves in just a few short years. In the beginning of “The Marriage” chapter, Pickard describes waiting for the right moment in which Vina and Peter could pursue marriage. Their families were close, which Pickard notes was a rarity for slaves, even those who were just a couple of miles away. Vina found companionship in Peter, and the two, according to Pickard, “waited for a favorable opportunity to be united in marriage.”[6] Peter felt he deserved to be married and have a partner like Vina, for he had been a dedicated servant and was consistently “bright [and] good-humored” when visiting Mr. and Mrs. McKiernan’s plantation, where Vina was in servitude.[7]

Pickard’s narrative is both syntactically attractive and deeply galvanizing to readers. She describes Peter and Vina in very different ways, highlighting Peter’s personal strength and cheerfulness (“a fine, cheerful fellow”), while painting Vina as the scared, lonely young slave (“a timid, shrinking maiden”).[8] Pickard also emphasizes their age difference (Vina was 10 years younger than Peter when they married), so as to show that Peter will be the savior of Vina’s fate. Today, scholars understand expectations and possibilities for slaves depending on their gender. Historian Eric Foner argues that predominantly single, male slaves were the most likely to successfully escape:

Most fugitives…were young men who escaped alone. Those with immediate families often sought to retrieve their wives and children after reaching the North. Some, like Douglass, planned for months; others, like Pennington, decided to run away because of an immediate grievance—in his case, his owner’s threat to whip his mother for insubordination.[9]

With this in mind, it is less surprising that Peter was able to escape, save Vina, and was later shaped as the hero of his own narrative. Runaway slaves were, in some ways, responsible for their own emancipation. Marriage provided a form of limited freedom for enslaved blacks, as it allowed them to gain access to love and family. While they were not physically free for as long as they were enslaved on a plantation, their bargaining with slave masters for marriage helped them to achieve a form of freedom.

The Kidnapped and the Ransomed reveals the experience of a runaway slave and the measures runaways would go to in order to reunite themselves with their family. The unique perspective of this narrative (biographical, rather than autobiographical) provides another lens for analysis. How would the narrative have changed had it been written from the perspective of Vina, rather than Peter, who was noted as more bleak of the two? Would the perseverance and faith engrained in Peter materialize in this narrative? Runaway slave narratives like Still’s served as a vehicle for protest and galvanized other abolitionists at this time. An understanding of the human experience is crucial to understanding the political landscape of the Civil War and a sense of historical empathy.

[1] Pickard, Kate E. R, and William Henry Furness. The Kidnapped and the Ransomed: Being the Personal Recollections of Peter Still and His Wife “Vina,” After Forty Years of Slavery. W.T. Hamilton, 1856.

[2] “Peter Still’s Story.” PBS, Web.  http://www.pbs.org/black-culture/shows/list/underground-railroad/stories-freedom/peter-stills-story/

[3] Pickard, Kate E.R. “The Kidnapped and The Ransomed.” The Gilder Lehrman Collection, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, New York. Web. https://www.gilderlehrman.org/collections/c8c88624-a3d5-4a3d-b650-556295771204

[4] Pickard: xxi-xxii

[5]  Hunter, Tera. “Putting an Antebellum Myth About Slave Families to Rest.” The New York Times. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.

[6] Pickard: 109

[7] Pickard: 108

[8] Pickard: 108

[9] Foner, Eric. Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad. W. W. Norton & Company, 2015, New York. p. 5

1
May

Lessons from a Confederate Cookbook

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Wendi Delaney, for prof. Chris Hager’s course, ENGL 329: Civil War Literature]

Ring0001Confederate Receipt Book. A compilation of over one hundred receipts adapted to the times. Richmond, Virginia: West & Johnston, 1863.

In 1863 on a cool day in early fall a young Confederate woman is preparing to receive visitors for the afternoon. Because of the Union blockade she is not able to present herself in the latest fashions, nor is she able to offer them the usual refreshments of coffee or tea, but she is learning to make do with what she is able to find.  She has not bought a new dress for over two years and today is wearing an older day dress that she has attempted to make look new by repurposing some bits of lace from an old worn out dress that is no longer serviceable. She is wondering what she can serve for refreshments because the coffee which she normally serves is either no longer available, or when it is the price is so high she cannot afford to buy it.  As she looks through her newly acquired Confederate Receipt Book for ideas of what to serve her guests she comes across a recipe for coffee made with acorns.  Because it is autumn she has good supply of fresh acorns underneath the oak tree behind her house.  With high hopes that this substitute for coffee will be better than the last, she goes outside to collect the acorns.

In Trinity College’s Watkinson Library there is a small, 154-year-old, 28-page cookbook with dry, brittle, yellowed pages and a front cover no longer attached.  It was published in 1863 by West and Johnson in Richmond, Virginia and is titled, Confederate Receipt Book. A compilation of over one hundred receipts, adapted to the times.[1] Cookbooks are not a unique item to kitchens in America, nor is it unique for them to be adapted to meet the needs of regional people with ingredients only found in specific areas. What makes this item unique is that it was published for the people of the new Confederate nation and was tailored to their unique situation of not having items available to them because of the Union blockades.  It is believed to be the only cookbook published in the South during the Civil War.[2]  Cookbooks form a literary genre that fulfills the need of educating people on how to make culinary dishes. Some also contain other information and helpful hints to make a household economical and efficient.  When they are tailored to a specific geographic region, event, or time period, they tell of the ingenuity and creativity of people adapting to changes or challenges found in their daily lives.  They also show a willingness of people to share their knowledge and experience to help others.  The contents of this small book reveal some of the challenges Confederate women faced during the Civil War and how Confederate women of all classes—wealthy, yeoman, and poor—were expected to deal with them.

Ring0002After the Civil War broke out, the Union blockade took hold of southern ports, effectively preventing the South from shipping out or receiving any supplies or commodities. Because of this the cost for food, household items, and clothing began to rise. To adjust to the changing conditions women started to make sacrifices by going without some of the luxuries they were used to. During the summer of 1861 one woman from Virginia felt “intensely patriotic and self-sacrificing” when she resolved to give up ice cream and cakes.[3]  Because women were not allowed to physically fight in the war, making these sacrifices helped them feel like they were doing their patriotic duty for the cause; they believed the food and materials they were not using for themselves were being used for their men in the Confederate army.  This belief is reflected in a book published in 1864 by Alex St. Clair Abrams called The Trials of a Soldier’s Wife, in which the heroine explains, “Woman can only show her devotion by suffering, and though I cannot struggle with you on the battle-field, in suffering as I have done, I feel it has been our holy cause.”[4]  As the war continued, the effects of the blockade became more intense forcing women to sacrifice more than just ice cream and cake. The average cost of feeding a family for a month rose from $6.55 in 1860 to $68.25 in 1863.[5] Items that were either in short supply or very high-priced included coffee, tea, sugar, meats, flour, medicines, household items such as soap and candles, and clothing and cloth material. Many women recorded the shortages, costs of goods, and how they dealt with the challenges in their diaries.

Among the many items written about in Civil War diaries, coffee gets a lot of attention. During the war the price of coffee rose from 30 cents per pound up to $50 per pound.[6]   In some parts of the South the price soared as high as $70 per pound.[7]  Because of the scarcity and soaring cost of coffee, many tried to find alternative ingredients that would be an acceptable alternative, but it was not an easy task.  Parthenia Antoinette Hague lamented the poor substitutes and popularity of the drink when she wrote, “One of our most difficult tasks is to find a good substitute for coffee. This palatable drink, if not a real necessary of life is almost indispensable to the enjoyment of a good meal, and some Southerners took it three times a day.”[8]   Items used to replace the coffee bean included rye, wheat, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, chicory, and other grains and seeds that could be roasted and ground.[9]  In The Confederate Cookbook under the section for “MISCELLANEOUS RECEIPTS” there is a receipt that calls for acorns to be prepared in place of the treasured coffee bean.  Most of these substitutions were so intolerable some chose to go without as in the case of one prominent housewife of Virginia who stated “We must do without it except when needed for the sick.  If we can’t make some of the various proposed substitutes appetizing, why we can use water. That, at least, is abundant, and can be given without money and without price.”[10]

Wheat flour was another food item that was in short supply.  Many of the larger plantations were focused on planting more cash crops such as cotton or rice, while some of smaller farms and plantations would cultivate some cotton or rice but would plant more food crops such as wheat.[11]  Wheat that was grown in the southern states before the war would have been sold north for processing and in return the flour would be sold to the southern states.  Once the blockade was in place that process stopped.  As with coffee, southern women had to find an alternative for wheat flour, and one alternative was rice flour.  In the Appendix of the Confederate Receipt Book, there are 2 ½ pages dedicated to “Recipes for Making Bread, &c., From Rice Flour.” This section of recipes was sent in to the Editors of the Columbus Sun, in Russel County, Alabama, by Elizabeth B. Lewis, who felt the need to share her knowledge with other women who were asking how to make bread with rice flour.[12]  This section includes recipes for bread, Johnny cakes, sponge cake, rice pudding and rice griddle cakes.

