Sunday, August 1, 2010

Time to start reading about the Revolution!

I dropped the ball last week, but I'm back! This week wraps up a month of colonial reading, and we're moving on to the Revolutionary period. I'm going to call that 1750 - 1789.

In the last couple of weeks I've read a whole lot of very short things out of the Annals of America. I'll just list some of the more interesting bits:

Attempts to Christianize the Indians, by Jonas Michaelius, a Dutch Reformed pastor. This depressing essay discusses possible ways to convert the Indians, particularly taking the children away and raising them in white households. He is irked by the way this backfires because the families want their children back.

John Cotton's sermon On the Divine Right to Occupy the Land, which says that no one has any right to take over another people's land unless God tells them to, and how to tell which case you are in.

More cheerfully, there was the Forefathers' Song, a wry commentary on colonial life dating from about 1630.

About then I got bored with the early 17th century and moved up to 1693, to Increase Mather's essay on the Insufficiency of Evidence Against Witches. He and his son Cotton were deeply involved in witch trials, but Increase acted as a restraining influence. Here he asserts that the evidence for witchcraft must be at least as strong as for any other crime, and decries the methods of torture that were commonly used to force confessions and so on. He particularly attacks ducking (throwing people into the water to see if they would sink or swim) as a diabolical superstition.

Then I jumped up to the 18th century and read a few things by Benjamin Franklin, who acts as a breath of fresh air. I am getting quite fond of him. I read a newspaper essay called The Speech of Polly Baker, a fictional speech by a woman on trial for bearing illegitimate children (which wasn't actually illegal). Then there were some of his preliminary thoughts on a sort of union of some colonies, and an essay on educating the Indians, the gist of which was that the Indians seemed perfectly competent to educate themselves.

I also skimmed a couple of famous sermons: A Model of Christian Charity, which was something of a pattern for the Puritans to live by, and Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, which I'm still working on. I find old sermons extremely difficult to read.

So that's it for my colonial reading--now for some Revolutionary material. What have you read in the last couple of weeks?

No comments: