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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fortress Upon a Hill

This is the seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. You'll note the Indian with his bow and arrow, symbols of his primitive nature... and the phrase written as coming from his mouth, "Come over and help us." I rather believe that they would not have said that. But, it was how the seventeenth-century European would have viewed it... even though they witnessed with their own eyes the competence of the native in his environment. Settlers even depended upon the natives for various trade goods and services. Still, it served their, and God's purposes to simplify the Native Americans.

John Winthrop came to America ten years after the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth. These Puritans claimed not to be separatists, to still have legal ties to mother England. However, in Winthrop's vision, the Massachusetts Bay colony was to be a beacon shining for all to see of God's glory and his magnificence in a wild place like America, inhabited by these "savages," as misnomer the European created to justify their claims to American lands. In a sense, they claimed the right of conquest, even though they claimed to have purchased these lands from the Indians who gave them title freely to these lands. A major problem was that the Native American does not even have a word for "land ownership." Thus, they could not understand the meaning of a deed to land. We have to imagine that Europeans understood this peculiarity of the Indians and took advantage of it to lay claim to vast territories.
The following is a book review of two books, actually. It is rather, a compare and contrast between two authors, one favorably inclined toward John Winthrop and the other, not so much. The books are listed below:

Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop, third ed. (New York: Longman, 2006).

Richard S. Dunn, Puritans and Yankees: The Winthrop Dynasty of New England, 1630‑1717 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1962).

Any student’s impression of John Winthrop, the founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony usually conveys a very austere, hard man. The term, “Puritan” carries connotations of humorlessness, stale and tedious recitations, and pulpit-pounding sermons delivered by a man plainly dressed in black. Visions of burning at the stake, mass hangings, or peine de fort, the pressing by stones accompany this vision. Thank you, Nathaniel Hawthorne. At the very least, Winthrop’s name, even the name of “Massachusetts Bay” dredges up thoughts of sternness and asceticism. However, Edmund S. Morgan’s The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop reintroduces Winthrop as a husband, a father, an in-law, a caring yet, admirable sort. Morgan sees him as a born leader. This is a man that few understand. Perhaps though, Morgan represents him as a bit too lenient, almost motherly at times. Though this is not what Morgan states in his book, he firmly declares Winthrop to be a direct man. Still, Winthrop acquiesced and relinquished his position as governor much too easily at the people’s command. Morgan relates this time in great detail and seems to know Winthrop well. Or, does he?

On the other hand, Richard S. Dunn, in Puritans and Yankees: The Winthrop Dynasty of New England, 1630‑1717, in the beginning delivers almost a caricature of the man. Dunn generalizes about important preliminary points, the reasoning or initiative in going to America, for instance. Like Morgan, he stressed the urgent need to leave England’s wickedness, to separate from the evil influence. Yet, Morgan stresses the anxiety that Winthrop felt a bit more. Dunn says that, for Winthrop, motivations were all about religion rather than gold. Many of his preliminary points like this seem rather blunt. The ideas thud against the brain like a hammer striking a nail. However, his book details not only John Winthrop, the Massachusetts Bay founder, but also a few more generations past him. So, space was limited for a psychologically detailed analysis like that of Morgan’s. Indeed, Dunn agrees with Morgan that Winthrop has been judged in error by history yet, remains elusive about the man, personally. Still, the politics involved in maintaining his vision in America are displayed in detail. His descriptions of the political intrigues of Bishop Laud, for example show the continued fascination of the English clergy with causing trouble for Puritans.

Morgan’s Winthrop comes across nicely… maybe too nicely. Winthrop's "City on a hill" was designed to be an example to the world, a repudiation of Anglicans, Arminians, Antinomians, and Nihilists. “Repudiation,” indeed, was the intent of the Puritans. In a sense, they were separatists. After all, they left England on a mission, with a goal to create a society that they perceived was better than the one they left behind. However, they brought with them counterfeit wampum for trade with the Indians (Jennings 1975, 96). Winthrop understood that wampum was like money to the natives and he and his followers made fake money to buy Indian goods. Perhaps they considered the natives too simple to understand the difference but, perhaps they did not. Winthrop may not have had the most objectivity in his accomplishment of his grand vision. Richard Dunn offers a look at a John Winthrop whose objectives may have provided a greater dilemma for the Puritans than maintaining religious continuity in America. Winthrop could not avoid the moral responsibility of their effect on the native population. God really would not have liked that, either and he had to have known it.

In Morgan’s view, Massachusetts Bay was a highly organized group of people whose focus was not on them, but on God. However, for a society with that kind of focus, they often had their own disparate view. Agreeably an unavoidable human tendency, the Massachusetts colonists drew away from the path that Winthrop had envisioned. Dissension was a constant force of "evil" for Winthrop. As a natural leader, he held the government of Massachusetts Bay together for awhile. Punishments became necessarily severe at times, for odd things (to us) like not coming to church, even if Morgan resisted telling the horror stories. Dunn was not so nice. Union of the church equated with the union of Massachusetts, as Winthrop envisioned, and once that union failed, so did the state. Differences between people can't really be avoided. So, when Roger Williams began pounding the pavement (and Winthrop's nerves) with his denouncement of England's Anglican ways, it became a problem. Winthrop wanted in no way to anger the King by telling him that he was evil. Dunn quite agrees with Morgan on this point. We probably all agree on that point.

In both books, the portrayal of Roger Williams was persistent, an annoyance. Winthrop tried to convince him of the error of his ways. You could not escape the evils of the world, but had to constantly fight them, Winthrop pleads. Alas, Williams left for Salem and started his dissension business there, even had the backing of the congregation in Salem. Inevitably, however, Williams' vibrant personality and stubbornness eventually got to the Salem crowd and they wanted him out, too.

Both authors agree on Winthrop’s treatment of Roger Williams. According to them, Roger Williams was almost sent back to England in chains. However, the Massachusetts guys found a better place for him than jail... Rhode Island. Williams was banished (along with 20 or so people he convinced and dragged with him) to found another colony that became as hard to get along with during the Revolution as England herself. Winthrop maintained his correspondence with Williams far after the culmination of their differences. Dunn even mentions how they negotiated the purchase of an island together.

Morgan’s dilemma for Winthrop, at least, develops from the struggle to maintain a coherent religious doctrine, to flourish with God’s approval, while remaining a successful business endeavor. Morgan, an excellent writer, was rather successful. Still, he left out details that Dunn included; gruesome details that may have changed our impression of John Winthrop. Perhaps Morgan was too good a writer. Richard Dunn’s version of Winthrop, though probably more accurate is much crueler. He depicts Winthrop as a tyrant who burns homes, whips people for freely stating their opinion and taking their ears off besides! Dunn gives the impression of Winthrop as a man who would burn someone at the stake, hang, or lop off their ears for saying the wrong thing (of course that did happen in 1692 Salem).

On the other hand, Morgan’s Winthrop was a caring man that really tried to keep everyone together while Dunn’s remains difficult to see as more than an historically significant character. Dunn’s sources are primary and seem valid, so the question of whether Morgan was biased toward Winthrop looms the horizon like a storm over his calm and serene fatherly character. Dunn’s Winthrop seems more businesslike than fatherly while Morgan’s treatment of Williams, as viewed through Winthrop’s eyes, seems to be rather judicial, almost charitable in a sense. Perhaps he provides the reader with a view that John Winthrop, himself would have liked to have had. It should be remembered, however, that Winthrop had an idealized notion of the religious convictions of Massachusetts Bay and its “City on a Hill,” perhaps of himself as well. Winthrop molded his religious convictions around the business at hand, in Dunn’s point of view, rather than preserve them intact, but at a morally evil cost. The colony became less “Godly” as Winthrop saw it with every day. Even though this was partly Morgan’s intent, Dunn provided a better display of it. Francis Jennings commented in The Invasion of America that some elaborate trains of thought led to Indian dispossession in Massachusetts Bay, a possibly subconscious ignorance of Native American agricultural abilities (Jennings 1975, 82-3). Winthrop preferred to see them as wild “savages,” incapable of farming, even when the evidence was right before his eyes. At least, this view of ignorance aided in the assumption that they would not recognize counterfeit wampum when they saw it.

Furthermore, his interpretation of God’s purpose was more strenuous and, indeed less “godly” in many respects than Roger Williams’ offshoot colony. Jennings also mentioned that there were ninety-two persons tried and executed for witchcraft in New England before the infamous witch-hunts of 1692 (Jennings 1975, 51). Out of those ninety-two, the majority occurred in Massachusetts Bay and absolutely zero in Rhode Island. To modern sensibilities, this fact makes Roger Williams out to be less the fanatic and more of the revolutionary. Williams perceived that there was something wrong with the “City on a Hill” and perhaps it needed revision. Most Americans today might have agreed with him. This realization somewhat tarnishes Morgan’s interpretation of Winthrop and vindicates Richard Dunn’s. Dunn’s historical admissions of “ear-croppings” in Massachusetts Bay appear to tell the stark reality.

Dunn seems to be more forthright in his telling of history, even though in a shorter format. Morgan is greatly detailed in his analysis and yet, still somewhat one-sided. The common impression of Puritans as stark, dark, and unforgiving begins to appear much more accurate than Morgan presented in his analysis of John Winthrop. Perhaps what we were taught in high school was fairly accurate.

Dunn and Morgan both have the same sense of timing when it comes to Anne Hutchinson who basically repudiated everything! No one can be saved! The whole world is evil and we're all doomed! Well, it wasn't complete Nihilism... maybe. Still, she frightened Winthrop even more, perhaps because she was his superior in everything but politics, according to Morgan. Once Winthrop regained the governorship, he took steps to deal with Hutchinson and her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright, growing ever popular and, to Winthrop, dangerous. By the way, she began the dissension in his home church in Boston. So, he banished the pregnant Hutchinson and her seventy-five adherents to Rhode Island. However, this was not enough, according to Dunn, who continues the horrid tale by telling that Winthrop used Hutchinson’s miscarriage as an example of her unrighteousness. He goes much farther when he explains Winthrop’s “eagerness” in this affair, examining witnesses and having Hutchinson’s friend’s stillborn child dug from her grave, describing all of the gory details in his journal. Winthrop was somehow certain that the child’s body would expose evidence of their complicity with Satan. Thankfully, says Dunn, this religious zeal was reduced in the next generation of Winthrops.

All this high-fevered banishing means that Massachusetts Bay began to be surrounded by dissenter states; around the one, true Godly one. Dunn goes into a bit more detail about the various offshoot colonies, New Haven and Connecticut, for example. He also tells that Henry Vane, former governor of Massachusetts Bay and later, a parliamentary leader in England, wrote Winthrop advising him to be more accepting of other’s religious views. Although Dunn did not specify any names, Vane may have been referring to Williams, Hutchinson, Groton, and others like them. The rigid Winthrop apparently was faced with democratic reform on many fronts.
Another detail that distinguished Richard Dunn was the detailed connection he displayed of Massachusetts Bay and England, especially during the English Civil War. Many Massachusetts men fought in England, a fact of which many Americans probably are not aware. However, the most important development during this war was the annexation of New Hampshire, Shawomet, and Pawtuxet and the joining of Connecticut, New Haven, and Plymouth in 1643 to form the enormously important New England Confederation. Still, Winthrop’s government refused to accept Roger Williams’ dissenting colony. Again, a consideration of Jennings’ statistics of witchcraft trials and killings becomes significant in regard to Winthrop’s repudiation of Williams. Morgan avoided the Civil War, the annexations, and the dealings with French papist colonies to the north for the most part, concentrating on the character of John Winthrop. A greater dilemma might have been centered on Winthrop’s quandary over dealing with his own Boston merchants, who anti-biblically desired French fur loot during the marine/piratical excursions. Generally, in fifty-six pages, Dunn gives a better historical survey of Winthrop’s Massachusetts Bay events while Morgan strives to understand Winthrop alone.

Once Morgan’s interpretation of John Winthrop is revealed to be somewhat prejudicial, other aspects of Winthrop’s personality come into question as well. It is Morgan’s fault for having been so elaborate and detailed about Winthrop personally. Morgan alludes to the idea that stating that Massachusetts Bay would be as a “City on a Hill” somehow hides the fact that the Puritans deserted their brethren, fellow Englishmen. They desired to build a godly community yet; they were forced to leave some behind. God would not have done that. Winthrop struggled with this until the day he died and he was continually beset by other opinions once in Massachusetts, tearing at the fabric of his vision.

The strength of Edmund Morgan’s biography rests in its descriptions of American values and their development in Massachusetts, arguably more so than in other localities, like the “flesh-pot” sanctuary of Virginia. Nathaniel Ward’s “Body of Liberties” might read like the Bill of Rights in many aspects: trial by jury, due process, separation of church and state, and many of the liberties that Americans and Englishmen alike hold so dear today. Morgan states that it was more than this, however. It was to be a blueprint for studying the Puritan experiment, the New England way. It was the seed of American government. Morgan was quite successful at this.
Morgan’s task primarily centered upon demonstrating Winthrop’s vision for the colony and his dilemma over the idealistic vision he created versus the reality of humanity in the American wilderness. Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were only two minor aspects of the ecclesiastical picture. Dunn gives a better picture of the difficulties inherent in keeping a religiously-based society together. Still, out of this struggle, the basics of state-church separation grew over the years. For the development of America, that ideology was important. Edmund Morgan’s display of Winthrop gets this across pretty well.

However, the Puritans in New England discovered that the search for this religious communion came with a price. They searched for freedom yet, they cast out the dissenters who availed themselves of this freedom. It is easy to be critical. Retrospection offers an opportunity that cannot so easily be observed when in the midst of a struggle. In tune with Marxist historians of the modern age, John Winthrop, indeed, had a struggle on his hands. Hindsight suggests that his struggle more properly belonged in England than in America. His mistake from the beginning may have been in leaving the troubles behind. Morgan would have us believe that Massachusetts Bay developed a vision for America that was nobler than the separatist Pilgrims ten years earlier. However, how can that distinction be justified when both groups escaped to America, avoided the problems in England when the nobler task was to face those problems down? The “City on a Hill” then becomes an excuse for shirking responsibility. That intellectual avoidance of the futility of their purpose may have limited understanding of critical developments in their relations with Native Americans, whom the Puritans increasingly viewed as “savage” in order to take their land. They left one problem in England only to find that the problem was really within them. They brought it to America.

Francis Jennings quoted from a Puritan town meeting a resolution that exposes all too human motives behind the “City on a Hill.” “Voted that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness, thereof; voted, that the earth is given to the Saints; voted, that we are the Saints” (Jennings 1975, 83). Winthrop had to notice the delusions of his fellow Puritans. He ignored this, perhaps hoping that it would work out in God’s plan. Perhaps he was just as deluded as they. Today, Americans realize that this was a symptom of King Philip’s War, among the many ills that precipitated. Nineteen people died in 1692 when the Puritans had no one else to prey upon but their own. Rhode Island’s lack of violence may have been the revelation that something good came from this endeavor, however. While Morgan idealized Winthrop, Roger Williams perhaps deserved some of the limelight. Still, Richard Dunn cast no illumination upon this matter. However, he did not shield his eyes from Winthrop’s actions or motivations. The “City on a Hill” became a fortress to be stormed, a fundamentalist embankment. Tragically, for the little considered Native Americans, they were gone before they could have any effect against the storm.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mapmaker and Mariner James Wimble

James Wimble was one child of ten, growing up in Hastings, on England’s southern coast. Sussex genealogical sources detail the loss of his father before the age of ten, his family’s residence on High Street, their association with the mayor, and the interment of his parents at All Saints Churchyard down the street. He likely knew little of the farmer’s trade while living amongst fisherman on the southern coast of Sussex County. Here, he developed a taste for adventure on the sea, perhaps even smuggling, a honorable profession in those days. Leaving Hastings in 1718, he came to America, a wild place full of dangerous obstacles like alligators, sharks, panthers, hurricanes, pirates and Spanish privateers.

Wimble lost no less than seven ships, mostly to the Spanish. The occasional hurricane became a slight annoyance as well. During that adventurous time, he still managed to get married to a weaver’s daughter from Boston and have five children. He also purchased property in New Providence, Boston, and North Carolina. In Boston, he worked as a distiller and a tavern keeper of the Green Dragon, on Union Street.

James Wimble, of course, became known for his map of the Lower Cape Fear Region in 1733, and especially for his final map of 1738, which he dedicated to the Duke of Newcastle, his patron. He purchased 305 acres from John Watson in “Newton,” later Wilmington, for £200. As Nancy McKoy has determined from studying New Hanover County deed records, he made £1,024, over five times his investment. The port town of Wilmington, North Carolina holds the greatest American memorial for James Wimble. As Alan D. Watson, in Wilmington, North Carolina, to 1861 put it, Wimble “no doubt was the prime instigator of the new town.” Wilmington benefitted from James Wimble on many levels, directly through advertisement with his maps and promotion through his trade network, and indirectly through his illustrious reputation in British popular literature of the day.

Londoners would remember him for his exploits as a privateer in the War of Jenkins Ear, in the 1740’s. Many of the British local “rags” describe him as taking prizes of great “burthen” and “rich cargo.” These exciting times for English readers proved less than exuberant for Wimble, however. What we know of him during that time mostly comes from British records. His wife died, he lost an arm to chain shot in 1742, and later, his life while chasing down a Spanish ship through the Florida keys in a ship that he named Revenge. James Wimble certainly deserved some revenge.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Colonial Spectrum: God versus Money

I'm reading this book on John Winthrop for a class. I like him and thought I would tell you about him. He's the guy who started the Massachusetts Bay Colony back in 1629. I had always had this impression that Puritans were religious nutcases. But, after doing so much work on North Carolina nutcases in the colonial period, crazy and overzealous Barbadian settlers fighting tax-evaders and pirates of the Outer Banks, the Puritans started looking a whole lot better! lol As I've said before, the North Carolina Colonial Records read like a Jerry Springer show transcript!

Winthrop's "City on a hill" was designed to be an example to the world... a repudiation of Anglicans, Arminians, Antinomians, Nihilists, etc, etc,... and for the most part it was a highly organized bunch of people whose focus was not on themselves, but on God. That worked for awhile. Winthrop had troubles though, despite his really cool goatee. Sooner or later, people just want to be noticed. They got fed up with no attention on their bright, cheery faces.

Dissension was a constant force of "evil" for Winthrop. As a natural leader, he could hold the government of Massachusetts Bay together for awhile. Punishments became necessarily severe at times... for odd things (to us) like not coming to church. Union of the church equated with the union of Massachusetts, as Winthrop knew and once that union failed... so did the state.

Dissension is arguably and naturally human. Differences can't really be avoided. So, when Roger Williams began pounding the pavement (and colonist's nerves) with his denouncement of England's Anglican ways, it became a problem. Winthrop wanted in no way to tick off the King by telling him that he was evil. That probably would've done it. I mean, Massachusetts wasn't quite ready to tell England to go away... yet. :) (We were not ready in 1775, but we just got REAL lucky!)

Williams was persistent. Winthrop tried to convince him of the error of his ways... that you could not escape the evils of the world, but had to constantly fight them. Alas, Williams left for Salem and started his dissension business there, even had the backing of the congregation in Salem. Inevitably, however, Williams' vibrant personality and stubbornness eventually got to the Salem crowd and they wanted him out.

Roger Williams was almost sent back to England in chains. However, the Massachusetts guys found a better place for him than jail... Rhode Island. Williams was banished (along with 20 or so people he convinced and dragged with him) to found another colony that became as hard to get along with during the Revolution as England herself. Of course, they were probably the most entertaining group of the thirteen colonies!

Then, along came Anne Huthinson who basically repudiated everything! No one can be saved! The whole world is evil and we're all doomed! Well, it wasn't complete Nihilism... maybe. Still, she frightened Winthrop even more. So, banish her, too.

All this banishing means the beginning of dissenter states around the one, true Godly one... it begins to represent modern times with thousands of separate denominations, saying that they all know what God wants and that everybody else is full of it. Well, obviously this isn't going to work.

Still, at least the Puritans tried. I no longer think of a Puritan as someone who is going to burn me at the stake or hang me for just being there (of course, that did happen in 1692 Salem...). Still, Winthrop was a caring man that really tried to keep everyone together. More specifically, I guess... Winthrop was the one I really admire. Maybe Puritans in general are still nutcases. lol

However, North Carolina seems downright radical when compared to Puritans... they almost had no controls when it came to land, money, and women. Colonial Carolina Anglicans also "worshipped" an inept deity. There is no doubt that these were pure capitalists who cared little for religion (except as a way of condemning a competitor). Charleston had some Anglican ministers who did not drink too much and make a fool out of themselves, but they were few and far between. North Carolina, unfortunately, had fewer. Still, North Carolina began quickly to differentiate from Charleston and became as stubborn and independently minded as some Puritans... in fact, they became downright Quakerish! With good reason! This is the state that led the American fight in the southern field of the Revolution, supplied the most troops and frightened the devil out of the British. I refer of course, to the Over-mountain Boys! I'd never want to face that crowd!

In short, the spectrum line was drawn between New England and Carolina. Everything in between became a battle zone between one belief and another. God vs. Capitalism. Carolinians would have challenged the devil himself... for a high enough profit margin!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Benjamin Franklin's Last Act of Freedom

The following are some details of Benjamin Franklin's final act to rid his new country of the evils of slavery. The bill he produced to Congress in 1790 was rebuffed by southern Congressmen however and it failed on Constitutionality grounds. The United States, at that time, in other words, fully supported the constitutionality of slavery. Franklin, in his usual sense of ironic humor, responded only a month before his death, with a humorous and sarcastic letter from a fictional Muslim arguing against the enslavement of Christians in the Barbary pirate states of North Africa, soon to become an issue for President Jefferson in 1801. Franklin was the undisputed master of the literary arts.