As many women do today women of the Civil War tried to stay up on the latest fashions.  Southern women found it difficult to do this because the Union blockade prevented shipments of new clothes and materials used to make new clothes.  Some women became embarrassed when they wore out their silk dresses and had to wear dresses made from calico, which was a material worn by slaves and servants.  Just as Scarlett O’Hara, in the movie “Gone with the Wind,” made a new dress from green curtains, many women made new clothing from materials found around their house, like bed-ticking or the lining of a pre-war garment. They would also re-adorn dresses using old lace or materials from other worn-out dresses[13]  Women reading the Confederate Receipt Book found a section called “HINTS FOR THE LADIES” dedicated to helpful tips on how to “freshen up a dress of which they have got tired, or which may be beginning to lose its beauty.”[14]

The longer the war continued the more dire Confederate women’s situations became. In 1864 one Confederate official informed President Davis that people were starving to death.[15]  Southern women were no longer feeling it was their proud patriotic duty to make the sacrifices they were so willing to make at the onset of the war.  They became desperate and in March of 1863, the year this book was published, “Bread Riots” occurred in Richmond and many others towns across the South.  In Richmond women marched on Capitol Square armed with knives, pistols, and hatchets demanding that shop owners lower their prices.  When no acceptable solution was reached they raided local shops, taking items such as food, shoes, clothes, brooms and hats.[16] The timing of publication for this book may have been a coincidence, but it may have been published as a response to the riots as a way to help the women of the South find alternatives and ease some of the hardships they were enduring.

 

[1] Receipts is another word for recipes.

[2]Dorothy Denneen Volo and James M. Volo.  Daily Life in Civil War America (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998), 232.

[3] Faust, Drew Gilpin. Southern Stories. Slaveholder in Peace and War. (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 1992), 125.

[4] Faust, 119.

[5] Volo pg 57.

[6] Brock, Sallie A. Richmond during the War: Four Years of Personal Observation, by a Richmond Lady. (New York: G.W. Carleton & Co., 1867), 79, https://archive.org/stream/richmondduringwa01broc#page/n0/mode/1up.

[7] Hague, Parthenia Antoinette. A Blockaded Family. Life in Southern Alabama during the Civil War. (1888. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1991), 101. In her book Hague gives an idea of how much work an average man would have to do in order to afford just a pound of coffee when she writes, “A good workman received 30 dollars per day so it would take two days of hard labor to buy one pound of coffee.”

[8] Hauge, 101.

[9] Brock, 79.

[10] Brock, 79.

[11] Hague, xviii.

[12] Confederate Receipt Book, 25.

[13] Thompson, 38.

[14] Confederate Receipt Book, 27.

[15] Faust, 125.

[16] Volo, 58.

9
May

An unknown Frost poem?

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Cameron Driscoll for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

Frost1For my Modern Poetry class with David Rosen, I was assigned to find something interesting at the Watkinson Library pertaining to the poet Robert Frost. While looking at some of the books donated by a Mr. Henry Bacon Collamore, I came across a copy of North of Boston. Inscribed on the inside of the front cover was a poem—specifically a sonnet in iambic pentameter, personally written by Robert Frost for Mr. Collamore.

Here is a picture of the poem in its original condition

The poem was written in Frost’s cursive handwriting, and was a bit hard to transcribe, but after some help from the team at the Watkinson, I was able to figure out what was written. Low and behold, when I was done, I realized this was a totally new poem by Robert Frost— one unknown to the outside world. Here I present publically for the first time, “A Convention” by Robert Frost:

 

 

 

A Convention

While they beneath bepennoned gardens yearned

With blare of brass and eloquence amain

For legislation to relieve the pain

Of living having been too hardly earned,

Something went right: outside the weather tunnels,

The drouth was broken with a little rain;

And in that merely momentary gain

Their meeting, cause, and party were adjourned.

 

Yet there had been the surest of the sure

About the malady if not the cure:

It was a case of desert: earth would soon

Be as uninhabitable as the moon

What for that matter had it ever been?

Who advised man to come and live therein?

Firstly, I should say that frost uses quite a bit of archaic language in this poem that was very hard to recognize, and therefore to transcribe. Instead of using the more modern “abound” or “surround” frost uses the word “amain”. This example of archaic language appears to be uses entirely for form in order to rhyme with the word “pain”. Next, he used the word “drouth” which is an archaic synonym for the word “drought”. One word in particular, appearing in the first line, was the most difficult to transcribe: “bepennoned”. Firstly, you will not find this word on any online dictionary, or for that matter in any handheld dictionary that I could find. I asked in my Modern Poetry class if anyone had any idea what it meant, and there were various ideas, however, none of them seemed satisfactory. Luckily, my mom is an English major, and a very smart one at that, so I asked her, and after 10 minutes she came back to me with the answer. Thanks mom, you rock.

The poem appears to be about a town meeting that is about to discuss a drought that has left a town without water. The town is full of symbols of wealth and abundance: they have gardens with pennants hung between them, everything is “eloquent” and brass instruments are used to convene the convention to order. However, despite this societal wealth, they are resource poor in water, as they haven’t had any rain, and, of course, cannot support the town without it. Frost wrote a lot about the relationship between man and nature, and I think this poem is an example of Frost pointing out how man often tries to claim a certain knowledge about nature that is entirely unfounded, and more generally, how men are often far too sure of themselves.

They are ‘legislating’ to “relieve the pain” of this drought.  However, as they discuss this problem, all of the sudden a light rain storm comes and breaks the drought. This is in some ways a bit ironic, as several in the convention were among the “surest of the sure” that the drought was a “case of desert” that would soon render the whole planet as “uninhabitable as the moon”.

The poem ends by asking two interesting questions. Essentially, he is asking about the origins of man. The first question appears to be rhetorical and can be taken one of two ways: either Frost is saying that the plant had never been “uninhabitable as the moon” or it always has.

The second question is even a bit stranger, “who advised man to come and live therein?” Is Frost trying to say that God was mistaken in putting man on Earth? Is he asking more specifically about who’s idea it was to ship people over to North America? I am unsure, however, I am certain some other young English student will come across this poem and will continue the work I have started here.

The Watkinson rocks.

Have a great summer.

 

 

 

