Monday, February 27, 2017

Class and Community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn

Lynn, Massachusetts provides the setting for Alan Dawley’s community study of nineteenth century laborer’s response to industrialization in Class and Community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn.  Using a Marxist framework of social class, Dawley argues that Lynn’s community of shoemakers organized in opposition to capitalists in order to retain the social status they had as artisans.  Dawley’s thesis is that capitalist development broke down the traditional links of home and market in communities such as Lynn, and replaced independent master artisans with wage earners working in factories.  Although the shoemakers were militant labor activists, they were not class conscious in the same manner European factory workers due to the early development of universal male suffrage in the United States.  Dawley also contends that feeling of national unity during the Civil War years prevented the labor movement from organizing and becoming a national political movement.

Dawley chose a community study because it allows more focused analysis of changes in the community over time than a study of an entire nation.  By selecting a community that is representative of other towns, Dawley claimed that he could generalize about the development of labor movements in throughout New England.  He selected Lynn because its shoemakers provide a representative sample of a community of artisans that are marginalized economically and politically by the development of merchant capitalism and factory work starting in the second decade of the nineteenth century.  Dawley asserts that Lynn is more typical of the experience of American artisans than Massachusetts’ textile communities due to its large system of putting-out piece work to rural areas surrounding the town.

Lynn’s economy was typical of many New England communities in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  In addition to the surrounding farms, it was the home to a large group of shoemakers organized in households with a master and multiple journeymen.  Each master owned property, purchased raw materials, and marketed them to shopkeepers and ship captains.  Masters and journeymen worked according to their own schedules, choosing when to work and when to relax.  The booming post-war economy in 1814 led Lynn’s shopkeepers to enter the production end of the shoe trade by creating the central shop, and arrangement in which shopkeepers set aside room in their businesses to cut uppers and sole shoes. As their demand for labor exceeded the number of laborers in Lynn, shopkeepers put out the shoes to rural families for binding, or stitching together, and then returned to the central shop for soling.  The laborers in the central shops were journeymen who were paid wages either by the hour, or by the piece.  By working in the central shops, the journeymen lost control of their work schedules.

Dawley argues that from the shopkeepers’ perspective, the central shop arrangement suffered from significant limitations.  The shopkeeper had no control over the quality of the shoes bound by his rural contractors, and no control over their work schedules.  The farm families that bound shoes in the central shop system worked to their own schedules, setting them aside to plant or harvest crops, to go fishing, or just to relax.  As demand grew, the shopkeepers had to send shoes further from Lynn for binding, increasing transit times required to deliver cut shoes to binders and finished products to Lynn.  Turn-around time for finished shoes reached nine months from putting-out to finishing.

The advent of the sewing machine provided shopkeepers with a technological solution to the limitations of hand-stitched shoes.  Although relatively expensive at $75.00 in 1850, prices for sewing machines fell to $25.00 by 1860, allowing most families to purchase one.  The increase in productivity allowed shopkeepers to return to more local sources of labor, and ultimately staff workrooms with dozens of sewing machines.  Bringing shoe binding into a central location, along with cutting, allowed more control over work schedules and product quality.  The sewing workshops quickly gave way to factory settings, particularly once machines could attach soles to bound shoes.  The development of factories turned journeymen and master artisans into wage earners.

Dawley contends that the economic disruptions created by the development of factory capitalism in Lynn combined with the Panic of 1857 to cause the shoemakers of Lynn to organize labor unions and strike in 1860.  Lynn’s shoemakers sought social equality according to the Equal Rights doctrine.  For the shoemakers, equality meant equality of social status with the factory owners.  Dawley argues that this particular interpretation of equality meant that the shoemakers believed that labor produced all capital, and that the shoemakers were striking in order to secure their fair share of the wealth developed through their labor.

This reasoning flows from Dawley’s Marxist theoretical perspective, in which labor in Lynn was in contention with capitalists and the concentration of wealth.  Dawley asserts that the shoemakers of Lynn rejected the American myth of social mobility based on economic success because they had little opportunity to create a savings or own property after the development of the factory system.  Once this is established, his main concern is to trace the development of the labor movement in Lynn and the United States.  Dawley’s particular concern is explaining why Lynn’s militant labor activists, and by extension other laboring Americans, did not embrace socialism.

 Dawley believes that Lynn’s shoemakers did not become socialists due to uniquely American phenomena.  Rejecting Franklin Turner Jackson’s suggestion that the frontier acted as a safety valve, Dawley argues that residential and employment mobility acted as safety valves preventing revolutionary ideologies from taking root.  However, the most critical safety valve for laborers was the United States’ early adoption of universal suffrage, which allowed workers to believe that they had influence on the political process.  The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 and the resultant focus on national political unity further undermined socialism in the United States.  Afterward, Lynn’s laborers accepted the ideal of the United States as pluralistic society, or which both labor and capital had a part.  Finally, Dawley claims that trade unionism dominated the American labor, which also suffered from a lack of unity among laborers and from weak leadership.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy, and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century

American intellectuals engaged in a national dialogue over what it meant to be an American in the aftermath of the War of 1812, and created a uniquely American mythology in the process.  The new American mythic hero was an innocent Adam unleashed in a new Eden without connections to Europe’s dark and tragic past.  R.W.B. Lewis examines the new American myth and the national conversation that created it in The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy, and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century by examining the work of poets, novelists, historians, and preachers.  Combining Emerson’s Party of Hope and Party of Memory with his own logical construct, the Party of Irony, Lewis argues that a Platonic dialogue occurred among American intellectuals.  The Party of Hope created the ideal of the American Adam as an innocent hero making his way in the world without the burdens of past or close relations, while the Party of Memory dedicated itself to the defense of the past, particularly the Calvinist conception of original sin.  Lewis argues that the partisans of the Party of Irony saw the innocent and na├»ve Adam as an immature and unfinished creature, and argued that the American Adam must experience tragedy and rebirth to gain the maturity of a complete being.

Lewis asserts that when the war of 1812 ended, many Americans developed a profound appreciation for the potential of their new nation.  Their spirit of hope joined a rejection of the traditions and institutions of the past, to advocate abandoning the old methods of discourse and social organization.  Americans rejected old institutions due to the Jeffersonian belief that laws should be reviewed each generation to ensure the continuing consent of the governed.  The emphasis was entirely on the present, leading Alexis de Tocqueville to observe that Americans had no need for the past, and that like governmental instability, philosophy and literary conventions were short lived.

 The focus on the the political landscape also affected literary efforts, which form the meat of Lewis’ argument.  Lewis uses the works of Thoreau, Holmes, Emerson, and Whitman to illustrate the development of the Party of Hope’s philosophy that Americans should return to a free and uncomplicated existence.  Thoreau provides Lewis with the base of the Party of Hope’s platform: that Americans should cast aside the past and start anew.  Men should periodically divest themselves of all of their spiritual and physical baggage in an American baptismal rite.  In this way, Americans could embrace nature without the confining bonds of convention.

Where Thoreau provided the foundation, Holmes provided the fiercest assault on the Party of Memory’s core by rejecting the Calvinist doctrine of human guilt due to original sin.  Holmes deployed scientific arguments in his novels to counter the doctrine of original sin by describing it in medical terms, and insists that children are not responsible for the sins of their parents. Lewis argues that Holmes presented science as liberating the American Adam, allowing him to focus on the future.  Science was Holmes’ new religion.

Whitman, in Lewis’ estimation took the Adamic interpretation to its primitive extreme.  Instead of working for progress, Whitman argued for a recovery of man’s primitive condition.  By secularizing religious language, Whitman believed that the self was divine, and the body itself was an object for worship.  Since each individual was divine, he was his own creator, moving through the world defining and naming the objects and creatures encountered.  Lewis contends that the core of Whitman’s philosophy was that time had just begun, and that the past did not exist. 

Lewis believes that Whitman did not go far enough in developing the myth of the American Adam, which led members of what he calls the Party of Irony to develop a more sustainable American ideal.  Henry James the Elder argued that Adam needed to mature in order to reach his full potential because Whitman and Thoreau’s hopeful innocent was vulnerable to the dark challenges of the world.  The completely innocent Adam was a boring and aimless being that drifted through the world.  The way for Adam to mature was to gain consciousness by falling from innocence.  James’ conception of the Fall was not the Calvinists’ horrible lapse from grace, but a rise to the normal human state of being.  The reborn Adam was capable of taking steps toward perfection.

Hawthorne and Melville provide Lewis’ clearest literary examples of the new Adam’s path to enlightened maturity.  Hawthorne portrays Adam as the isolated hero in a hostile universe, divorced from society.  The hero’s isolation provides drama, and sets the stage for his “Fall”.  The Fall is a fortunate occurrence because the experience allows him to grow.  Melville enlarges this theme so that the Adamic hero changes the world at the same time it changes him.  Melville’s Adam is a young, idealist thrust into the world without family or history chaining him in place.  The American Adam is looking for his place in the world.

Lewis asserts that in Melville’s scheme, Adam’s loss of innocence is a betrayal by the world.  His Fall and sacrifice (or redemption) turns Adam into a Christ figure.  Melville’s hero must engage evil in order to reach maturity.  The clearest example Lewis provides is Billy Budd, which portrays the hero’s lack of knowledge as a weakness that precipitates his fall when others goad him into actions that he does not understand.  When Billy is executed, his death transforms the ship’s crew from an angry mob into a redeemed one.  Lewis argues that by extending the archetype of the American Adam in this way, Melville creates a fully developed American myth that describes the feelings and ideas of Americans during the middle half of the nineteenth century.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Radicalism of the American Revolution

Gordon S. Wood challenges the traditional conception that the American Revolution was a conservative rebellion designed only to protect the rights of colonists, and therefore not really a revolution, arguing in The Radicalism of the American Revolution that it was a grand social transformation.  While America did not suffer from the extreme circumstances of the French Revolution, it underwent sweeping social and political changes.  Revolutionary leaders set out to transform the monarchical culture of the colonies into their ideal republic, but the rhetoric of equality struck a chord with the ordinary men of America, pushing them down the path to democracy.  Wood traces America’s social and political transformation from monarchy to democracy, extending the American Revolution from the war with England to 1825. 

Wood contends that the social structure and personal relationships were even more traditional than those found in England during the eighteenth century.  Social structure was like that of a family, with the king acting in the role of father.  Members of this royal extended family were dependent upon the king for their positions and prosperity.  The English viewed their unique combination of republican and monarchy as essential to defending their unique liberties: habeas corpus, trial by jury, and freedom of speech. England’s hierarchy also allowed movement between ranks.  Colonial usages reinforced the social hierarchy by allotting veterans acreage based on rank and insisting on the proper use of titles in court pleadings.

While colonial and English society had greater social mobility than continental European nations, position was still hereditary.  Common people earned their living through work, while the aristocracy lived off income produced by their lands or wealth.  Leisure to pursue other things defined gentlemen.  Englishmen climbed the social ladder by accumulating enough wealth to retire.

Dependence was a key feature of the monarchical.  The lack of public institutions forced colonials to depend on aristocrats.  Common people relied on gentlemen for loans to finance their businesses, to get their goods to market, and to find apprenticeships for boys.  Marriages and family relationships bound the colonial aristocracy together, with gentry families holding the majority of offices in a community.  Dependence extended into political patronage, where it was normal to provide places to family and friends, as Benjamin Franklin did as deputy postmaster general.  Colonists viewed patronage as an extension of the colonial social hierarchy based on social connections.  Patronage contributed to colonial instability when the crown manipulated distribution of offices to suit its own needs.

