My interest in colonial American history is long-established, so when I saw this book on a table at Barnes & Noble, I just felt it was my destiny to read it. And read it I have. This is by far the longest review of a single book yet attempted on Bourgeois Book Club, due to the length and density -- though not difficulty, for Bailyn is a very clear, engaging writer -- of the material. Despite the fact that I am generally an very fast reader, it took several weeks to finish The Barbarous Years, not because I found it a slog, but because I took a large amount of notes that had to be sorted and synthesized into this review.
The third book-length product of a long-term project on the European settlement of British North America that Bailyn has been at work on for some years, The Barbarous Years is "an account of the fortunes of the founding generations of Europeans [in eastern North America] and their conflicted involvements with the indigenous peoples." [xiv] Within such a bloodless summation lies a much bigger story, much bloodier, much dirtier story about the brutal (between Europeans and Native Americans; between Europeans and Africans; and between Europeans and Europeans) process of European settlement.
Eastern Native America
The Native Americans of North America's East Coast lived in a world of spiritual significance, with ritual to honor and propitiate that all-encompassing spirit and to keep all things -- personal, cosmical, and social -- in balance. But this was no sort of hippy-dippy New Age Eden. Native Americans were as anxious as any other people living in a sea of conflict personal, natural, and tribal. Their land was roomy, with low, but variable, population density, but a vast communication and trade network via the many rivers and hunting trails. They were greatly diverse, with two primary language families and vastly more dialects. Economically, there was a widely varying proportion of sedentary horticulture and nomadic hunting/foraging. Politically, they varied from the highly centralized and organized Iroquois to the egalitarian, nomadic Delaware.
This was a diverse world--polylingual, polyethnic, regionally disparate in political and social structure, and economically multiform. Yet below these manifest differences lay the common civilization of people who lived at a distinctive level of culture. North and south, east and west, they were all villagers, most of them horticulturalists, who lived in similar multifamily dwellings, acquired and prepared food in similar ways, dressed similarly in clothes of similar material, recognized similar signs of status, practiced the same division of labor, and fought wars in similar ways. Above all, they coped with their environment with similar skill (22).They were generally healthy due to a largely balanced diet and disease-discouraging low population density and adapted to their local environments. But even before European settlement began, changes were already disturbing their way of life. The trickling in of European trade goods from French Canada and isolated fishermen and sailors on the coast disrupted economies and politics, leading to the aggressive empire-building of the Iroquois and Powahtan. And with that sporadic trade and contact came the European diseases that would prove so deadly and destabilizing to the Native American world.
Virginia and Maryland
The first successful (barely) English colony in America was Jamestown, an enterprise wracked by incompetence, factionalism, and bad luck (they arrived during a multiyear drought). It barely survived, and one wonders how it did. The death rate, for decades, was astounding, and nowhere near sustaining. Disease, war, and starvation, killed all but about about 1200 of the 8000 arrivals sent by 1625. The focus on tobacco, the only real monkey-making product, lowered the food supply. The housing was terrible, and the settlement patterns in swamps and malarial areas hideous. The conditions of the indentured servants was abysmal. And despite repeated imprecations, the Virginia Company, ostensibly responsible for the colony, sent new arrivals at the wrong time of year, where they found no help. The Virginia Company eventually went bankrupt, and local men, successful planters, took power.
The settlers themselves were a motley lot, collected from wherever they could be scrounged up: France, Poland, Germany, Belgium, and Ireland, but, of course, mostly England. "Vagrant children" were scooped up and sent as "apprentices," and criminals the same. Gradually, more respectable people came, including "good" women looking for a ready and eager oversupply of males, but it was a melange of people, disparate in geographical origin, religion, and economic status.
The Indians and Europeans wanted and needed each other... on each's own terms, trying to subordinate each other within their own systems. For the Indians, Europeans were valuable trading partners, and a manageable enclave of them was ideal. For the English, Christianization and "civilizing" were the goals. To the Brits, the Indians were barbarous, pagan, mysterious, exotic, bizarre savages, sophisticated or simple. You know, like the Irish. But this still involved a great deal of violence, raids, and counter-raids. And as the years went on, the English grew more savage and organized in their campaigns to put the Indians "in their place" (but it was okay, because it was for their own good). Desperate to humble, though not exterminate, the English who were encroaching on more and more land, a great massacre on March 22, 1622 was launched with incredible violence. The Indians killed, mutilated, burned, and plundered throughout Virginia, killing hundreds, including, ironically, those best-disposed towards them. With this, all pretense of European "benevolence" vanished. Total war, conquest, and extirpation of the Indians began, and set the unfortunate pattern of Indian/European relations for centuries.