From "Featured Documents" of the Legislative Branch: The Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives website []:

Benjamin Franklin Petitions Congress (portion):

"Franklin did not publicly speak out against slavery until very late in his life. As a young man he owned slaves, and he carried advertisements for the sale of slaves in his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette. At the same time, however, he published numerous Quaker pamphlets against slavery and condemned the practice of slavery in his private correspondence. It was after the ratification of the United States Constitution that he became an outspoken opponent of slavery. In 1789 he wrote and published several essays supporting the abolition of slavery and his last public act was to send to Congress a petition on behalf of the Society asking for the abolition of slavery and an end to the slave trade. The petition, signed on February 3, 1790, asked the first Congress, then meeting in New York City, to "devise means for removing the Inconsistency from the Character of the American People," and to "promote mercy and justice toward this distressed Race."

The petition was introduced to the House on February 12 and to the Senate on February 15, 1790. It was immediately denounced by pro-slavery congressmen and sparked a heated debate in both the House and the Senate. The Senate took no action on the petition, and the House referred it to a select committee for further consideration. The committee reported on March 5, 1790 claiming that the Constitution restrains The committee reported on March 5, 1790 claiming that the Constitution restrains Congress from prohibiting the importation or emancipation of slaves until 1808 and then tabled the petition. On April 17, 1790, just two months later, Franklin died in Philadelphia at the age of 84."

added from wikipedia:

James "Left Eye" Jackson (September 21, 1757 – March 19, 1806) was an early Georgia politician of the Democratic-Republican Party. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1789 until 1791. He was also a U.S. Senator from Georgia from 1793 to 1795 then from 1801 until his death, and was Governor of Georgia from 1798 to 1801. Jackson was well known as a duelist with a fiery temper. Jackson County, Georgia is named in his honor.



The representatives from the Deep South combined vitriolic attacks on the antislavery memorials with a vivid defense of slavery, an institution, as Jackson described it, that "the most noble minds have sanctioned" from ancient times to the present. The Bible, Jackson declared, looked kindly upon slavery and slaveholders. If the antislav- ery societies "searched that book," he challenged, they would drop their assault. William Loughton Smith chastised the memorialists for fighting against the natural order. The white race needed slaves to work the fields and to clear swamps and frontiers, and, Smith continued, Africans needed white guidance to survive their transition from barbarity. Smith charged that abolition was a curse not just to whites but to blacks as well: emancipatory schemes would only make slaves' lives harder and masters' whips harsher. If benevolent societies were truly concerned about slaves' well being, he concluded, they would defend, not condemn, both slavery and the slave trade.


From the Pulitzer Prize winning author Joseph Ellis’ book, Founding Brothers, regarding the Congressional debate on “Constitutional” slavery…Thomas Scott from Pennsylvania speaking for those who abhorred the practice of slavery argued that although the Constitution restricted Congress’ ability to regulate the practice, the Constitution did not preclude them from entirely abolishing slavery. Following Scott:

“(James) Jackson (from Georgia) then launched into a sermon on God’s will, which he described as patently proslavery, based on several passages in the Bible and the pronouncement of every Christian minister in Georgia. Alongside the clear preferences of the Almighty, there was the nearly unanimous opinion of every respectable citizen in his state, whose livelihood depended on the availability of slave labor and who shared the elemental recognition, as Jackson put it, ‘that rice cannot be brought to market without these people.’ William Loughton Smith preferred to leave the interpretation of God’s will to others, but he seconded the opinion of his colleague from Georgia that slavery was an economic precondition for the prosperity of his constituents, noting that ‘such is the state of agriculture in that country, no white man would perform the tasks required to drain the swamps and clear the land, so that without slaves it must be depopulated.’”

Compare what Jackson says with the sarcasm of Benjamin Franklin and see if he isn't making fun of James Jackson's (to Franklin) silly views...
(If you didn't know that Ben was joking, you probably wouldn't catch it right away. He was so good at that!)

Benjamin Franklin to the Federal Gazette (unpublished)
To the Editor of the Federal Gazette.
March 23.

Reading last night in your excellent paper the speech of Mr. Jackson in Congress, against meddling with the affair of slavery, or attempting to mend the condition of slaves, it put me in mind of a similar one made about one hundred years since, by Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim, a member of the Divan of Algiers, which may be seen in Martin’s account of his consulship, anno 1687. It was against granting the petition of the Sect called Erika or Purists, who prayed for the abolition of piracy and slavery, as being unjust. Mr. Jackson does not quote it; perhaps he has not seen it. If therefore some of its reasonings are to be found in his eloquent speech, it may only show that men’s interests and intellects operate and are operated on with surprising similarity in all countries and climates, whenever they are under similar circumstances. The African’s speech, as translated, is as follows:

“Allah Bismillah, &c. God is great, and Mahomet is his Prophet.

“Have these Erika considered the consequences of granting their petition? If we cease our cruises against the christians, how shall we be furnished with the commodities their countries produce, and which are so necessary for us? If we forbear to make slaves of their people, who, in this hot climate, are to cultivate our lands? Who are to perform the common labours of our city, and in our families? Must we not then be our own slaves? And is there not more campassion and more favour due to us Mussulmen, than to these christian dogs? We have now above 50,000 slaves in and near Algiers. This number, if not kept up by fresh supplies, will soon diminish, and be gradually annihilated. If then we cease taking and plundering the Infidel ships, and making slaves of the seamen and passengers, our lands will become of no value for want of cultivation; the rents of houses in the city will sink one half? and the revenues of government arising from its share of prizes must be totally destroyed. And for what? to gratify the whim of a whimsical sect! who would have us not only forbear making more slaves, but even to manumit those we have. But who is to indemnify their masters for the loss? Will the state do it? Is our treasury sufficient? Will the Erika do it? Can they do it? Or would they, to do what they think justice to the slaves, do a greater injustice to the owners? And if we set our slaves free, what is to be done with them? Few of them will return to their countries, they know too well the greater hardships they must there be subject to: they will not embrace our holy religion: they will not adopt our manners: our people will not pollute themselves by intermarying with them: must we maintain them as beggars in our streets; or suffer our properties to be the prey of their pillage; for men accostomed to slavery, will not work for a livelihood when not compelled. And what is there so pitiable in their present condition? Were they not slaves in their own countries? Are not Spain, Portugal, France and the Italian states, governed by despots, who hold all their subjects in slavery, without exception? Even England treats its sailors as slaves, for they are, whenever the government pleases, seized and confined in ships of war, condemned not only to work but to fight for small wages or a mere subsistance, not better than our slaves are allowed by us. Is their condition then made worse by their falling into our hands? No, they have only exchanged one slavery for another: and I may say a better: for here they are brought into a land where the sun of Islamism gives forth its light, and shines in full splendor, and they have an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the true doctrine, and thereby saving their immortal souls. Those who remain at home have not that happiness. Sending the slaves home then, would be sending them out of light into darkness. I repeat the question, what is to be done with them? I have heard it suggested, that they may be planted in the wilderness, where there is plenty of land for them to subsist on, and where they may flourish as a free state; but they are, I doubt, too little disposed to labour without compulsion, as well as too ignorant to establish a good government, and the wild Arabs would soon molest and destroy or again enslave them. While serving us, we take care to provide them with every thing; and they are treated with humanity. The labourers in their own countries, are, as I am well informed, worse fed, lodged and cloathed. The condition of most of them is therefore already mended, and requires no farther improvement. Here their lives are in safety. They are not liable to be impressed for soldiers, and forced to cut one another’s christian throats, as in the wars of their own countries. If some of the religious mad bigots who now teaze us with their silly petitions, have in a fit of blind zeal freed their slaves, it was not generosity, it was not humanity that moved them to the action; it was from the conscious burthen of a load of sins, and hope from the supposed merits of so good a work to be excused from damnation. How grosly are they mistaken in imagining slavery to be disallowed by the Alcoran! Are not the two precepts, to quote no more, Masters treat your slaves with kindness: Slaves serve your masters with cheerfulness and fidelity, clear proofs to the contrary? Nor can the plundering of infidels be in that sacred book forbidden, since it is well known from it, that God has given the world and all that it contains to his faithful Mussulmen, who are to enjoy it of right as fast as they can conquer it. Let us then hear no more of this detestable proposition, the manumission of christian slaves, the adoption of which would, by depreciating our lands and houses, and thereby depriving so many good citizens of their properties, create universal discontent, and provoke insurrections, to the endangering of government, and producing general confusion. I have therefore no doubt, but this wise Council will prefer the comfort and happiness of a whole nation of true believers, to the whim of a few Erika, and dismiss their petition.”

The result was, as Martin tells us, that the Divan came to this resolution, “The doctrine that plundering and enslaving the Christians is unjust, is at best problematical; but that it is the interest of this state to continue the practice, is clear; therefore let the petition be rejected.”

And it was rejected accordingly.

And since like motives are apt to produce in the minds of men like opinions and resolutions, may we not, Mr. Brown, venture to predict, from this account, that the petitions to the parliament of England for abolishing the slave trade, to say nothing of other legislatures, and the debates upon them, will have a similar conclusion. I am, Sir, Your constant reader and humble servant


This "1790 satirical piece, his last published letter, Ben Franklin, in the midst of a Congressional debate on slavery, compares the arguments of pro-slavery Southerners (“Mr. Jackson”, a South Carolina [actually, Georgia] delegate) to the arguments of a hypothetical Algerian Muslim “Mussulmen” pirate, Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim. The rationalizations, justifications and excuses of Franklin’s “Sidi” are almost word-for-word those of the Georgia and South Carolina Congressional delegates. The Algerian Islamic “Erika” sect was an allegory to members of the American Christian “Quaker” sect who in 1790 unsuccessfully petitioned Congress, with Franklin’s support, for an end to the importation of slaves from Africa. Ben Franklin died on April 17, 1790, just 25 days after his letter was published."

Franklin tried to save our nation some hurt... but, we didn't listen. All he could do was use his humor to salve his conscience that he tried. If we had learned from our past in 1790 and behaved responsibly then, America could be that much closer to realizing the freedom that we all claim to love. We still have some steps to take. For me, I prefer to follow in the steps of this great man.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Was There Murder?

    Data points derived from Colonial Records (“CR [vol: page]”):

    Col. Thomas Pollock, President of Council


    CR 2: 454

    Daniel Richardson, Admiralty Judge


    CR 2: 520

    Jonathan Morley , Treasurer


    CR 2: 617

    William Reed, Councilor


    CR 3: 57

    ----- Burrington Voids grants

    Joseph Jenoure, Surveyor Genl. (replaced Moseley)

    Sept. 1732

    Oct. 1732

    CR 3: 422

    John Lovick, Surveyor Genl. (replaced Jenoure)


    CR 3: 531

    Col. Cullen Pollock, Asst. Justice


    CR 3: 531

    John Solley, Treasurer of Pasquotank Prect.


    CR 3: 579

    Col. Thomas Swann, Treasurer of Pasquotank, Family


    CR 3: 547

    William Little, Chief Justice


    CR 3: 628

    William Owen, Councilor


    CR 3:625-6

    John Baptista Ashe, Treasurer of New Hanover , Family

    Thomas Wardroper Esqre late Surveyor General



    CR 4: 52

    CR 4:204

    North Carolina Colonial Records references to government officials’ (Councilors, Treasurers, Surveyor-Generals, and Justices) incidence of death from the years 1722 until 1735. Family members are indicated. As George Burrington said in his June 1, 1734 letter to the Board, “my escapeing death was unexpected by all who saw me, by the decease of Messrs Lovick and Owen and the refractoriness of others [presumably the Cape Fear councilors] who will not come to Council when summoned, there has not been one held in ten months.” [Colonial Records, 3: 625] Researched and plotted by Baylus C. Brooks with Microsoft © Excel.

England’s response to Everard’s patent controversy in 1731-33 and Burrington’s sudden change of attitude upon his return to North Carolina caused great economic damage to the Family. Avoiding physical violence could have been a stroke of luck for Burrington or, as events may have foretold, careful scheming by Newcastle. Perhaps violence did, indeed occur. The new Surveyor-General and Burrington’s yes-man, Joseph Jenoure, had passed away rather coincidentally in October 1732, only one month after Burrington’s defiance of Family warrants. Other friends of Burrington on the Governor’s Council soon followed Jenoure. John Lovick, “also virulently attacked [by Sir Richard Everard],” and having replaced Jenoure as Surveyor-General, died in July 1733. William Little and William Owen both died in 1734 (Figure 18). All passed away after the voiding of patents in September 1732 and before the arrival of Burrington’s replacement as governor, Gabriel Johnston. Burrington, perhaps hopefully, attributed two of the deaths to disease.

Joseph Jenoure’s death is certainly the most suspicious. The first notation of Jenoure in the Colonial Records occurs on May 28, 1728 when he is accused by Governor Sir Richard Everard of defaming his daughter. This apparently caused a physical dispute that would make for a great “reality” television show segment. “Major” Joseph Jenoure and several others, including “Tom the Tinker” found indictment for a “ryot.” And the governor himself was charged for striking Dr. George Allen. That dispute was finally dismissed on March 25, 1729.

A little over a year later, Governor Burrington (having been appointed governor once again) puts a “James Jenoure” up for “Surveyor” to replace Edward Moseley (who is still working on his map of North Carolina and surely feels insulted by this slight). Jenoure’s first name is apparently recorded wrong since His Majesty appoints “Joseph” Jenoure to the council the next February, along with William Smith and Robert Halton, Esq. That day, he begins his service as councilman. Three months later, after assuming his new position as surveyor-general, Jenoure reports to the council that Edward Moseley, his predecessor, has refused to hand over the documents of the surveyor’s office.

The contents of these documents could be very revealing since they presumably contain illegal surveys for the Family as well as material that Moseley needs to complete his map. At any rate, the council “doth order and direct” Edward Moseley “Deliver up to ye said Joseph Jenoure all papers and platts to the said surveyor Genl Office.” This undoubtedly angered Moseley and the rest of the Family must have felt somewhat exposed now to the rest of the colony as well as facing a potential for their reputation to be damaged with His Majesty.
That September, Burrington voided Maurice Moore’s two grants, #166 and #167, and perhaps others. This certainly angered the Family. Although the Family’s anger was directed at Burrington, his surveyor-general and personal “crony” Joseph Jenoure stood immediately in their way and angered them most by distributing Moore’s land to Burrington’s “creatures.” It probably came as little surprise to Burrington then, that on October 18, 1732, he had to inform his council that Jenoure was dead.

Jenoure, as a member of the governor’s council with grown children, might very well have been elderly. Still, his death the very next month seemed highly suspicious in light of the current activity on the Cape Fear River. More so since George Burrington had something planned with the surveyor-general that remained unfinished. “Honoble George Rhenny [Phenny] Esqr Surveyor General of His Majesty's Customs of the Southern District of No America” and former governor of the Bahamas had arrived in North Carolina by October 7, 1732 and sat in on the council meeting planned for that day. However, not enough councilors were present to do business and they adjourned till the next day. There remains no record of any meeting until the 18th when Burrington announced that Jenoure was dead.

A logical assumption would be that Jenoure could not be found and other members of the council could not, or would not come to council. Rhenny had been appointed to the council earlier and remained present on the 18th. Burrington, anxious to continue whatever he had planned, “doth order that a Commission pass the seal of this Province Constituting and appointing the said John Lovick Esqr Surveyr General of Lands within this Province till his Majestys pleasure be known,” there being “a great deal of Business in the Office to be done.”

“Coll: Jenoure [earlier] recomended Mr Lovick late Secretary of this Province” to be on the governor’s council on September 4, 1731. Lovick succeeds Jenoure as surveyor-general after a remarkably coincidental death. Interestingly, George Phenny succeeds Lovick as husband of Penelope Golland Lovick, later the wife also of Governor Gabriel Johnston after 1737.

Governor Burrington seemed in a hurry. Burrington claimed that he had “Business of great consequence” that if delayed, might “prove injurious to the Province.” The interesting part of this episode is that Phenny appears on the council, stays through the appointment of Jenoure’s replacement and is gone by the next meeting of the council, on November 1, 1732. There remains no record of the consequential business that Burrington referred to, but his apparent anxiety may have had something to do with the appearance of Roger Moore at this particular council meeting. That may also explain the lack of available official records. Presumably, the resale of Maurice Moore’s voided lands and the development of New Town weighed on his mind. That might have explained the meeting of these officials, at any rate.