9
Jun

The Courant in the late 18thC

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Sarah Mowery for AMST 838: America Collects Itself, from Colony to Empire]
We are reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale in AMST-803 (Historiography). In Ulrich’s work I have found inspiration for this post; not from the book’s content, but rather in Ulrich’s methodology. Ulrich’s primary source was a diary kept by Martha Ballard, an active midwife, between 1785 and 1812. Ballard’s daily entries were succinct and to the point, simply stating weather, visitors, housework performed and midwifery calls.  There was not enough meat on the bones to retell a full story, and for years the diary was overlooked by historians who concluded it was noteworthy but too limited.  Ulrich overcame this obstacle by looking to other sources to link the activities of a local midwife with other local happenings in the town of Hallowell, Maine and in doing so she was able to tell not just the tale of one local midwife, but to develop a picture of the larger community.
And so I turned to newspapers for this project, wondering what tidbits I might find of pre-Revolutionary life in America.  At the Watkinson I found a folio containing editions of the Connecticut Courant between January 4, 1774 and May 31, 1774.  The Courant was the third newspaper to be printed in Connecticut.  It was preceded by the Connecticut Gazette printed by James Parker in New Haven beginning in 1755 and the New-London Summary, or The Weekly Advertiser, first printed in August 1758 by Timothy Green.
The Courant was founded by Thomas Green, a relation of the aforementioned Timothy.  With printing in his blood, in 1757 Thomas turned to the Gazette’s office in New Haven for training under John Holt, the manager of Parker’s publication.  In 1760 he assumed managerial responsibilities for the Gazette and in 1764 he opened his own shop in Hartford to begin publication of the Courant.  In a history of Connecticut Newspapers in the Eighteenth Century prepared for the Tercentenary Commission of the State of Connecticut, Jarvis Means Morse described Thomas as “not as bold an editor as his contemporaries in New Haven and New London.”  Morse notes that Thomas’ publication stayed away from controversy and editorial commentary.  This approach changed in 1770 when management of the Courant was assumed by Ebenezer Watson.  Mr. Watson was the publisher of the editions of the Courant I examined for this post and based upon my readings he does not appear to have shied away from relaying news of Revolutionary America.As I turned the well-worn folio cover of Watson’s publication I was transported to New York, December 17, 1773.Detestable Tea. No. 471; Tuesday, December 28, 1773 – Tuesday, January 4, 1774. The Boston Tea Party occurred on December 16, 1773.  This edition of the newspaper was therefore published just days following that momentous event.   The front page is filled with the happenings of Boston and contains articles originally printed in both New York and Boston on 12/17/1773. New York’s response to the Tea Party opens Connecticut’s new year.  By advertisement distributed throughout New York on December 16, 1773, citizens of the City were called to action by the Members of the Association of the Sons of Liberty.  A meeting was to be held “to morrow, (being Friday) on Business of the utmost Importance: — and every Friend to the Liberties and Trade of America, are hereby most cordially invited, to meet at the same Time and Place.”Mowrey1The subsequent article describes the proceedings of the December 17, 1773 meeting.  Despite bad weather a “respectable number of citizens” attended the meeting at City Hall.  John Lamb, a member of the Association addressed those gathered, reading aloud letters from Boston’s and Philadelphia’s Committees of Correspondence, relaying the happenings in Boston “relative to the Importation of the East India Company’s Tea.”   Following the reading, a “Committee of Fifteen Gentlemen was chosen to answer those Letters, and to correspond with our Sister Colonies on the subject of the dutied Teas.”   This was followed by a message from the governor read by the mayor of New York declaring that one of the six ships carrying the “detestable tea” would be offloaded in New York.  The mayor asked the attendees if they consented to such and the crowd responded with a “general No, No, No.” It was then resolved that “this Body highly approve of that spirited and patriotic Conduct of our Brethren, of the City of Philadelphia, and the Town of Boston, in Support of the common Liberties of America.”  New York would stand in solidarity with Boston.

Of interest to note is that the ship bound for New York was “by an Act of God, fast on Shore, on the Back of Cape Cod.” Severe weather delayed the ship’s arrival and open revolt prevented its docking; it shrunk back to the land of its colonial overlord.

But the Boston Tea Party and the colonies’ responses are well documented and well studied.  While it was fascinating to stumble upon this account what I was really hoping to find were the tidbits of local life in Connecticut.  In turning the page I found just that.

Lost and Found: 12/28/1773: Mr. David Riley of Wethersfield placed an ad warning his creditors that his wife had “without any reason or cause eloped and willfully deserted [his] house” and that the public be warned – she should not be given credit upon his good name.  In a quick online genealogical search, I found reference to a Sarah Goodrich, born July 28, 1743 in Wethersfield, “poss. the Sarah Goodrich who m. David Riley May 17, 1773 at Rocky Hill.” Could this be the same Sarah and David and if so, what could have caused Sarah to run off just seven months into their marriage?

1/4/1774: Similarly, Ichabod Wadsworth offered a reward of six pence for the return of his “servant boy named George White” who had run away.  Mr. Wadsworth provided quite a detailed description of the runaway youth.  George was still missing as of the following publication.

1/31/1774: Poor Mr.  Jonah Gillet of Windsor was hopeful that his “stray’d” two year old HEIFER would make its way back home. A “handsome” reward was offered for its safe return.

4/18/1774: A “Negro Man about 26 years of age” reportedly ran away from Elihu Hyde.  Reward: $7. A sad commentary of the definition of property in 1774.

The Poet’s Corner offered a lovely piece written by “Maria” entitled Winter.   A sampling follows:  “The herbs and flow’rs that deck’d the field / Are winter’d all, and left; / The streams and Brooksto ice congeal’d / Are chain’d by Winter’s frost. / But nature changes all combine / To prove their Author’s hand divine.”

Job Opportunities. A blacksmith sought a “LAD, about 14 years of age” to apprentice. Asher Bull of New Hartford sought to hire three journeymen, joiners by trade.

For Sale. Ames’s Almanack for 1774 to be sold at the Printing Office.  (A 1762 edition of Ame’s Almanack is part of the Watkinson collection.)

Fighting Words. 3/8/1774 – “Four Millions of free Americans signed on to A new Creed, founded on immutable TRUTH.  We most solemnly DECLARE, that we sincerely believe the Parliaments or General Assemblies of North-America, have no more right…to tax the people of Great-Britain, than the Parliament of Great-Britain have to tax the people of America.”

4/8/1774 – New Haven”  “To complete the ruin of this island, we have a stamp-act, which has just taken place, and is perhaps the most oppressive order ever imposed, even in in oppressive governments.”

Letters to the Editor. 3/10/1774 – From Mr. Aaron Horsford of Wetherfield: “Mr Watson, please to insert the following in your next…I observ’d in your paper No. 480, a very ill-natur’d piece…”

It should be noted that for the most part, the “national” news offerings of local newspapers – such as the accounts of the Boston Tea Party relayed above – were simply articles reprinted from their original publications.  Jarvis notes that any local news was very limited.  But I found glints of local history in each of the last two pages of the Courant.  Much like Ulrich looked to Ballard’s diary, here we can look to the advertisements placed by local subscribers.  These ads very much add meat to the bones of local history and give us a taste of life in Hartford in 1774.

One final note is of an ad I came across in the edition covering the week of February 15, 1774 which is on topic for our class America Collects Itself.  Here we have an ad placed by Benjamin Trumbull of New Haven offering a “reward” of three dollars for a publication printed in New Haven in 1656.

Mowrey2

12
Mar

Modern Medicine of 19th Century America

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Meghan Crandall for AMST 838: America Collects Itself, from Colony to Empire]

medicalcoverThe Family Doctor: A Counsellor in Sickness, Pain and Distress, for Childhood, Manhood and Old Age by Professor Henry S. Taylor, was published in 1869.

Looking through the Watkinson for books on medicine at first seemed like an easy enough task, but when you search for ‘medicine’ you come up with 652 pieces. It was Taylor’s plan which drew me to this text–to be honest, speak in simple terms and use common sense in respect to medicine in the 19th century. “We are sure that without health we can neither enjoy happiness nor discharge the duties which devolve upon us; and we know also that, if we would enjoy a healthy old age, we must exercise the care and prudence of the old while we are yet young”.  It is clear that the author asks his readers to think highly of their health. It is intended as a guide to understanding and preventing illness.

Family medicine is based on knowledge of the patient and patient’s family, and in some cases even the community. The goal of Family Medicine is to provide personal, comprehensive, and continuing care for the individual patient, family and community.  I can’t remember having seen a recent book published that offers this kind of knowledge without using medical terminology. Instead we get sites like webMD.com; medical-dictionary.com, and medicinenet.com; which if you’ve ever been on any of these sites you find you have most of the symptoms listed; thus you are extremely sick, and the language used is not plain. “Our plan is with all honesty, simplicity and common sense, to guard our friends against what is prejudicial to health, and then to tell them what to do when disease visits them.”

While The Family Doctor may be out of date by modern standards it still offers great advice. “We regard Tobacco as one of the greatest enemies of the human family, and indeed of all life.” Clearly in 1869 and even before they knew the problems with tobacco, and the medical establishment is still fighting to stop tobacco use. Taylor states that “Nicotine was the awful agent chosen by Bocarme for poisoning his brother-in-law, because it killed and left no sign whereby to convict him.”

AMST 8380004The book covers topics such as The Sick Room, Diseases of Children, Diseases of Men and Women, Wounds, Accidents and Minor Diseases, and Diseases of Women. The Sick Room is placed in the upper part of the house because diseases proved more fatal in the lower levels, such as kitchens or cellars. It should be well-ventilated and the fewer people allowed in the room the better. These requirements are not much different than current standards of care. What is most interesting is the book’s in-depth descriptions of diseases such as Whooping Cough, Croup, Teething, Thrush, Cholera Infantum, Colic, Hickups, Diarrhea, Constipation, Vomiting, Worms, Rickets, Scalled Head, Ringworm, Rose Rash (False Measles), Chicken Pox , Small Pox, and many more. While we may not see hiccups as a disease it was depicted as a spasmodic affliction of the diaphragm, and perhaps the stomach.  The suggested cure was to have the patient in bed drinking cool drinks with the administration of sweet spirits or white-wine whey, or a teaspoonful of vinegar as often as needed.