Economic upheaval, religious dissent, increased mobility and urbanization, and growing awareness of the opportunities of life of the New World made emigration an increasing and attractive option in the 1630s. Meanwhile, the influential Calvert family, Lords Baltimore, dreamed of a refuge for the Catholic minority of England in the New World. After a failed experiment in Newfoundland, they founded Maryland. Learning some lessons from the Virginia experience, Maryland was from the first a much more planned endeavor, with a guiding vision of a manorial, almost feudal, society with a place for everyone and everyone in their place. Of course neither the careful planning nor the vision worked out quite the way Calvert wanted them to, but such is life on a rough and ramshackle frontier.
Indian relations were generally better than in Virginia, at least initially. The Jesuits, an influential presence in Catholic Maryland, were extremely keen on conversion rather than exploitation, and on the Indians' side pressure from the Iroquois, Susquahannock, and Virginia tribes made the local Piscataway tribe eager for protection.
Much more damaging to early Maryland was the strife between the Catholic/gentry minority and the Protestant/servant majority. The mid-1640s saw a "plundering time" where Protestant vigilantes drew on anti-Catholic sentiment (as the English Civil War climaxed) and laborer resentment to burn and pillage throughout the colony. In the aftermath of this disorder, the Calverts moved to bring peace with the Act Concerning Religion, which though limited to trinitarian Christians, established some beginnings of religious freedom. Puritans seized power briefly and annulled the Act, but the Calverts regained control. Their vision of a manorial Maryland would never come to fruition, however.
Eventually, new and more skilled, slightly higher-echelon people with their families became coming to the Chesapeake, drawn by the availability of the land and the increasing chances of fortune via tobacco, which, as in Virgina, quickly became the main crop, and even the most common form of currency. But this was a hard life, isolated and frugal. "Survival required diligence, discipline, calculation, family cooperation, and a modicum of luck" (165). To succeed, they had to be ambitious and cutthroat. The actual labor of planting was incredibly demanding and needed dedicated, not casual, laborers. This labor was mostly taken on by indentured servants alongside their masters. Pushed out by population growth, declining wages, political upheaval, and economic disruption, about 100,000 Britons, most of them English, mostly indentured, emigrated to tobacco country by the end of the seventeenth century, not all of them willingly. Black market trafficking of children, men, and women took place, and orphans and convicts continued to be transported. War captives from the English Civil War, mostly Scots, were also forcibly emigrated. Most servants' contracts were sold on the docks or the ships. Conditions were not as bad as previously, but the climate and work regimen still killed huge numbers, and few ever lived to an old enough age to gain their freedom.
But then most people didn't live to be very old anyway. Infant mortality was at 30%. Even those who survived into adulthood typically only lived into their 40s. Understandably, this made population growth slow, even with the continuous influx from England. As word got back to England of the toil and declining numbers of servants becoming free and acquiring their own land, the flow of servants slowed.
Thus enters the Original Sin of the United States: African slavery. Black labor was very ancillary at first, importation random and casual. Some got their freedom and property just like white servants, but this was not terribly common and they were subject to harassment, their status limited and tenuous. As they did not have contracts, even the very theoretical "implied" kind that some white servants, such as transported orphans, had, they were bound for life. Black simply meant inferior; their skin color itself proclaimed this. Slave, which had been a general epithet, became a very specific term revolving around forced black labor. And along with a specified term came codified legal definitions and ever-tightening regulations. There was no real moral objection to slavery; the English decried "barbarism" but their world was more brutish in general, so their threshold was much, much higher than ours. And slavery had a long and venerable history behind it. More than anything, slavery was useful to the labor-hungry planters, so they set to tailoring it for maximal benefit to themselves.
In the end, in both colonies [Virginia and Maryland], though with less rigor in Maryland, the ultimate logic of chattel slavery was reached. Slavery would be, and would remain, a condition of unqualified, total, lifelong servitude, a form of bondage that would apply only to blacks and mulattoes, and to all blacks and mulattoes, except the very few who were legally free; and it would be heritable through matrilineal lines. Slaves would be chattel in the eyes of the law, to be dealt with, disposed of, as such, and any limitations in that status would only be matters of personal indulgence, the law being universally and fully enforced by constabulary authority where it existed, by vigilantism, by brute power.
There was logic but no prior design in the development of this barbarous system of human debasement, nor had it been inherited for borrowed from abroad. It had been devised in the course of three generations by ambitious planters and merchants in the Chesapeake colonies desperate for profits, familiar with human degradation, and freed from moral scruples by their deep, pervasive racism (179).The planters who created and exploited this system were the new ruling class, an amalgam of the self-made first generation survivors, men of lower birth, but ambitious, shrewd, and practical enough to survive and thrive in a harsh frontier world, and later immigrants of elevated status, mostly younger sons of gentility but no inheritance. Like all aristocracies, they quickly created a complex web of kinship with one another, where it didn't already exist from England. "Thus the Chesapeake settlements, once the scene of squalor, murderous race warfare, and desperate, often brutal, efforts to recruit and effective labor force, had acquired a degree of stability as an agricultural production center, and the beginnings of a settled aristocracy of landowners, merchants, and large-scale tobacco planters" (190).
The Netherlands of the 17th century was a melting pot, a cosmopolitan melange of toleration and entrepreneurial spirit in the midst of a Golden Age. It actually received many immigrants itself, refugees escaping religious persecution elsewhere in Europe, as well as migrant workers looking for well-paying jobs and the steady stream of foreign mercenaries needed to fuel the Dutch army and navy. But many of these immigrants did not stay. "For thousands of North Europeans, the Dutch republic proved to be a transit center for secondary and tertiary migration" (194). Some of them went on to the New World to found New Netherland, the areas north of the Chesapeake, particularly in the Hudson River valley.
Most of Dutch colonial energy was focused East, with the famous Dutch East India Company, but searching for a route to the Far East via the legendary Northwest Passage, caused Henry Hudson to find his eponymous river and begin Dutch interest in North America. This interest was mostly founded in the fur trade, which was initially random, scattered, and very profitable. But soon the Dutch West India Company (DWIC), a "hydra-headed commercial-military machine" (195), formed to muscle in on Spanish and Portugese Atlantic power and mostly concentrated on the Caribbean, Brazil, and Africa, began North American settlement, almost as an afterthought. It was and remained a minor part of Dutch interests, and much more commercial than colonial. It was the commercial considerations that really drove the Dutch to begin any settlement in North America. Having a colonial presence created concrete claim to the area for commercial exploitation.
The first "Dutch" settlers were, however, actually French Protestants and Walloons, among the many religious refugees that had found refuge in the Netherlands. These were families and artisans, but most of settlers were, as in Virginia, adventurous men, ruffians and disreputable. Also as in the Chesapeake, the recruitment of settlers was difficult, and the quality of settlers was generally low. The Dutch were generally rich, prosperous, and happy in their own land. Refugees and criminals, multiethnic and multidenominational, were thus the main sources of settlers. The patroon system, where huge land grants were given to investors who then retained feudal power within their domain and the right to exploit it as they saw fit for profit as long as they gave the DWIC a cut was one, largely unsuccessful, attempt to spur settlement, since the patroons had to bring over a certain number of settlers to make good their claim. Even when more settlers did arrive, as the DWIC loosened its trade monopolies and opened up further opportunities, it was a hodgepodge lot. By 1641, "men of eighteen different languages" (217) and denominations from Catholic to Puritan, Lutheran to Anabaptist and Mennonite, lived in New Netherland. The English began moving down from New England to the lower Hudson and Long Island (much of which was disputed territory that the English felt they owned) already in 1639. Still, by the time Peter Stuyvesant arrived in 1647, Manhattan was small, crude, dirty, and full of drunks.
The leadership of the New Netherland was incompetent, ineffectual, or just amazingly and maddeningly quarrelsome. As the English Chesapeake showed, rough settlements with lots of strange people jostling together are inherently hard to govern. But the Dutch leaders, both homegrown and Company-assigned, seem the biggest bunch of petty hotheads around, constantly battling, bawling, and tattling back to Amsterdam. And the Company men were of a supremely autocratic bent that did not endear them to the unruly settlers. Both English and Dutch settlers, with traditions of representation, bristled at their lack of autonomy and representation and began to question the legitimacy of the Company government.
The Dutch had no interest in ruling Indians. They wanted trade and to keep neutral in inter-tribal politics. But of course, as ever, this didn't make for smooth relations. An expanding population and its attendant influx of disruptive cattle and pigs who encroached on Indian land with their grazing, soured relations and led to a series of barbarous raids and counterraids in the early 1640s. In the years after, Indian relations remained touchy and volatile, though relatively peaceful. But the issues at the heart of it (like the pigs and cattle) were never really addressed, and the Dutch evinced little understanding of or sympathy with the Indians. Thus, violence continued.
As with all the colonies, slavery came with Dutch settlement. The Brazilian colony relied on slaves for sugar production, and about 31,000 were eventually imported. In North America, though, slavery, as in Virginia, was limited and haphazard until the late 1650s. In 1655, the first real slave trading ships arrived in New Amsterdam. Between 1660 and 1664, 400 slaves were shipped into New Amsterdam, though most were shipped on to the Caribbean and the Chesapeake. But some remained, and the population of slaves by 1655 was 150, and between 1664 and 1675 the black populations was 375, 75 of whom were free, a full 20-25% of the city's population and 4% of the colony's. But slavery was slightly different in the Dutch colony. Blacks were still considered "different and inferior" (259), but they had many more rights than in the South. They could testify, own personal property, marry, and receive money for extracurricular work. Many actually did receive freedom for their service, and many were granted "half-freedom," where they were allowed to do as they will in return for a payment to the Company and work on demand. There was not the anxiety or the need to create strict regulations and legal definitions of slavery as in the South.
In the Anglo-Dutch Wars, which would eventually see New Netherland become New York, New Netherland suddenly became more strategically important because it lay between Britain's American holding. There was a renewed effort to encourage emigration, and between 1657 and 1664, 4,000 overseas immigrants and 2,000 New Englanders swelled the total population to 9,000. In this period, the colony finally began to stabilize. The new immigrants were young families, not single men-adventurers. There was great amounts of intermarriage between ethnic groups. Dutch became the accepted lingua franca. New Amsterdam had grown and improved, becoming a vital port hub on the Atlantic. A new merchant elite dominated the city, many self-made men "in origins very ordinary folks" (263). There was hardly any Company influence. This densely interconnected (through marriage, patronage, and commercial interests) elite would easily transition to English rule.
When the English took over New Netherland in 1664, they also absorbed the tiny New Swede, a thin sprinkling along the Delware River of Swedes, Finns, and others, that New Netherland had absorbed almost a decade earlier.
Sweden in the seventeenth century was not a social democratic utopia of healthy blonde people and neutrality, but a major European power with a Baltic empire. With that power came ambition and a national drive to go forth and expand, into Finland and Lappland in their backyard, and into... the Delaware Valley clear across the Atlantic. But it was at least as much a Dutch venture, backed by merchants, as a Swedish one.
Eleven expeditions were sent to the Delware between 1637 and 1655, but the 400 settlers were largely abandoned to their own devices. As has everywhere else, recruitment was a problem. Deserters, poachers, and debtors were some of the high-quality people sent there. Small groups of Dutch and English popped up to form their own settlements. The Dutch under Stuyvesant, even before the takeover by New Netherland, sent settlers to the region and constructed their own fort on Swedish territory, without any violent altercation.
Conditions in the colony became intolerable. Desertion to Maryland was common, and there was a small rebellion against the harsh governor. But after a change of regime, the new governor ousted the Dutch fort (which would lead to trouble later), attracted several hundred new settlers, renewed confidence in government and forestalled the desertions, and generally made New Sweden a coherent colony, just in time for the Dutch to swoop in and take it all over. In the summer of 1655, after several months of sieges and plunder, New Sweden surrendered and was absorbed by New Netherland.
Though the Dutch were now in charge, communication being what it was, Swedish ships and settlers continued to arrive for some time. Many of these settlers were Finns. The Finns, who were 40% of the population by 1655, were a group strangely well-adapted to frontier life. In a way, they invented it, so far as America is concerned. But then they'd been doing it in sub-Arctic Sweden and Finland for centuries. They were nomadic hunters, gatherers, fishers, and slash-and-burn agriculturalists. They were a marginal people adapted to a marginal living, with big log cabins (perhaps their greatest contribution to American history). The woodlands of New Sweden, with plenty of room for their farming methods, fur trade, light central control, and natives with familiar ways were perfect for them. They were
free-spirited, boisterous, alcohol-guzzling, party-loving backwoods folk, capable of prodigious feats, bravery, foolhardiness, violence, and sundry foul deeds....Central authority and law rarely enter [into it].In other words, they were libertarian hillbillies. And ain't that America?
The Dutch takeover saw a slight population boom. By the time New Netherland was in turn conquered by the English, things were on the upswing, with about a thousand inhabitants in New Sweden.