Despite the English contention that republicanism supported monarchies by ensuring liberties, Wood asserts that republican ideals destroyed the monarchical system gradually by challenging its assumptions.  Republicanism challenged the monarchical conception of hierarchy, kinship, dependency, and patronage by offering new ways for people to interact with one another.  The heart of republican ideology was participation in government by virtuous citizens who were willing to sacrifice their own welfare for their states.  Virtuous citizens had to be independent in their livelihoods.  Dependence led to corruption of both the individual the state.  The requirement for public virtue placed a heavy burden on citizens forced to suppress their own best interests.  Colonial gentry were never as far from commercial activity as the republican ideal required.
The population boom and geographical mobility of colonists weakened monarchical social structures, as did the entrance of small farmers into the market economy.  Despite the monarchical belief that people only worked when poor, colonial farmers and tradesmen worked ever harder in order to purchase luxury items previously available only to the wealthy.  While conservatives denounced conspicuous consumption by commoners, ordinary people worked hard to increase both export and inland trade through manufacturing and agricultural surpluses.  Wood argues that an increase in borrowing for commercial business reduced the influence of the gentry, as their former clients changed sources of ready cash.  Direct purchases of staple crops by Scottish factors, reduced the influence of large planters who had previously arranged for exports.
Wood asserts that American revolutionaries attacked both monarchical corruption and the fundamental bonds of a society that rested on family ties.  Their ideal was to destroy the system of great men relying on personal ties, replacing it with one emphasizing the equality and independence of free men.  Americans defined individual freedom as ownership of property and expanded the definition of property to include trade skills.  Those who did not have property were dependent on others, which led the revolutionaries to deny them suffrage in order to avoid corruption.  Wood suggests that republicans viewed dependency as akin to slavery because dependents were at the mercy of others for their livelihoods.

The need for disinterested citizens and political leadership forced republicans to look to landed gentry and the professions for leaders.  The children of tradesmen could aspire to positions of leadership by acquiring a liberal education and working their way to the point of financial independence.  Thomas Jefferson believed that in this way America would establish a “natural aristocracy” that regularly raised talented and virtuous men from obscurity to lead the nation.  This new aristocracy of talent would be a virtuous one dedicated to the public good in the Enlightenment tradition.

The republican revolution did not realize its ideals, argues Wood, because Americans were too involved in their own personal, local interests, and did not believe that a disinterested aristocracy could represent their needs.  This led to the rise of popular politicians who embraced the revolutionary ideology of equality inherent in republicanism.  The new political figures worried less about the national public good than that of their own constituents as they served the agendas of interest groups.  The influx of popular politics led to the Constitution of 1787, which republicans designed to reduce the influence of democratic politics.

Compensation for public service allowed ordinary men to seek office, and accompanied most states removing property requirements for voting by 1825.  Wood implies that these changes were the result of a new conception of the public interest as representation of multiple personal interests, which ensured that all Americans received representation by their leaders.  The result of these changes was the development of a new class of professional politician and modern political parties.  The new political parties revolved around the concept of loyalty to the party.  Wood argues that the challenge of party loyalty led Andrew Jackson to implement the spoils system, where new administrations filled the bureaucracy with political loyalists.  The new system required careful definition of each position to allow the easy replacement of bureaucrats, which allowed parties to reward members by rotating positions among them. 

Wood relies largely on primary sources to divine the attitudes and beliefs of Americans of his expanded American Revolution, providing detail and color to his account.  Although he makes a definite argument, his method is more explanatory than argumentative.  The loyalist perspective receives short shrift, giving the impression of a unity among the colonists.  Wood presents conservatives, including Jefferson, as fighting against the inevitable flow of history.  Wood acknowledges the exclusion of women and non-whites from the rhetoric of democracy due to their status of dependents, ignoring Abigail Adams’ pleas for equality.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion

Slavery in the North American colonies was a neglected area of study before Peter H. Wood’s examination of its development in South Carolina from the founding of the colony through the Stono Rebellion in 1739.  Wood argues that social stratification between whites and African slaves increased as South Carolina developed from a frontier economy to a staple economy.  While bonded laborers enjoyed a certain amount of respect for their wilderness and trade skills in the frontier economy, as their population grew and the economy began to focus on cash crops, the movement and activities of African slaves were increasingly restricted.  Wood asserts that the main reasons for the increasingly circumscribed role of Africans in Carolina were fear of slave rebellions and invasion from the Spanish possessions to the south.

Wood contends that the low population of Carolina under the frontier economy forced free whites to work alongside unfree labor, including African and Indian slaves.  The young colony required all of the available manpower for subsistence and to slowly develop export products like naval stores, cattle, and eventually rice.  It was normal for free whites to work at a task like sawing planks alongside African slaves.  Wood suggests that the closeness of the work relationship between free and unfree workers created a more egalitarian society during the first generation of settlement.

Carolina’s desperate need for laborers included both trade and survival skills necessary for subtropical regions.  While Indian slaves and servants possessed some of the necessary hunting and agricultural skills, using them could damage relations with nearby tribes.  Indian slaves also found it easier to escape captivity due to the proximity of their tribes.  White indentured servants sometimes had valuable trade skills, but Carolina’s climate and incidence of disease discouraged indentured servants from immigrating to the colony.  The remaining source of laborers available to Carolinians was African slaves who suffered less from the colony’s endemic yellow fever and malaria.  Many settlers migrated to Carolina from England’s Barbados colony, and were familiar with African slaves, which encouraged this path toward obtaining needed labor.  Colony founders designed land warrant policies to encourage colonists to bring contingents of African slaves by allotting settlers additional acreage for each individual they transported to the colony.

African slaves brought critical skills to Carolina, including trade skills like blacksmithing, sawing, and cooping.  As important as these trade skills were in the colony’s first generation, Wood claims that survival skills were even more important.  West Africans were adept at navigating Carolinian waterways and woods, fishing, and herding cattle.  These skills served to feed the colony and provide the initial exports of beef.  Slaves also played a critical role in Carolina’s export of naval stores, which provided much-needed trade commodities.  Finally, Africans brought skill at planting and harvesting rice crops with them, providing the basis of Carolina’s future cash crop.