Among the work’s precepts were “Good morals preserve good health”, “Good ventilation and good drainage are the first importance to health”, “Air is to the lungs what food is to the body; therefore, breathe all the fresh air you can”, “Laugh and grow fat is a good adage; cheerfulness begets health and health begets cheerfulness; and both, thankfulness for God’s mercies”, this piece of advice is not so different than what we use today “Live, Laugh, Love” is a common quote, and “To be angry is to be contemptible; it destroys self-respect and digestion”.

Though the book was printed in 1869 it still discusses many things of concern to public health officials, and describes diseases in the mainstream 19th century and family health before the family doctor became commonplace. Linking The Family Doctor to similar books within the library is a simple task. Right Living by Charles E. Rosenberg written in 2003 writes of similar topics as The Family Doctor. Both these books note the existence of disease and treatment, but in different times; thus allowing readers to see the progression of medicine in America.

12
Mar

Some Chinese Ghosts

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Mariah West for AMST 838: America Collects Itself, from Colony to Empire]

Hearn coverOriginally, in delving into the depths of the Watkinson search engine, I found this book purely through my own personal whimsy. I was searching through the subject of mythology and this unassuming book appeared—but what a title! When I held this well-loved and well-worn book in my hands, I was charmed by its stained and dulled cover and its inscription from the original owner—Daisy Foster. Nothing about this book was personalized beyond that—no annotations, no folded pages. Nothing but an index card, apparently from a book dealer from whom it was purchased guaranteeing a good price based on recent auctions. For approximately $35 this book was purchased by Dr. Jerome P. Webster, who donated his collection of Far Eastern and Maritime books to the Watkinson in 1910. Why this was such a good deal became apparent when searching for the origins of this edition—in some sort of disorganized confusion, the publishers believed that Lafcadio Hearn disliked the mustard yellow cover and wanted it reprinted. They chose to burn the majority of this printing, but several copies escaped, including this copy filed away in the belly of the Watkinson!

Hearn tpAt first I was hesitant in reading this book. I thought that I would be disappointed in the treatment of the legends and the myths of China—especially ones that were translated at the height of exoticism and anti-Chinese sentiments in the United States. I was pleasantly surprised to find the contents to be lovingly and respectfully presented with great care to maintain their origins. I suspect that a great deal of this care comes from Lafcadio Hearn’s own background of isolation, abandonment, and disrespect as well as his great enjoyment of the different and unknown.

This book contains six legends formatted into a short story. There is “The Soul of the Great Bell,” “The Story of Ming-Y,” “The Legend of Tchi-Niu,” “The Return of Yen-Tchin-King,” “The Tradition of the Tea-Plant,” and “The Tale of the Porcelain-God.” Each story features important explanations of traditional Chinese morality and duties portrayed with florid and picturesque language. While the majority of the stories do have a horrific and violent end, much like the tradition of the Grimm Brother’s European fairy tales, the reader cannot help but become swept up in the fantastical descriptions that Hearn paints for her. Each story conveys the importance and the interest in material goods that was a part of dynastic China—nothing is regarded higher than artistry and the self-sacrifice that is pursued within these stories.

With “The Soul of the Great Bell,” we follow the journey of an artist and his daughter who have been ordered by the Emperor, a demi-god, to make the grandest bell in the history of China. The artist will always fail at his goal, the daughter soon learns, until his bell is forged with the sacrificial blood of a virgin. Upon the threat of her father’s death, the daughter throws herself into his forge and becomes immortalized through the bell due to her filial piety.

In “The Story of Ming-Y,” we follow the trials and tribulations of the young and brilliant Ming-Y as he finds a job as a tutor with a wealthy family and meets a beautiful woman. Ming-Y and the woman, Sië, fall madly in love and pursue a secret affair. Shortly Ming-Y is discovered through his exhaustion that he has been spending nights away from where he is supposed to be. Both his father and his employer are incredibly concerned and confront him, and force Ming-Y to introduce them to Sië. When Ming-Y attempts to bring them to her home where they had been meeting, they find nothing but a tomb.

“The Legend of Tchi-Niu” follows a poor but pious man named Tong-yong who was orphaned at an early age. In order to have his father buried properly he sold himself into slavery. While his life as a slave was miserable, Tong-yong maintained his ancestors’ graves as was required and spent much time practicing his family worship. Eventually, Tong-yong met an incredible woman who promised to provide. As time went on, she was able to buy Tong-yong’s freedom and secure a house and land for him to farm through her amazing skills with silk weaving. Once his freedom was secured, they had a child who was the most gifted and brilliant child ever seen. One night, his wife came to Tong-yong and told him she must leave them. She was a goddess sent by the Master of Heaven to reward him for his dedication to filial piety.

“The Return of Yen-Tchin-King” follows the illustrious heroics of the Supreme Judge from one of the Six August Tribunals who was commanded by the Emperor, the Son of Heaven, to control a revolt. Yen-Tchin-King was so loyal to the Emperor and the Master of Heaven that he could not be swayed into betraying his master’s even at the threat of his own life. When the rebels executed him, he passed on to serve the Master of Heaven who rewarded his greatness, wisdom, and virtue with a corpse that would never corrupt of decay and would become an emblem of justice for the future generations.

“The Tradition of the Tea-Plant” follows the painful but moral story of the origin of the tea plant—something obviously important to the social and traditional customs of China. A young ascetic monk finds distraction and temptation within a beautiful young woman. Beauty this corporal world is so fleeting and illusionistic that is should not draw the monk away from his spiritual journey. But alas—he cannot return to his meditation. In a final attempt to seek enlightenment while ignoring his desires he slices off his eyelids and throws them to the ground. From his sacrifice grows the sacred tea-leaf, forever mimicking their original form.

Finally, “The Tale of the Porcelain-God,” which is by far my most favored of these legends. While very similar to “The Soul of the Great Bell,” this story follows the grand tradition of porcelain and vase-making within the dynastic periods of China’s history. Once a great potter was so revered and respected for his talent that the Emperor of China called upon him to produce a vase that resembled human flesh. Try as he could, the potter created the most beautiful vases, but not one could compare to human flesh. In his despair over the Emperor’s disappointment and threatening advances against the artist’s life, he contacted and begged the Porcelain-God who resided within his kiln. A deal was made to produce a vase that resembled human flesh, something that could only be achieved when the vase itself contained the spirit of a human. In his final attempt, the potter made the most wondrous vase, painted it with care, and threw himself into the fire with his last piece. When the fires died down and the vase was removed from the kiln, it was like no other—appearing to breath and with the sumptuous undertones of flowing blood. The artist would live forever contained within his most prized work.

This book also contains a glossary of Chinese words which have not been translated into English for the fear of mistranslation and the desire to maintain authenticity within the stories. This glossary is, at least to me, a very impressive inclusion to a book from the 1880s, although it probably had much to do with the popular exoticism and orientalism of aesthetic practices during the 18th and 19th centuries.

12
Mar

Anne Bradstreet

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Sara Mowery for AMST 838: America Collects Itself, from Colony to Empire]

Ellis_title page of 1678 second editionAnne Bradstreet’s collected poems, edited by John Harvard Ellis, was published in 1867 by A. E. Cutter in Charlestown, and bears the mark “No. 157 of 250 copies printed.”  Ellis’s Preface provided me with reassurance that this edition would indeed hold true, if not exact, to the first edition of Bradstreet’s works which was published during her lifetime in London in 1650.  Specifically, Ellis explains that at the time of his edition there had been three published editions of Bradstreet’s collected works.  The first (1650), a second published in Boston in 1678 six years after Bradstreet’s death, and a third published from the second edition in 1758, also in Boston.  Ellis notes that the third edition contains “numerous omissions of words, changes in spelling, and other alternations of little importance.”  In his edition, Ellis paid careful attention to maintaining the integrity of the second edition of Bradstreet’s collection thereby, it would appear, dismissing any value in the third edition.  The second edition, Ellis notes, “contained the additions and corrects of the author, and several poems found amongst her papers after her death.”  In other words, the second edition is a more exhaustive collection of Bradstreet’s work.  It also provides “extensive” corrections to both spelling and grammar.