Until this meeting, Roger Moore lived in South Carolina. He owned a great deal of land in the settlement founded by his brother (in fact, one was a 5,500-acre tract immediately across from the current Wilmington), yet he had never officially appeared in North Carolina until this point. Somehow, in 1732, Roger Moore gains an appointment to the council. Newcastle probably had nothing to do with this, although Nathaniel Rice’s father-in-law, Martin Bladen still sat on the Board of Trade and may have influenced Moore’s appointment. Just as well, Moore had an impressive track record in South Carolina. Wealth continued to be a great factor in determining fitness for positions.

John Lovick came up against Family members, Edward Moseley and Maurice Moore previously on December 26, 1718. Lovick served as Deputy Secretary of North Carolina and naval officer for the Port of Roanoke just after the death of Black Beard. Moseley and Moore, searching for evidence to implicate Governor Charles Eden in the Black Beard conspiracy, ransacked Lovick’s home, where the colony’s records were kept. First, however, they forcibly evicted Lovick from the residence and nailed the doors shut so they could rifle the colony’s records.

Lovick had also served on the North Carolina Commission to survey the boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina with Moseley in 1727. Burrington feared that the Family’s power was gaining and that they opposed him on many fronts. He resolved to gain as much support as he could on the council, to which the Family (particularly Nathaniel Rice), protested vehemently that there were too many members of the council. William Owen and John Lovick served as Family-opposing members of the council and supporters of Governor Burrington. Burrington even appointed eight councilors instead of the allowed seven. He assumed emergency status on these appointments.

This proved very odd to the Board of Trade considering that they had been under the impression that John Lovick and William Little had persuaded Sir Richard Everard to continue the blank patent affair. Everard, of course, swore that these men misled him. According to a letter written to Newcastle by Everard, Christopher Gale, John Lovick, and William Little were referenced as “three more flagrant Villains never came out of the Condemn'd Hole in New Gate for Execution at Tyburn.” Little and Lovick were acquitted after a “superficial inquiry;” however, Sir Richard Everard had died (in England) by the time of the Board’s memorandum in 1733 that included revisions to Burrington’s instructions.

Lovick’s name figured in the dispute between Edmund Porter and George Burrington at this time. John Baptista Ashe endeavored to show Burrington’s lack of consistency and his arbitrary rule in North Carolina. By November 1733, the second surveyor-general appointed by Burrington, John Lovick had passed away as well.

Lovick was referred to by Neil C. Pennywitt in his biography as “the younger brother” of Thomas Lovick, born in 1680. John Lovick died at less than the age of 54, then. Thomas Lovick would outlive his brother by twenty-five years, dying in 1759. Still, this may have been due to disease.

In June 1734, a despondent Burrington informs the Board of Trade that William Owen had passed away as well. Lovick’s will, written August 27, 1727 and probated six years later, bequeaths “my best Hat, Wigg & Sword my Gold Buttons, all my Law Books & Lord Clarendon’s History,” obviously intending William Little to succeed him in the law profession. William Little, Harvard educated man from Massachusetts, young (born in 1692), joined George Burrington’s cabal as Chief Justice and suffered his fate at the age of forty-one in 1734, not much time to carry on after John Lovick.

Council members dropped like flies. On October 7, 1734, Burrington informs Newcastle, “I swore on the 27th past Coll: Benjamin Hill, Coll: Francis Pugh, Coll: Henry Gaston Coll: McRora Scarborough and on the 29th Coll: Daniel Hanmer, Members of the Council,” in an effort to fill the empty places vacated by death. By now, he was becoming desperate. The not-so-well-regarded Hanmer was a replacement for Chief Justice William Little.

Impudent and extremely self-confident, the Family felt that Burrington disregarded their traditional rights as Englishmen, despite the “minor” illegalities they committed in their land acquisition. However, Englishmen regarded the Barbadian interpretation of “English rights” as skewed. Even though Newcastle, his brother, Henry Pelham and brother-in-law, Robert Walpole adopted new rules in their Whig government, the Family still remained ensconced to traditional Tory values. Moreover, they were never far from breaking the law to maintain those values, or at least their interpretation of those values. Burrington and “his creatures” became a problem for Maurice Moore’s Family and that put them in danger. Of course, these deaths may have been attributed to disease, the fact that Burrington himself had referred to a bout of the fever prevalent at the time.

North Carolina was only sparsely populated, Edenton (the capital) situated in the Albemarle while Cape Fear on the opposite side of the colony, over 200 miles away. Very little civilization existed between them. Neither crime scene investigators nor forensic specialists threatened to expose any possible deaths as murders in the eighteenth century. A person could easily be poisoned, pushed into a river, fall from a horse… he could die any number of ways and there would be no questions about his death. Even if the Family were suspected of any foul play, their power protected them. The lack of available council members in October 1732 to support Burrington may have reflected the general apprehension of colonists towards the Family. Indeed, the battle had begun by October 1732 and blood could very well have spilled. Moreover, Newton fared badly in that battle before the arrival of James Wimble in April 1733 that, without doubt, saved it.

Burrington’s many letters to Newcastle and the Board in 1734 understandably contains an element of anxious paranoia, believing that Family member Nathaniel Rice contemplated “a villainous contrivance to murder [him]”. Whether or not the Board of Trade believed him, they spent a great deal of time on George Burrington’s troubled administration in August 1733, and few of their concerns involved land grants.