During the first generation of the Carolina colony, Wood suggests that Africans retained a relatively high degree of self-reliance despite their servile status.  Carolinians expected slaves to provide their own food and clothing, and allowed them to earn their own money during their off-hours.  In pursuing their own economic goals, Africans could ply their trades, sell agricultural products to merchants, or enter trade themselves.  Slaves armed with muskets or spears also took part in colonial defense as pioneers. 
As Carolina’s economy changed from a frontier economy to a staple economy based on rice slaves began to lose their freedom of action.  The primary component that drove the change in Africans’ status, Wood argus, is whites’ fear of slave insurrections.  Fear of slave rebellion developed after slave revolts in the Virgin Islands and Jamaica in 1734.  Carolinians were particularly aware of their vulnerability to slave uprisings due to demographics.  Relying on documents from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, Wood shows that slaves outnumbered whites 2:1 by 1720, a statistical relationship maintained through at least 1740.

Wood believes that fear drove white Carolinians to restrict the movement of Africans, requiring that they obtain a ticket from their master before going to towns.  Colonists enacted legislation to penalize masters of slaves that traveled to wilderness areas.  Africans were also restricted from trades that allowed them access to weapons.  The issue of slaves working for their own benefit in the Carolina economy became an issue when whites began to fear their economic competition in terms of wage instability for laborers and seeming food price increases.  Slave owners were increasingly expected to provide slaves with food and clothing to reduce their self-reliance.  The colony increased restrictions on slaves’ trades and movement after the Stono Rebellion of 1739.

Based on slave narratives, Wood asserts that slaves met increased restrictions with varying degrees of resistance.  Insolence, slow work, and carelessness were the mildest forms of slave resistance.  In more extreme cases slaves reacted violently toward their oppressors, attacking them with any weapon that came to hand.  Slave resistance also took the form of arson, poisoning, or escape.  Arson was the most spectacular type of resistance short of outright rebellion, having the potential to destroy entire towns.  Naval stores, harvested rice, and dwellings were all significant targets of arson.  Poisoning held a special fear for colonists, perhaps due to Africans’ expertise at fashioning both cures and poisons from natural sources.  To combat potential poisonings, banned slaves from practicing or administering medicine, and banned whites from employing slaves in drugstores.  A final method of resistance open to slaves was to escape. 

Wood successfully employs an interdisciplinary approach that included linguistic analysis of slave names and the development of Gullah English, medical information to discuss effect of subtropical diseases, and the use of demographic information from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to fuel the discussion of population trends.  Wood carefully illustrates discrepancies between the data available in available sources of demographic information.  To interpret slave motivations for work or resistance, Wood relies primarily on Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography, collections of slave narratives gathered through interviews, and testimony offered in trials.  Although this paucity of direct evidence of slave experience is unavoidable, it forced Wood to infer the motivations of slaves.  The motivations and actions of white colonists are less opaque, as Wood had greater access to primary sources representing them.  Legal statues, court documents, newspapers, and cargo manifests combine with letters to provide Wood a clear picture of Carolinians’ concerns.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Protestant Temperament

Regardless of their field, most Historians focus on the external world of their subjects in the form of actions and ideologies.  Action and ideology are evident through examination of records, speeches, business accounts, and laws passed, providing the evidence historians use to create an image of the past.  The view of the past, and those who shaped it, however, are left incomplete by the exclusion of the internal mental and emotional structures of the people who lived in the past.  This is the core of Philip Greven’s rationale in The Protestant Temperament, which examines Americans’ beliefs through the early 19th century.  Greven argues that understanding American Protestants’ religious experiences provides a more coherent and complete picture of the influences shaping the United States from creation through the present.  Greven divides American Protestants into three broad categories, Evangelicals, Moderates, and the Genteel, based on their religious doctrine and general approach to life.  Evidence of emotion and belief, which are much more difficult to discern, describe, and document, is gleaned from letters, speeches, sermons, and journals.

Greven defines Evangelicals as a Protestants who believe in salvation through grace only, but who also experience a particular emotional reaction to that religious doctrine. Greven’s Evangelicals also insist on the complete subjugation of the will and the self to God.  Evangelicals are further differentiated from Calvinists in Greven’s system by their struggle to maintain a state of grace rather than acceptance of the doctrine of predestination.  Early American Evangelical belief that they must submit their entire being to God shaped all of their activities from discipline of children and family structure to the organization of churches, and their interactions with other people.

In order to allow their children to more easily enter the state of grace conferred by the complete subjection of the self to God, Evangelical parents’ first mission was to break the will of their infant children.  Only by ensuring that children were completely subject to the will of the parents were Evangelical parents able to ensure that children would follow God’s dictates, but would more easily subject themselves to God, earning salvation.  This was the core of Evangelical belief – that the individual will and conception of self must be completely eradicated in favor of the Almighty.  Greven describes the Evangelical approach to childrearing as “Love and Fear”, meaning that children should both love their parents and fear them, which also typified the Evangelical relationship with God.

Evangelicals insisted on an ascetic lifestyle of strict discipline, diet, and somber clothing, with none of the common sources of entertainment allowed.  Thus, dancing, cards, romances, or theatre were all denied them.  Greven argues that beyond denying these to only themselves, Evangelicals wished to deny them to all other people in order to remove the temptation of these sinful delights from themselves.  The problem of temptation seems particularly difficult for Greven’s Evangelicals to resolve, leading them to insist on what they saw as doctrinally pure churches, excluding those not saved, or with different theological ideas.

The need for purity and conformity, combined with what Greven describes as suppressed anger and aggression resulting from the breaking of their wills as children and again as part of the conversion experience, drove Evangelicals to aggressively attack their opponents in the public arena.  Anger was acceptable for Evangelicals only when directed against those they saw as the “enemies of God”, taking on the role of religious warriors fighting against the infidel in all of its guises.  This role allowed Evangelicals to develop a sense of self that they otherwise fought to suppress in an effort to subject themselves fully to God’s will.