“I changed my condition and was married, and came into this country, where I found a new world and new manners, at which my heart rose.  But after I was convinced it was the way of God, I submitted to it and joined the church at Boston.” [i]   This recollection, shared by Anne Bradstreet with her children once many years settled, speaks volumes to a woman’s position and identity in Puritan colonial society.  Specifically, a woman’s duty was to submit, be it to God or to husband, and most preferably to both.  Yet Anne Bradstreet would do something remarkable for her times.  She would become the first published female poet in colonial America.  A female voice, un-muted.  Bradstreet first came to my attention in a survey undergrad American Literature course.  We read a handful of her poems and spent all of five minutes discussing her work and life in class.  Remarkable, in my opinion, given Bradstreet’s significant accomplishment.  And so I chose for this post to delve deeper into why Bradstreet’s voice carried while so many female voices were muted in colonial America.

I have briefly encountered another colonial America Anne during my studies – Anne Hutchinson.  While this post is not about Hutchinson, and I will not devote any great length to a discussion on Hutchinson, it is important to make note of Hutchinson because her banishment from society stands in stark contrast from the acceptance that Anne Bradstreet received.  Bradstreet’s female voice won over her contemporaries, rather than inciting their wrath as Hutchinson’s had.  Hutchinson and Bradstreet were contemporaries, somewhat.  Anne Hutchinson settled in America from 1634 to 1643 and Anne Bradstreet from 1630 to 1672.  They lived among the same Puritan settlers under similar male confines.   So why did Hutchinson’s voice get her banished while Bradstreet’s voice was rewarded with the ultimate prize for a writer; being published?  For an answer I look to how the two women chose to express themselves.  Anne Hutchinson’s voice was fervent and oppositional; she directly challenged the ministry.  Anne Bradstreet on the other hand sneaked in through the back door; her writings left much room for interpretation.  Her voice was equally challenging; not in its demanding strength but in its crafty manipulation.

By way of example, I look to To my Dear and Loving Husband.

If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee;

If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me ye women if you can.

At first reading, this is a love poem written by a devoted wife.  She expresses not only her love but also urges others to look to this couple as an example of married bliss.  However, Bradstreet’s words quickly force us to question if there is perhaps more she is trying to tell us when she continues:

I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold,

Or all the riches that the East doth hold.

My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,

Nor ought but love from thee, give recompence.

These lines speak of such trivial matters of earthly possessions and payment.  She attempts to place a size and value on love.  In this, Bradstreet has strayed from the ethereal to the earthly; and in doing so, she diminishes the value of love.  If her love can be compared to such an earthly thing as a mineral, if a value can be placed upon it, if it can be measured, surely its magnificence is overrated.

Thy love is such I can no way repay,

The heavens reward thee manifold I pray.

Then while we live, in love lets so persever,

That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Anne Hutchinson’s story reveals a rift in Puritan society between those who preached the covenant of grace and those who preached the covenant of works.  In the above lines I hear Bradstreet’s musings on this debate.  She speaks of salvation; “heavens reward,” and tells her husband that “while [they] live, in love let’s so persever.”  Her practical approach is to deal with the here and now, loving her husband while they live, so that they may enjoy eternity together.  It is in these final lines of the poem that I believe Bradstreet’s female voice speaks out against the contentious debate that plagued Puritan society.  Softly and cleverly hidden in endearing terms of affection towards her husband, Anne Bradstreet gives her own interpretation of salvation and how one can attain it.

Another example of Bradstreet’s ability to express herself in an unforgiving puritan society is in The Prologue. Here, Bradstreet’s use of epic genre invokes classical style:

To sing of Wars, of Captains, and of Kings,

Of Cities founded, Common-wealths begun,

For my mean pen are too superior things:

Or how they all, or each their dates have run,

Let Poets and Historians set these forth,

My obscure Lines shall not so dim their worth.

In using this genre and style, Bradstreet mimics the writing style of the Great Men; a style well accepted throughout history.  In doing so, Bradstreet sneaks onto the scene.  Yes she is a woman.  But her style is familiar, and therefore, she is allowed to continue.  She cleverly carries this deceit forward in the next stanza where she hides within her theme, simply mimicking her muse, Bartas:

A Bartas can, do what a Bartas will

But simple I according to my skill.

Bradstreet has set the scene for us.  We are safe to read on, un-threatened by the humble female voice.  Yet in the blink of an eye she springs on us, as if glaring at the reader, knitting needles angrily click-clacking, body tense:

I am obnoxious to each carping tongue

Who fays my hand a needle better fits,

A Poets pen all scorn I should thus wrong,

For such despite they cast on Female wits:

If what I do prove well, it won’t advance,

They’l say it’s stoln, or else it was by chance.

The once self-diminishing and humble Puritan wife is now the combative and angry Poet.  She angrily calls out society and its “carping tongue” that insist a woman’s voice is better silenced; a woman’s place is in the home.  She is no feeble-minded female.  Her “Poets pen” is guided not by accident or chance but rather by an intelligent “female wit.”  The next stanza shows us just how clever Bradstreet’s Poetic pen could be:

Let Greeks be Greeks, and women what they are

Men have precedency and still excel,

It is but vain unjustly to wage warre;

Men can do best, and women know it well

Preheminence in all and each is yours;

Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours.

With this stanza Bradstreet speaks in more conciliatory tones, gradually calming the reader down.  In a single breath she acknowledges a man’s “precedency” and “preheminence” while also asking that her female voice be judged not by its femininity but by the intelligence that guides it.  The entire poem is a whirlwind of emotion and manipulation.

From the role of diminutive sex to angry feminist to well-reasoned litigator, The Prologue and To My Dear and Loving Husband are prime examples of Anne Bradstreet’s clever use of manipulative language and style that would save her from a fate similar to Anne Hutchinson.  Anne Bradstreet’s works survive today, neatly bound and displayed in library stacks worldwide.  Ironically, Cotton Mather, the grandson of John Cotton and turncoat of Anne Hutchinson, would sing Anne Bradstreet’s praise, writing that her poems “have afforded a grateful entertainment unto the ingenious, and a monument for her memory beyond the stateliest marbles.” [ii]  Thankfully, time alters perspective; the female voice of each Anne has survived history in spite of those who believed such a voice should not.


[i] Heimert, Alan and Andrew Delbanco. The Puritans in America: A Narrative Antholog. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.

[ii] Radcliffe, David Hill. Spenser and the Tradition: English Poetry 1579-1830 A Gathering of Texts, Biography, and Criticism. n.d.

20
Feb

White Mountains

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Jane Smith for AMST 838: America Collects Itself, from Colony to Empire]

SweetsercoverThe 1890 edition (with updates) of an 1876 guide to the White Mountains edited by Moses Foster Sweetser (1848 –1897) is a fascinating glimpse into late nineteenth century outdoor travel and travel writing.  Bent’s Bibliography of the White Mountains, published in 1911, billed it as “the most comprehensive guide to the White Mountains that has been published,” and this seems to be an accurate claim.  Sweetser is incredibly thorough, both in describing the natural beauty that awaits his readers and in helping them plan every detail of their trips. Published at a time when the advent of paid time off and inexpensive train travel opened up recreational opportunities  for the middle class, Sweetser’s  guidebook offers all the tools for planning  a “do it yourself ” vacation.

 

M.F. Sweetser edited other travel books for Houghton Mifflin during the late nineteenth century, including guides of the Maritime Provinces and New England, among others. AMST 8380002His handbook for travel in the White Mountains appeals to the hearty outdoorsman interested in hiking the trails of the area, as well as to families or others focused on relaxing stays in grand resorts or smaller hotels.  Extensive sections on geology, topography (with fold out maps), nomenclature, history, scenery and an unusually long section devoted to “Indians” take up the front portion of the guidebook. Sweetser is a stickler for details, at one point carefully explaining to his readers missing topographical graphics, an admission that is charmingly quaint in our Google Earth era. “It was intended to have also panoramas from Moosilauke and Mt. Lafayette, but protracted cold and snowy weather settled down when the Guide-book party moved in that direction, and prevented the drawings.”

 

 

SweetsermapDetailed descriptions of train routes, walking trails and accommodations, arranged by geographic area, dominate the last part of the book.  The number of train routes (and train companies) seemingly servicing every nook and cranny of the White Mountain area is impressive, especially when compared to our current scaled-down Amtrak service.  Sweetser  also includes a comprehensive overview for 1890 in the front of the book, noting minute changes in train or stage service and lodging updates, such as his comment about the fabled Glen House, “The new Glen House is one of the foremost summer hotels in the world, and its surroundings have been much adorned of late.”

Sweetser seems as comfortable with the scientific and practical portions of the guidebook as he is with the subjective and descriptive passages.  His depiction of the ideal season to visit is more exuberant than we might see in contemporary guidebooks.

