marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

From Puritan To Yankee

From Puritan To Yankee:  Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765 by Richard L. Bushman

And what a tumultuous few decades they were. . . .

Early Connecticut towns effectively acted as corporations, disbursing lands to all admitted inhabitants, denying shares to those who moved out.  But the Restoration raised the little problem that they were not chartered as corporations and forced changes -- including inheritance rights and excluding newcomers.

And land patterns changed.  They had tried building towns like pie wedges, so that everyone could get to the meeting house easily.  The difficulties in getting about resulted in poor men first setting up temporary residences in the outer fields, and then selling their inner lands to richer farmers and buying more outer fields.  Which made it hard to get to church and be supervised to be sure you were practicing properly. . . outliers petitioned for separate parishes much more eagerly than new towns did.

Not that farmers' difficulties ended there.  Timber was the most profitable, actually, but once you had cut down the trees -- well, unimproved land was not taxed, but to get the timber, you had to cut it down and so had to do something.  Cattle, usually, though a lot of farmers underestimated how much hay they needed to keep them over winter.  And trade exploded in this era despite all the warnings against covetousness, there being no cash crop like tobacco or indigo.  Which lead to a rapid problem -- and much conflict -- about the lack of actual cash.  Getting the colony to issue more leads to inflation, which would naturally cause a lot of conflict.

And church governance!  They had introduced the Half-Way Covenant after it was clear that many children of church members were not qualifying before they had children -- a difficult job, as a mere upright man did not qualify -- the congregation was supposed to consist of visible saints -- so they allowed children to be baptized because their grandparents were church members.  They also got more loose about admittance.  And then along came the Awakening, which inspired everyone -- men, women, young, old, rich, poor -- to join churches, but which revived the visible saint standard, and produced the New Lights, to contrast with the Old Lights.

Meanwhile Dissenters had to be handled -- Baptists, Quakers, and er, Anglicans.  The New Lights were bigger on religious liberty since you couldn't make a man religious by law -- or, for that matter, reason or good works.  Only passionate, inspired preaching.  Which is where a lot of conflict arose.  Plus arguments about deposing or ordaining men as ministers.  Lots of furor about heresy.  The Old Lights had been drawing more power in the ministry, which caused the New Lights to froth at the mouth.  And it hooked into many other issues.  The Stamp Act brought about the New Lights' victory because they were staunch opponents where the Old Lights were less so -- they favored authority more.

Not that things were over yet.  One Anglican wrote back to England after the Stamp Act to-do that they suffered so much because they were almost a mere democracy; revoking their charter would make them happier.
Tags: history reviews: 15th-18th centuries, politics, world-building: economics, world-building: social structure

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