In contrast to Evangelicals, “Moderates” did not work to deny, or suppress the self, but to discipline the self.   Moderates’ different views of authority and the nature of salvation allowed them a more nuanced approach to life.  Moderates were still religious people, but they believed that salvation could be achieved through a gradual process rather than a sudden and cataclysmic event.  This stemmed from the view that God “established knowable rules and limits,” and that mankind was given free will in order to come to a state of grace of their own accord.

The stark difference in worldview from Evangelicals led Moderates to radically different methods of childrearing, which did not include crushing the wills of children.  Moderates emphasized duty rather than fear in their children, in an effort to gain voluntary obedience.  The children of Moderates, thus retained their will, but learned to control it.   This meant that moderates were free to engage in what Evangelicals would consider dangerous and sinful activities such as playing cards or eating fine foods, but were under the onus of restraining any tendencies toward gluttony or other vices.
At the most liberal end of the spectrum, Greven places the “Genteel.”  Genteel households were most common among the wealthy, with the emphasis in relationships was on reverence for those in authority. Genteel families indulged children in their desires rather than teaching an ascetic lifestyle or one of discipline.  Religious observances for Genteel families were a matter of form over substance, with the expectation that people who participated in the Sacraments, and were generally good would be saved.

Greven’s argument is an interesting one, despite the challenges inherent in methodology and sources.  A major concern is the relative paucity of sources that discuss the issues that he wishes to examine – Genteel individuals’ writings, like those of William Byrd do not delve as much into the inner life of the writer, focusing on external issues.  This makes the issue of divining emotional responses and motivations much more difficult.  Trying to interpret these things without sufficient evidence is fraught with peril, as the beliefs of the researcher may loom larger in the analysis to fill the gaps.  This potential may be why the Evangelicals receive more attention, with the Moderates and Genteel relegated to more supporting roles.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Becker and Bailyn on the Practice of History

Although separated in time by sixty years, Carl Becker and Bernard Bailyn are both concerned with the nature of “history” and the practice of historians’ work.  Despite this temporal separation their definitions and concerns for the practice of the historians’ craft are remarkably similar: what is “history”, how should quantifiable data be incorporated into historical writing, the generational revision of historical meaning, and the relevance of “history” to society.  Interestingly, their responses to these issues are similar, with a few important differences.

Recognizing the need for a common starting point, Becker provides a base definition of “history” as “the memory of events that have occurred in the past.”  This definition conveniently includes large events like the Apollo moon landing, and small events like driving to class.  A broad definition is useful for Becker’s argument that history is pervasive in human life.  The pervasiveness is important not only because it shows that on some level everyone is a historian because they must perform the same types of tasks to get through daily life.  Just as historians attempt to reconstruct the past based on recovered documents, so does the average person.  Becker uses the example of paying household bills to illustrate this point – if the bill in question is not on hand, it must be sought out, sometimes require searches in multiple locations before a satisfactory resolution is found.  Becker further expands the utility of history into the creation of both the present and the future through the utility of cause and effect relationships; memory of the past allows people to anticipate what may happen in the future, providing a usable time stream beyond that posited for less evolved species.

The idea that history creates both past and future through the anticipatory moment leads Becker to argue that history is an imaginative creation, whether at the hands of the individual or the professional historian, based on the experiences of the creator.  History is separated from fiction by the limitations imposed by society to base history on verifiable outside sources like class schedules or contracts.  Still, despite the requirement for outside sources, Becker writes that the history of the individual is a near mythical thing based on based on a combination of “fact and fancy.”  The creation of history in this way also impacts the professional historians, who are influenced by their own personal experiences, real and imagined.  The difference is that the professional historian is under the additional onus of remembering the distant past for the recollection of society at large.

The additional task of remembering the past for the community forces upon professional historians additional limitations not suffered by the individual that creates his own history.  This additional task is to make history fit accepted social traditions, while preserving the knowledge of the actual events that took place.  If possible, the professional historian should also correct society’s misunderstanding of events for the greater good – to tell a “true” story instead of the story that tradition tells for the benefit of society as a whole.

Becker also assigns to professional historians the task of interpreting the past and giving it meaning for the current generation.  In this he argues that a bald retelling of facts, or quantification of statistics and events does not help society anymore than simply looking into a mirror.  At the base of this mountainous endeavor is the requirement to meticulously unearth the facts contained in documents of all types and ascertaining their validity and accuracy.  It is not enough to assume that presenting the facts is enough.  Instead, Becker argues that Historians must tell their societies what the facts and events mean.

Bailyn uses Becker’s definition of history as “memory of things said and done,” with the corollary that it is the “artificial extension of memory” to formulate a basis for the modern practice of historians.  Like Becker, Bailyn utilizes a broad definition of who to consider a historian, specifically including public historians, biographers, journalists, and corporate historians as individuals responsible for artificially extending the memory of the past.

Like Becker, Bailyn assigns a heavy social duty to professional historians, writing that not only do historians have the duty to interpret the bare facts that represent the past.  Bailyn includes in the historians’ duty the task of keeping society “sane.”  The duty of keeping their societies sane through the presentation and interpretation of accurate historical information is due primarily to history’s function of orienting individuals to the present.  This function of orienting society as a whole is the source of totalitarian regimes efforts to control the presentation of the past both in real situations like the former Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, and in fictional situations like George Orwell’s 1984.  The impact of the social orientation function of history goes a long way to explaining the inclusion of the history curriculum during the 1980s and 1990s, as both conservative and liberal activists strove to deploy their vision of the past for social and political reasons.

The major difference between Becker’s and Bailyn’s analyses of the historical profession comes in the dependence on quantifiable data and statistical analysis.  Where Becker applauded the gradual return to more literary approach to historical writing in the 1930s, Bailyn believes that quantification of data and statistical analysis are essential parts of the historians’ craft.  One difference is that modern historians’ reliance on quantifiable data is combined with the understanding that such data must be interpreted for readers, not simply presented to them as a finished product by themselves.  The primary reason for the difference in opinions on the utility of quantifiable data is that modern historians have access to computers and advanced statistical methods that allow more complex analysis of large amounts of data that historians can them interpret as having specific meanings.  In effect, information technology allows the modern historian to combine stark quantifiable data with literary methods in a manner that would be satisfactory to both Becker and Bailyn.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Honor and Atrocities in the English Civil Wars

The treatment of enemy prisoners and civilians caught in the jaws of war were pressing concerns in the seventeenth century, as they are today.  The generations that experienced the Thirty Years’ War and the English Civil Wars did not have access to video footage of mistreated prisoners or massacred civilians, but they did receive reports of atrocities through the propaganda media of the day.  Efforts to excoriate opposition acts ensure that detailed and inflammatory accounts of battles, sieges, and prison conditions survived the four hundred year interval.  Records from the English Civil Wars from 1642 – 1689 are particularly accessible, and reveal a level of restraint significantly absent from other seventeenth century conflicts.  English restraint in dealing with prisoners and civilians during the Civil Wars is notable due to its absence from fighting conducted in Ireland and Scotland during the same period. 

One of the primary reasons for the apparent English restraint toward prisoners and civilians during the Civil Wars was the concept of honor.  For gentlemen honor and reputation were their life’s blood, and was owed both to their families and to the King.  The obligations to family and the King were parallel, since a gentleman’s honor came from both sources.[1]  Because honor relied on reputation, it required maintenance.  If a gentleman ignored his obligations to monarch or family, he would lose his honor by damaging his reputation.[2]  Since one of the sources of a gentleman’s honor was his family, the misdeeds of his relatives could diminish his own honor, requiring gentlemen to ensure the proper behavior of his siblings and cousins.  A single wayward relation might blemish the reputation of an entire family, regardless of their own involvement in the situation.[3]  The relationship between honor and reputation were not absolute.  A gentleman’s own interpretation of what his honor required might lead him to take actions that others might disagree with – perhaps in leading his troops from a battlefield to save them, or in refusing to pay a relative’s debt.[4]  Since a gentleman’s derived much of his honor due to the privileges and position provided him through the authority of the King, he owed the King obedience and respect beyond that due to his family.  During the Civil War, this conception of honor forced gentlemen loyal to Parliament to claim that they were fighting for the benefit of both King and Parliament.  It also led Charles I to remind English nobility of their obligations to him as King, even during his trial.[5]

The English conception of honor combined with the experience of English gentlemen and common soldiers who had served in Europe during the Thirty Years’ War to create a standard of military practice that argued against atrocities.  Even nobles and soldiers who did not take part in the Thirty Years’ War understood the standards of military conduct due to their study of military doctrine and manuals from the Continent.  Ultimately all but the greenest soldiers and youths knew that there were rules regarding taking prisoners, killing the enemy, and controlling troops during battle.[6]  Additionally, King Charles I called on the honor all English gentlemen owed him when admonishing Prince Rupert and royalist troops to fight with due consideration of their opponents as fellow Englishmen.[7]

The professional military code, although not completely documented in a single place, told soldiers how to behave: when they could surrender during sieges, what and whom they could plunder, and not to kill surrendered enemies.  The devotion to soldierly honor owed a great deal to training and indoctrination by officers, veteran soldiers, and even loyalty to the king, as well as basic Christian principles and pride.[8] 

Honor and professional standards were not the only things restraining the behavior of the combatants during the English Civil Wars.  Pragmatism played a central role in preventing the cruelties of the Thirty Years’ War and the Irish Rebellion.  Both royalists and parliamentarians worried that if they acted in dishonorable ways toward the enemy, did not keep agreements, or if they committed atrocities, that their opponents would act in similar ways.  Preserving the lives of soldiers and civilians, and ensuring that prisoner exchanges continued were key motivations for both sides observing the established laws of war.[9]

A final restraining influence on treatment of prisoners were the decisions of King Charles and Parliament to treat the English Civil Wars as if they were fought against a foreign army rather than a rebellion against lawful authority.  King Charles I initially determined to execute all captured parliamentary soldiers and officers.  The King ordered Colonel Viver and Captains Catesby and Lilburne tried from treason after their capture at Brentford in 1642, although Lilburne escaped execution when his wife persuaded Parliament to threaten reprisals.[10]  Threat of reprisals did not end executions or massacre of prisoners by either side, but acted as a pragmatic hedge against excesses.  Early in the war, the King and his council determined that exchange of prisoners and other practices of war, rather than rebellion, should apply, if only to protect captured royalists from execution.[11]

Despite these restraining influences on the conduct of the English Civil Wars, atrocities did occur against soldiers, officers, and civilians.  Massacre, execution, rape, and plunder were still unfortunate occurrences, even if they were less prevalent than in other seventeenth century conflicts.  The Second Civil War witnessed more abuses against royalist forces by parliamentarians, who believed that the royalists were traitors based on parliamentary victory.  Similarly, royalists argued that the parliamentarians had lost all claims to honor by imprisoning King Charles I.[12]

The Puritan tradition of Christian warfare also acted to remove some levels of restraint from the activities of parliamentary forces.  Timothy George contends that in rebelling against the crown, Puritans were unable to describe the Civil Wars as just war, and came to view the conflict as a holy war based on the teaching of John Calvin and Henry Bullinger.[13]  These two theologians supported the doctrine of holy war using Biblical examples.  Bullinger argued that in the Old Testament God ordered Joshua and Judas Maccabeus to destroy cities that rejected God and in St. Paul’s war on the false prophet Elymas in the New Testament.[14]  The adoption of holy war rather than just war theory was muted by William Ames’ argument that war must be conducted in accordance with God’s law.  This meant that noncombatants must not be harmed – only the guilty were legitimate targets of war.  Despite Ames’ arguments, the idea that God justified war in the Old Testament won out in Puritan doctrine, as espoused by William Gouge.[15]  George contends that Puritan iconoclasm during the English Civil Wars was a logical outgrowth of this doctrine and ministers preaching to extirpate the enemy “root and branch.”[16]

In this way, at least the Puritans among the parliamentary forces saw themselves as holy warriors in the tradition of the knights of the Crusades.  These holy warriors were not simply fighting against absolute government, or to maintain a system of church government, but to defend the true faith from the powers of darkness.[17]  Led by William Gouge, promoters of this ideal, argued that it was acceptable to wage holy war against other Christians based on the biblical slaughter of the tribe of Benjamin by the Israelites. 