“From the middle of June to the middle of July foliage is more fresh; the cloud scenery is nobler; the meadow grass has more golden color; the streams are usually more full and musical; and there is a larger proportion of the ‘long light’ of the afternoon, which kindles the landscape into the richest loveliness…”

Nor does he hold back his opinion of a less desirable scene, “The Ossipee Ponds are less attractive, on account of the dull surroundings and desolate shores.”

A good portion of the book concerns what Sweetser calls “pedestrian tours or what we would call “hiking.”  In text aimed only at men, he proclaims that these walking tours, “afford ground for rejoicing to lovers of American physical manhood.” Sweetser orients much of the book, particularly those sections dealing with outside adventures, around the Appalachian Mountain Club, formed in 1876. The club had 700 members at the time of the 1890 printing (as compared with 150,000 today) and was created specifically to explore the White Mountains by MIT Professor, Charles Pickering.  Sweetser leverages the organization’s credibility and reputation throughout the book.

One of my favorite sections in Sweetser’s guidebook contains practical advice for men planning pedestrian tours while in the White Mountains. In the days before performance fabrics, he suggests the following attire.

“A flannel shirt, with a rolling collar of the same material, is about all the chest-covering which is comfortable in warm weather walking. Linen collars and cuffs are quickly melted by perspiration; the waistcoat is quite      superfluous; the coat (a light English shooting jacket, buttoning across the breast, is the best)….”

He then gives the following resourceful advice for footwear.

“Shoes should be selected with great care, and should fit neatly… the bottoms of the soles and heels should be garnished with rows of the soft iron hob-nails to prevent wearying slips….

Sweetser also offers a method of repelling the black flies and mosquitoes famous in the White Mountain area, “Various preparations of tar and oil, and other ingredients, are used to anoint the hands, face and neck…” Finally, with our modern day emphasis on hydration and the omnipresent water bottle, it is difficult to grasp Sweetser’s advice to those thirsty souls ascending the White Mountains.  He suggests that they, “carry a bottle of cold tea to be drank [sic] sparingly and at wide intervals” or that they, “drink from water found along the way – springs or rain found in the hollows of flat rocks…after a rain storm.”

The White Mountains was such a popular tourist destination in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that a bibliography devoted to guidebooks and other types of literature about this specific area was complied in 1911. Bent’s Bibliography of the White Mountains, originally published by Houghton Mifflin for the Appalachian Mountain Club, contained lists of magazine articles, newspapers, fiction, poetry, journal articles and artwork about this scenic area. Sweetser’s handbook  for the White Mountains also appears in one other significant  bibliography  with a lengthy but descriptive  title, Descriptive List of the five-hundred and forty-eight books published by Houghton Mifflin & Co. and Exhibited in the Model Library of the American Library Association at the Chicago Exposition of 1893.

Sweetser’s handbook is most intriguing for the details it reveals about travel and everyday life in 1890. While the scientific sections are a bit tedious, the rest of the handbook is an appealing and complete vacation guide, written with sincere enthusiasm. It is sad to think that the area has changed so much since Sweetser so thoroughly and eloquently described it in 1890.

 

 

 

20
Feb

Cadwallader Colden

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Sarah St. Germain for AMST 838: America Collects Itself: From Colony to Empire]

coldencoverCadwallader Colden’s The history of the Five Indian Nations depending on the Province of New-York in America was first published in 1727 and is an important work of history from the colonial period. Colden was a physician, natural scientist, lieutenant governor of New York, and the first representative to Iroquois Confederacy. He was born in 1688 in Scotland and made his way to America in 1710. He wrote essays on the filth of New York City, philosophy, and botany, as well as this important work.

The Watkinson’s copy of The history of the Five Indian Nations was published in London in 1747, which one editor claimed had, “alterations and omissions so numerous , that students to whom these English editions are familiar have really no idea of what the work was as originally written by Colden”. He also notes that George Brinley of Hartford, owned a copy of the original press run. Although the Watkinson owns a portion of his collection, this original copy is not included. The book includes a fold-out map; a dedication; detailed introduction (“being a short view of the form of government of the five nations”); a vocabulary of tribal names; and chapters like, Of the Transactions of the Indians of the Five Nations with the neighbouring English colonies and Mons. De la Barres Expedition and some remarkable transactions in 1684.

Just the Introduction itself is a wealth of information. For instance, Colden notes that the Iroquois:

“Never make any prisoner a slave”

“Keep themselves free of the bondage of wedlock”

“Theft is very scandalous among them”

“Are much given to speech-making”

“Have no kind of publick worship”

“They always dress the corps (sic) in its finery”

ColdenThe map is fairly detailed and shows the tribes of the New York and Great Lakes region. If you focus on the New York section above “The Countrey of the Five Nations”, you will see each of the five nations spelled out in their territory. If you look closer still, you will see a small building drawn near each. These are what were known to the English as “castles”. In Little Falls, NY, where I grew up, there was a place called Indian Castle Church. It never occurred to me that it was a weird name, or that it had history behind it.  Indian Castle in Danube was so named from the upper Indian castle or fort, built in 1710 on the flat just below the mouth of Nowadaga creek.”  -New York State Museum Bulletin, November 1917. This castle is located above the ‘s’ in Mohawkes. Each one of the five nations had a castle.

The brief vocabulary section includes many names that are familiar today, though the spellings are very different.  It offers words known to the French with an Iroquois interpretation. For instance:

Chigagou (now Chicago): Caneraghik

Detroit: Teuchsagrondie

Manhattan: New York City

Algonkins: Adirondacks

Renards: Quaksies (renard is French for duck so you can see the relationship between the words)

In addition, the dedication alone offers an in-depth look into the politics of the times. Dedicated to “The Honorable General Oglethorpe”, Colden writes, “If care were taken to plant and cultivate [the Iroquois]… they would become a people whose friendship might add honour to the British nation”. In a time before the American Revolution, he clearly believes that the strength of the Iroquois should be harvested to fight (at the time) the French. Later, the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga nations would join the British in the Revolution, while the Oneidas and Tuscaroras (the sixth nation, added in 1723) would join the Americans.  Later, he equates the Iroquois with the Romans, saying that to increase their strength as a confederation; they “encourage the People of other Nations to incorporate with them”.  “The cruelty the Indians use in their wars… is deservedly indeed held in abhorrence: But whoever reads the history of the famed heroes (the Romans), will find them not much better in this respect.” This is a fairly balanced line for a 17th century writer.

Colden continues with a “short view” of the Iroquois government and then part one, chapter one: From the first Knowledge the Christians had of the Five Nations, to the time of the happy revolution in Great Britain. (Note: Colden uses the word “rodinunchsiouni” as the Iroquois word for their nations. In English today, it is Haudenausaunee, people of the longhouse).

He includes stories of warriors, hunting parties, and expeditions that, “may seem incredible to many” but show “how extreamly revengeful” the Iroquois were. Don’t forget that Colden equated them with the Romans. Much of the book is based on tales of the battles and skirmishes between the Five Nations, the French, the British, and other tribes.

The final portion of the book stems from Colden’s political career:  Papers relating to An Act of the Assembly of the Province of New York for Encouragement of the Indian Trade &c and for prohibiting the selling of Indian Goods to the French, viz. of Canada. An incredible lengthy, yet descriptive title. This is comprised of treaties, letters, speeches, and a list of the people who attended a council in Philadelphia in 1742. The spelling of the names of the Indians who were in attendance (from at least 7 different tribes) gives an incredible lesson on language and phonetics. Even today, the Iroquois languages are difficult to read (the pronunciation and the English alphabet aren’t completely compatible. It would be quite a project to sound out the names and try to glean meaning from them).

Cadwallader Colden’s The History of the Five Indian Nations is still used today as a reference for historical books on the Iroquois. His attention to detail and (mostly) balanced writing make it one of the finest books on the topic.

18
Nov

Summer scholar (NERFC)

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Jordan Watkins, NERFC Fellow]

“Certain Peculiar Circumstances … Have Become Our Own in Every Essential Particular”: Antebellum Slavery and History as Past and Present

            Slavery forced antebellum Americans to confront history in new ways. These confrontations encouraged new considerations about the relationship between the present and their sacred religious and legal historical texts—the Bible and the Constitution—and their corresponding favored historical pasts. In the first decades of the new republic, the presence of pasts made familiar through uses and interpretations that conflated historical differences and collapsed historical times guarded Americans from the more disorienting intellectual upheavals of historicization. However, when the slavery crisis fueled a growing emphasis on historical and contextual interpretation in both biblical and constitutional debates, it fostered an awareness of historical distance of the sort that encouraged more historically attuned readings and applications of both the Bible and the Constitution. The process marked an important development in American historical consciousness: the historicization of the nation’s most transcendent, familiar, and useful historical eras and associated historical texts signaled that all periods were subject to temporal vicissitudes and that qualitative changes and contingencies divided all historical eras. This marked an important step in the understanding that each historical period existed as a discrete temporality. In this way, southern slavery contributed to the introduction of a modern American historical awareness.

Watkins3When I arrived at the Watkinson, I set out to further explore the spread of contextual interpretation in biblical and constitutional readings and to examine the overlap between those readings. In the first source I read—Samuel Cary’s published sermon, Ignorance of the True Meaning of the Scripture (1814)—I encountered a clear statement signaling the trend toward the kinds of historical readings of scripture that biblical criticism encouraged. A Harvard graduate and a Unitarian minister, Cary explained to his Boston Battle Street Church congregation that most Christians are but imperfectly acquainted with the facts relating to this book, which have been brought to light by the reseaches [sic] of biblical criticism. In order to comprehend rightly the works of men who lived at a very remote period, and who wrote with particular objects in view, and are known to have accommodated themselves to the circumstances of their own time; it is manifestly necessary, that we should know something of the state of the world at that period generally, and of the particular state of those individuals or societies, who are in any way concerned in these writings.[1]

This source lends further credence to the idea that a broad range of America’s biblical exegetes explicitly called for historical readings of the Bible. The biblical debate over slavery that grew and developed in the succeeding decades led some to ignore the historical approach, but others, including the eminent biblical scholar Moses Stuart, used just such an approach to explicate the scriptures and to explain their meaning for Americans relative to southern slavery.

In this same period, a similar development emerged in constitutional interpretation. Americans began to read the Constitution, a text from a period much closer in time than the biblical past, in relation to its historical context. In my manuscript, I contend that the passing of the founding generation spurred an interest in uncovering the founders’ and framers’ writings, which encouraged the use of historical sources—such as Madison’s Papers (1840)—to determine the meaning of the nation’s supreme legal text. The attempt to read the Constitution in light of the framers’ intent, a process that required historical narration, received official sanction in Dred Scott (1857). While the emphasis on reading the Constitution as a historical text spread and developed in the 1840s and 1850s, the prospect was present much earlier. Watkins1While at the Watkinson, I read Delaware Senator Nicholas Van Dyke’s speech On the Amendment Offered to a Bill for the Admission of Missouri (1820). In the speech, Van Dyke reasoned against the Tallmadge Amendment, which would gradually abolish slavery in the proposed state of Missouri. In his argument, he gloried in his nation’s penetrable past: “Its history is brief, and known to all: the time and manner of its creation, the circumstances attending its adoption are recent and familiar. Many of the enlightened statesmen whose talents and labors were devoted to this great work, yet live to share the honors which their grateful country bestows, as a reward due to their distinguished merit.”[2] Ironically, the emphasis on contextualizing the Constitution became more emphatic after those “enlightened statesmen” had passed on. And in the 1840s and 1850s, historical interpretations began to show that profound historical differences separated the founding era from the present despite the relatively brief time separating the two periods. Indeed, its penetrable nature made historical distance all the more clear once the slavery debate directed interpreters to plumb its depths.

While at the Watkinson, I also discovered sources that further demonstrated the overlap in biblical and constitutional debates over slavery, even with figures who already play a prominent role in my project. Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing, like his more outspoken colleague Andrews Norton, partook of the new emphasis on contextual readings of the Bible. This approach encouraged him to separate out what he understood as eternal Christian truths from their temporal biblical trappings. On the issue of slavery, in particular, he used a contextual reading to argue that Christ and the apostles, recognizing the temporal constraints placed upon them by slavery’s presence in their society, inculcated principles meant to flower and ultimately abolish slavery in a future period. While highlighting Channing’s role in the early part of the manuscript, he drops out of the narrative as I turn from biblical to constitutional debates. However, in the writings that I examined at the Watkinson, I noted that his constitutional arguments similarly display historical readings.Watkins4 For example, in his two-part pamphlet on The Duty of the Free States (1842), Channing cited Madison’s Papers to contend that the framers took care not to recognize property in man. He noted that “the phraseology and history of the constitution afford us some shelter, however, insufficient, from the moral condemnation of the world.”[3] In the second part, Channing explained that, in reference to the fugitive slave clause, which, he argued, recent rulings in northern states had made unconstitutional, “The Constitution was not established to send back slaves to chains. The article requiring this act of the Free States was forced on them by the circumstances of the times, and submitted to as a hard necessity. It did not enter into the essence of the instrument; whilst the security of freedom was its great, living, all-pervading idea. We see the tendency of slavery to warp the Constitution of its purposes, in the law for restoring the flying bondman.”[4] Again, as in his biblical reading, Channing made an appeal to context, citing the importance of the “views of its authors,” and he did so in order to separate out the Constitution’s temporal necessities from its timeless truths.[5] In this and other writings from the 1830s and 1840s, he juxtaposed what he and other antislavery writers described as slavery’s corrupting power with the spread of the “a new state of mind” associated with “the civilized world,” a state of mind that demanded that the Constitution “be brought into harmony with the moral convictions of the people.”[6]

I encountered most of Channing’s writings within bound volumes of pamphlets on the slavery issue, arranged chronologically. These volumes led to perhaps the most interesting insight that resulted from my perusal of the Watkinson’s collections. While looking for particular pamphlets that engaged the biblical and constitutional debate over slavery, I discovered a host of related pamphlets, including moderate antislavery and proslavery southern writings. In perusing these sources, I discovered further evidence of the close interpretational ties between moderate antislavery and proslavery readers. A number of moderate northerners appear in my dissertation, including Daniel Webster and Moses Stuart, but only a few southerners show up, including Roger Taney, and thus the southern voice remains in the background of the narrative. I argue that slavery increased historical awareness among a number of abolitionists, leading some of them to dismiss the Bible and the Constitution as outdated texts or, more persuasively, to argue that the historical distance demanded new readings. To be sure, some abolitionist writings—more of which I discovered at the Watkinson—put forth biblical and constitutional interpretations that conflated temporal distance and collapsed time.[7] However, moderate antislavery thinkers who desired peace and, especially, southern proslavery writers who aimed to justify the historically legitimate institution, were most invested in static readings of the Bible and the Constitution that ignored historical distance.

Southerners often drew attention to abolitionism’s perceived willingness to dismiss and condemn the nation’s authoritative religious and legal historical texts. For example, an 1850 article in The United States Magazine, and Democratic Review condemned William Lloyd’s Garrison’s ideas, the “dogmas of the New Messiah,” and his followers, “who believe neither law or Gospel.”[8] Many southerners who condemned Garrisonian attacks on the nation’s sacred historical texts juxtaposed those venerated sources with the innovation of abolitionism: “Either abolitionism must be put down, and the ancient, time-honored, venerable old Christian church sustained against these marauders and moss-troppers, or an entire new system of government corresponding with the new code of piety and morality propounded by the new expositor of the Gospel, must be adopted.”[9] Both abolitionists and proslavery writers attacked opposing developments as corrupt innovations. But while many abolitionists highlighted proslavery consolidation as a deviation from antislavery expectations—either biblical or Revolutionary—proslavery writers portrayed abolitionism as a deviation from biblical and Revolutionary realities.

A number of northern moderates joined southerners in similarly critiquing abolitionism. For example, in a sermon delivered in South Berwick, Maine, in late 1850, Congregationalist Benjamin Allen Russell praised the “immortal Constitution,” a “sacred instrument” that demanded obedience to ensure the nation’s continued existence.[10] Showing signs of the drive toward Dred Scott, he insisted that “the decision of the Supreme Court … is the decision of the nation.”[11] He combined the appeal to the supreme legal text and the Supreme Court with the supreme religious text. Both sacred texts, when understood in the light of history, evidenced that the ancient apostles, not to mention the ancient prophets, and the late founders encouraged slaves to obey their masters. Russell contrasted the actions and teachings of the apostles and views of the framers with those of the abolitionists, who dismissed the Constitution’s outdated instructions and believed that the Bible “belongs to a dark age.”[12] He insisted that the teachings of the ancient apostles and those of the modern abolitionists “come into direct conflict with each other.”[13] Furthermore, no one had questioned the framers’ fugitive slave clause until now, Russell asserted. Still, along with other antislavery writers, he believed that the framers had anticipated that “through the operation of the principles of freedom which the new Government would embody, under the influence of the religion of Christ, [the slave’s] chains would ultimately be knocked off, and he stand up in all the conscious dignity of a freeman. These expectations have been in some degree realized.” According to Russell, abolitionists’ radical efforts had arrested these expectations, setting back the expected “period of universal emancipation” fifty years.[14] This reading, which Daniel Webster had also advanced in his Seventh of March speech, stood in direct contrast to that offered by other antislavery writers and later by Abraham Lincoln, which posited that proslavery consolidations rather than abolitionist innovations had choked the framers’ antislavery expectations. These debates about what constituted corruption spread awareness of historical change, even among interpreters set on ignoring historical distance in their biblical and constitutional interpretations.