The cause of war is more to be respected then the person against whom it is waged.  If Protestants should give just occasion of warre, warre might justly be undertaken against them.  Before the division of the ten Tribes from the rest, the rest if the Israelites fought against the Benjamites, and that by God’s advice.  David also was forced to fight against the men of Israel that tooke part with Ishbosbeth: and after that with Absalom; and after that with Sheba the sonne of Bichri.[18]

Further, mere conformists and papists, by not accepting the true faith were the enemies of God, deserving the same treatment as any other infidel.  Luckily, for the royalist forces and their supporters, this extreme view of the nature of English Civil Wars was a minority one.

If the English Civil Wars were more restrained in the treatment of prisoners and civilians, they were still wars, with the seemingly inevitable consequences: despite the efforts of even the most diligent officers, atrocities still occurred.  While they did not reach the extremes of the Thirty Years’ War, the English viewed them through the lens of that bloody conflict.  English civilians greatly feared the specter of war and the undisciplined, drunken soldiers raping, pillaging, and burning their way across England as they had done in Germany.[19]  The belief that English communities were sending off their coarser, ruder elements to fight only added to English fear of the dangers of war.[20]  Both sides took pains to highlight the barbarity of the other, documenting plundering, massacres, and rapes.

When war crimes occurred, the perpetrators frequently went out of their way to justify their acts, as in claiming that is was acceptable to kill prisoners in cold blood if they represented a danger to the army, or that God sometimes sanctioned the murder of women and children in the Bible.[21]  It was also common to claim that a massacre or decimation of surrendering troops was acceptable if they had violated the laws of war themselves by either stubbornly defending a besieged town beyond reasonable chance of success[22], using poisoned bullets, or by using chewed bullets.  During the Siege of Colchester parliamentary troops claimed that General Goring ordered his troops to chew bullets, roll them in sand, or to otherwise poison them in order to inflict more casualties among the attackers.  Although the chewed bullets in question appear to merely have come from crude bullet molds, parliamentary forces executed twenty prisoners who had poorly made bullets after the end of the siege.[23]

Reprisals were another common excuse for committing war crimes.  In 1644, William Doddington hanged twelve civilians in response to the execution of Irish prisoners by Colonel William Sydenham.[24]  The execution of Irish prisoners itself, was justified by Parliament as justice for the rape and murder of Protestant civilians in Ireland during the Irish Rebellion.  Reprisal was also the justification provided when royalist forces led by Major John Connaught smoked parliamentarians out of their refuge in a church steeple in Bartholemy, and then stripped and murdered all but three of the men.  Oral tradition indicates that the reason behind the massacre was that the church rector’s son had fired upon the besieging royalists from the steeple.[25]

Not all war crimes fell into the category of reprisals.  Like other wars, rape was part of the unofficial activities of the English Civil War.  William Trumbull of Berkshire claimed that troops quartered in his home raped a servant taken from her bed.  While the Berkshire incident seems divorced from the context of battle, other rapes were part of normal pillaging activities.  Sir Marmaduke Langdale’s men reportedly pillaged and raped their way across Northamptonshire in 1645, binding men and forcing the, to watch as soldiers assaulted the women of their families.[26]  The royalist capture of Burton-on-Trent produced additional claims of rape by pillaging soldiers, who allegedly assaulted the women and forced them into the river, where many drowned.[27]  English horror of rape for reasons of honor and religion sometimes led them to blame sex crimes on foreigners, as was the case when General Fairfax blamed three French royalist soldiers for the rape of a farm wife in Yorkshire.[28]

The number of rapes documented during the English Civil Wars appears abnormally low when compared to the Irish Rebellion and the Thirty Years’ War.  Although rape continues to be an underreported crime in the modern era, the propagandists of the English Civil War would have relished the opportunity to blacken their opponents’ good name.  This was certainly the case in a 1644 pamphlet denouncing the deeds of gangs of demobilized soldiers operating throughout the country, but particularly the Barwick exploits of John Hawkins and companion in assaulting six young women.[29]  Despite the horror of rape, courts-martial for the offense are vanishingly rare in the surviving records of both royalist and parliamentary forces.  In ninety-two cases, only two were for rape.  One convicted soldier received sixty lashes, while another received a lash from every carter in the baggage train.[30]  Even these punishments were handed out more due to the negative effect crimes by troops have on discipline and civil-military relations.

While civilians were repeatedly plundered with, and without, official sanction, most civilians survived the attentions of marauding armies.  One explanation for the relative lack of civilian casualties, other than during sieges, is the lack of ethnic tensions among the combatants.  The homogeneity of ethnicity and religious practice acted to reduce the excesses experienced by civilians in Ireland, Scotland, and Germany during seventeenth century wars.  Atrocities against surrendered soldiers, committed in the heat of battle or in cold blood, predominated the war crimes of the English Civil War.

While international laws of war and the codes adopted by both armies guaranteed the safety of soldiers who surrendered in battle, common soldiers did not always honor this in the heat of battle.  The Earl of Essex attacked his own troops at Reading when they attempted to pillage surrendered royalists.  The King himself sent officers to beat back royalists who tried to plunder parliamentary infantry after Lostwithiel, ultimately executing seven of the perpetrators on the spot.[31]  Such atrocities went without consequence to the guilty, as was the case when parliamentary soldiers massacred one hundred women after the Battle of Naseby.  The slayings of twenty-five prisoners at Hopton did not occur in the heat of battle, but afterward as acts of vengeance toward stalwart defenders accused of using “chewed” bullets.[32]  Massacres almost became a matter of policy in 1644 when Parliament enacted legislation denying quarter to any Irish soldiers captured fighting for the royalists.  This anti-Irish policy largely fell into disuse when Prince Rupert retaliated by executing parliamentary prisoners in retaliation.[33]

In general the persons of prisoners as safe, even if their goods were not.  Even prisoners granted quarter were frequently plundered of clothing and money.  Many regular soldiers switched sides when captured, or were paroled to go home.  The parole process included a promise not to fight against the paroling army, and officers found violating their parole were sometimes executed if captured a second time.  Some prisoners were exchanged, and found themselves under arms once more.[34]  While most royalist soldiers captured during 1646 were paroled, those taken earlier sometimes found themselves imprisoned for extended periods.[35]

Although most soldiers did not describe parliamentary imprisonment, they remembered it as long and tedious, and the food lacking.[36]  Food ranged from turnip greens and cabbage to bread and beer or beef, cheese, and pottage.[37]  The facilities used as prisons ranged from the open fields used by prisoners after Naseby, to churches in Gloucester, to floating Hulks anchored in the Thames.  The amount of freedom afforded prisoners was also variable.  Some were allowed to find lodging after giving their parole, while others were kept manacled, or tied to another with match from muskets.[38]

Although not deliberately cruel, prison conditions frequently led to sickness or death.  Conditions on the hulks in the Thames were described as hellish – cold, damp, crowded, and filthy with bad food.  Conditions in other prisons were equally bad, particularly if prisoners were unable to secure additional sources of food and warm clothing.  Prisoners at the Lion’s Den were denied medical treatment for wounds because Captain Palmer, the jailor did not want anyone to waste the effort on the “enemies of God” imprisoned there.[39]

The interference of civilian authority in the fates of military prisoners during the Second Civil War made the fate of prisoners even less predictable.  This was certainly the case at Colchester.  When Fairfax executed Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle as examples of the possible fate of future traitors, he granted the remaining officers quarter along with their men.  Royalists protested at the executions, which were justified by the fact that Fairfax accepted their surrender at mercy, rather than for quarter[40].  Parliament insisted that Fairfax had overstepped his authority in dealing summarily with prisoners.  Later battles saw the fates of some military prisoners reserved for Parliamentary disposition.

Although the English Civil Wars incited the same types of raw emotions among combatants and sympathizers, England was spared the levels of violence and devastation that occurred in Ireland, Scotland, and Germany during the seventeenth century.  The reasons for the relative restraint practiced by parliamentary and royalist forces were the short durations of the struggles, the decision to treat the First Civil War as a conflict between lawful enemies, and the ethnic and religious homogeneity of England.  Honor and professional codes of military conduct also played a key role in enforcing common standards of behavior among the armies contending for supremacy in England, as did the request of King Charles I for his forces to remember that their opponents were also his beloved, if misguided subjects.  The level of violence inflicted upon captured soldiers and officers increased with the Second Civil War primarily due to Parliaments belief that royalists were rebelling against the lawful government of England.  Pragmatism to preserve parliamentary forces and to end the conflict quickly dictated that the majority of royalist forces in the Second Civil War still enjoyed the tradition protections of the laws of war.

[1] Marston, Jerrilyn Greene. “Gentry, Honor, and Royalism in Early Stuart England,” The Journal of British Studies 13, no. 1 (1973): 22.
[2] Marston, 24.
[3] Marston, 28.
[4] Donagan, Barbara. “The Web of Honour: Soldiers, Christians, and Gentlemen in the English Civil War”, The Historical Journal 44, no. 2 (2001): 366.
[5] Marston, 35-36.
[6] Donagan, “The Web of Honour,” 367-368.
[7] Marston, 37.
[8] Donagan, “The Web of Honour,” 369, 372.
[9] Donagan, “The Web of Honour,” 377.
[10] Carlton, Charles, Going to the Wars: The Experience of the British Civil Wars 1638-1651 (New York: Routledge, 1992), 241.
[11] Donagan, “Atrocity, War Crime, and Treason in the English Civil War,” The American Historical Review 99, no. 4 (1994): 1140.
[12] Donagan, “The Web of Honour, 378.
[13] George, Timothy, “War and Peace in the Puritan Tradition.” Church History 53, No. 4 (1984): 493.
[14] George, 494.
[15] George, 496.
[16] George, 499.
[17] George, 500.
[18] Gouge, William, Gods Three Arrowes: Plague, Famine, Sword (London, 1631), 213.
[19] Donagan, “Codes and Conduct in the English Civil War,” Past and Present 118 (1988): 71.
[20] Donagan, “Codes and Conduct,” 72.
[21] Donagan, “Codes and Conduct,” 77.
[22] Donagan, “Atrocity, War Crime and Treason,” 1144.
[23] Carlton, 323.
[24] Donagan, “Atrocity, War Crime and Treason, 1148.
[25] Donagan, Atrocity, War Crime and Treason, 1154n.
[26] Charles Carlton, “Civilians,” in The Civil Wars: A Military History of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1638-1660 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 294.
[27] Carlton, Going to the Wars, 256.
[28] Charles Carlton, “Civilians,” in The Civil Wars: A Military History of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1638-1660 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 294.
[29] Carlton, Going to the Wars, 259.
[30] Charles Carlton, “Civilians,” in The Civil Wars: A Military History of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1638-1660 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 294.
[31] Ian Gentles, “The Civil Wars in England,” in The Civil Wars: A Military History of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1638-1660 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 112.
[32] Donagan, Barbara, “Prisoners in the English Civil War,” History Today 99 no. 4 (1994): 28.
[33] Donagan, “Prisoners in the English Civil War,” 29.
[34] Donagan, “Prisoners in the English Civil War,” 20.
[35] Stoyle, Mark, “’Memories of the Maimed’: The Testimony of Charles I’s Former Soldiers, 1660-1730,” History 88 no. 290 (2003): 216.
[36] Stoyle, 217.
[37] Donagan, “Prisoners in the Englisg Civil War,” 33.
[38] Donagan, “Prisoners in the English Civil War,” 32.
[39] Carlton, 246.
[40] Barbara Donagan, “Army, state, and soldier in the English civil war,” in The Putney Debates of 1647 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 91