Examining these pamphlets at the Watkinson solidified one of my preliminary arguments: the Fugitive Slave Law brought together biblical and constitutional interpretation as had no other event in the nation’s history. It also confirmed another contention: the spread of historical awareness was uneven, as demonstrated in the continued commitment to static readings of the Bible and the Constitution. Indeed, while the slavery debate encouraged a number of readings that appealed to historical distance, just as often it inspired flat readings and a clear conflation of historical differences.

Watkins2In another sermon from late December, 1850, Episcopalian minister Nathaniel Sheldon Wheaton, a Yale graduate and former President of Trinity College, also appealed to both the Bible and the Constitution to encourage acquiescence to the Fugitive Slave Law. He cited the most scrutinized biblical text in the slavery debate, Paul’s epistle to Philemon, wherein Paul encouraged Onesimus to return to his master Philemon. Seeming to follow the reading of Moses Stuart, while omitting the careful historical research that accompanied the former’s analysis, Wheaton contended that because the apostle’s “certain peculiar circumstances … have become our own in every essential particular, we naturally recur to it for instruction.”[15] Providentialism supported Wheaton’s disregard of historical distance: “we know and feel that we are doing right when, under parallel circumstances, we act as he did. One might almost suppose that the providence of God had anticipated the very crisis in which this country is now placed, and had caused this comparatively unheeded letter to be written as a guide to Christian consciences now.”[16] Rather than insisting on the temporary nature of biblical passages, as so many liberal Christians now did, Wheaton appealed to “facts,” “circumstances,” and “ancient history,” to illuminate Paul’s actions and then proceeded to assert that the apostolic letter had more importance in 1850 than when it was authored.[17] Wheaton’s historical reading had the purpose of ignoring the historical distance that such a reading could expose.

Even in his use of tenses, Wheaton exhibited a proclivity to collapse time. In discussing Philemon, he slipped from past to present tense:

One of his slaves, Onesimus, escaped from his bonds, and found his way to Rome, where St. Paul then was, an honourable prisoner within limits, but allowed to exercise the ministry. There, Onesimus hears the Apostle preach, and is converted to the faith in Christ, He seeks an interview with the Apostle, whom he had probably known as the house of his master in former days; confesses to him that he is a fugitive, and solicits his counsel.[18]

Many used the present tense to recount biblical passages, but the fluidity shown here seems notable. Regardless of whether or not this passage reflects Wheaton’s historical awareness, or lack thereof, it illuminates the ease with which interpreters spoke of the distant past as present.

One last point about Wheaton’s interpretation bears mentioning as it highlights an argument that became powerful among conservative northerners and proslavery southerners. Although, in a number of instances, he ignored historical distance to emphasize the relevance of Paul’s example and to contrast it with that of the abolitionists, his central contention rested on an appeal to circumstances: “On a candid review of all these circumstances, I know not how an unprejudiced mind can evade the conclusion, that the holding of men to involuntary service is not, under all circumstances, inconsistent with Christianity.”[19] Like many southern writers, Wheaton used historical precedent, in this case biblical precedent, to show that slavery is not of necessity evil and at odds with Christian belief. Here, Wheaton drew attention to a circumstantial difference, but one he called “an exception in regard to a single point.” He cited the “constraint of civil law,” recently bolstered in the Compromise of 1850, to show that the Americans’ imperative to return fugitive slaves was greater than Paul’s.[20] In stark contrast to anti-slavery readings, the (sole) circumstantial difference Wheaton uncovered between the apostle’s time and his own supported southern slavery. Wheaton went further with his circumstantial argument, in suggesting that, with the prior assistance of New England ships during the colonial era, “domestic servitude has become so incorporated with the whole texture of southern institutions and society … that by no possibility can slavery be suddenly torn out, without the most deplorable consequences.”[21] Some antislavery writers made a similar point about slavery’s relationship to New Testament times, but whereas they argued that Christ and his apostles had planted the seeds of slavery’s abolition, Wheaton argued that the approach of the first century must be applied in the nineteenth. In his argument, historical precedent and the historical change supported southern slavery.

These sources, which represent only a few of the writings I read at the Watkinson, demonstrate the uneven development of historical awareness that resulted from the biblical and constitutional debates over slavery. A number of antislavery writers, especially abolitionists, used the historical distance that historical research revealed to either damn the nation’s sacred religious and legal texts or to argue for the need read them in relation to historical change and in light of historical distance. Many other writers, including moderate antislavery proponents, southerners, and some abolitionists proffered at least marginal historical readings, but then conflated the exposed historical differences and collapsed the revealed historical time to assert the relevance of the actions and beliefs of past figures. The emerging awareness of historical distance waxed and waned in this period, offering another example of the contingent and uncertain nature of historical development. However, even when antislavery and proslavery writers aimed to ignore historical distance in applying the lessons of sacred texts, their debates spoke to its presence. The fact that such distance had to be dismissed demonstrated an awareness of its reality. Slavery, more than anything else, contributed to that awareness in antebellum America.


[1] Samuel Cary, Ignorance of the True Meaning of the Scriptures, and the Causes of It. A Sermon Preached at King’s Chapel, at Brattle Street Church, and at the Thursday Lecture, in Boston (Boston: John Eliot, 1814), 14-15.

[2] [Nicholas Van Dyke,] Speech of Mr. Van Dyke, on the Amendment Offered to a Bill for the Admission of Missouri into the Union, Prescribing the Restriction of Slavery as an Irrevocable Principle of the State Constitution. Delivered in the Senate of the United States, January 29, 1820 (n.p.), 5.

[3] William Ellery Channing, The Duty of the Free States, or Remarks Suggested by the Case of the Creole (Boston: William Crosby and Company, 1842), 25.

[4] William Ellery Channing. The Duty of the Free States. Second Part (Boston: William Crosby and Company, 1842), 11.

[5] Ibid., 19. His emphasis on extracting the universal from the temporal is evident in his statement that “it is not only necessary to consult the history of the period of [the Constitution’s] formation, but to apply to it the principles of universal justice” (20).

[6] Ibid., 28.

[7] For example, while La Roy Sunderland acknowledged historical differences between the biblical past and the American present, and indeed contrasts biblical slavery from American slavery, he aims to condemn slaveholders via the Bible—“there is not one sin of any kind, committed at the present day, which is more directly and explicitly described in the language of the Bible”—despite those differences. In the last section, which follows antislavery extracts from the Old and New Testaments, Sunderland concluded with a series of quotes from eminent men of the “civilized world,” including the Americans founders, which he extracts from their context to condemn slavery. La Roy Sunderland, The Testimony of God against Slavery: A Collection of Passages from the Bible, which Show the Sin of Holding and Treating the Human Species as Property. With Notes. To which is Added the Testimony of the Civilized World Against Slavery (Boston: D. K. Hitchcock, 1836), 88.

[8] “Abolition vs. Christianity and the Union,” The United States Magazine, and Democratic Review 27 (July 1850): 8.

[9] Ibid., 6, emphasis in original.

[10] B. R. Allen, The Responsibilities and Duties of American Citizens. A Sermon, Preached in the Congregational Church, South Berwick, ME. Thanksgiving Day, Dec. 19, 1850 (Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1851), 5, 8.

[11] Ibid. 7.

[12] Ibid., 11.

[13] Ibid., 18.

[14] Ibid., 24.

[15] N. S. Wheaton, A Discourse on St. Paul’s Epistle to Philemon; Exhibiting the Duty of Citizens of the Northern States in Regard to the Institution of Slavery; Delivered in Christ Church, Hartford; Dec. 22, 1850; by N.S. Wheaton, D.D. (Hartford: Case, Tiffany and Company, 1851), 5.

[16] Ibid., 6.

[17] Ibid., 8, 9, 10, 13.

[18] Ibid., 7, emphasis mine.

[19] Ibid., 9.

[20] Ibid., 13.

[21] Ibid., 17.