As a native and inhabitant of the Delaware Valley, right down the road from Swedesboro, the story of New Sweden was of particular interest to me. In fact, just the other day, I was in Philadelphia with my family, and we drove by a historical marker for the mill constructed by the governor of New Sweden, the first in the area.
And now, New England. Or, as I like to call it, in terms of colonial history, the Land of the Nerdy Spoilsports.
The Pilgrims were Separatists look for "pristine Christianity" (323) away from any ecclesiastical authority, and, frankly, most other Christians. The Plymouth congregation started in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. They escaped to Leiden in the Netherlands and, for a time, lived in "peace and love and holiness" (325). But many of the Pilgrims were poor and failed to prosper in the Netherlands. There were clashes with Dutch churches, and the cosmopolitan world of the Netherlands provided great temptation to the community, especially the kids. It was decided, then, to immigrate somewhere more isolated, away from the temptations of the world. Several locations were considered, but New England was finally decided to be best. They were well aware of the dangers and difficulties, but decided to go ahead with God's help.
So they boarded the Mayflower and set off towards Thanksgiving. But the Pilgrims were a minority on the Mayflower. Only 44 of 102 passengers were part of the congregation. The merchant backers of the venture sent with them servants and workmen who did not share the Pilgrims' beliefs. After a hard voyage and a nonprepossessing landing, the Mayflower Compact, though often seen as a precursor of sorts of the Constitution, was signed "only [in] an effort to unite and direct to the public good the energies of the colony's diverse population" (335) and only said everyone would obey the laws the to-be-formed government enacted.
Weakened already from the voyage, cold and disease brought death to the Pilgrims. Of the bare 50 who survived, only a few were actually healthy. But even after surviving that, the colony grew slowly. Only a few ships came over the next decade, bringing more and more "profane" people and their corruptions. The non-Pilgrims caused trouble, but the backers, more interested in profit, sent more and more of them. The remainders of the Leiden community were essentially marooned for ten years after the initial arrival, as they were unprofitable to ship over. Plymouth was quickly eclipsed by the much more energetic and rapidly growing Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north.
The Pilgrims' problems were not merely external threats from Massachusetts or the godless among them. They were never really able to find a suitable religious leader for their community. William Bradford was a strong lay voice, but no preachers seemed to work. Social conflict and crime were surprisingly common. As the colony spread out with new congregations, the dispersion of the population led to a loss of cohesion in the whole movement. What might have worked in a small religious commune didn't work in a larger, diffuse settlement. And really the Pilgrims had wanted just such a small, insular commune, but economic pressures and the realities of frontier existence did not allow that. Though emigration from Leiden and other places basically ended in the 1630s, rapid natural population growth and a steady trickle of people south from Massachusetts Bay brought the population from 300 in 1630 to 1,000 in 1640 to 1500 in 1650, and 2000 in 1660. Infant mortality was "low" (only 25%) and life expectancy higher.
But the impact of the Massachusetts Puritans on New England, and America, was exponentially more important than the fairly marginal Plymouth. Though their theology was similar to that of the Pilgrims, their aims and mindset were totally different. Plymouth was, at least in aim, a religious retreat from the world, modest and insular. The Puritans, though, were insanely ambitious. They didn't want to retreat from the world, they wanted to change it.
The Great Migration, driven by the economic depression and Bishop Laud's campaign of religious repression to stomp out the many streams of nonconformity in the Church of England, which radicalized and coalesced the Puritan movement, of Bishop Laudwould see thousands of Puritans come to New England. Though the Puritan movement was led by deeply religious people, it also entailed many who were more or less religiously inclined, but were also looking for economic opportunity. Unlike every migration we've seen in the book, the "Puritans' exodus was concerted, collectively purposeful, and coherent" (367). The population explosion compared to the mostly slow growth of the other colonies was shocking. The population was 11,000 in ten years. Many emigrated in ministerial "companies," but most in geographical and family units. Young nuclear families were central to the whole migration, though still many unattached young men, especially servants. The whole group was incredibly well-educated, especially among the clergy. It was these godly, well-educated gentlemen, not hereditary nobility, who would dominate the colony.
The preachers who fled England were were a particularly tough and uncompromising lot steeled by their travails, which would lead to conflict as their differences in theology that the repression of Laud had tamped down in favor of unity began to surface. Conflicting religious impulses, especially the personal, inner-focused Spritism of John Cotton and the more institutional strain of Thomas Hooker, as well as a variety of lesser-known movements, each with its own preacher(s), were fault-lines running through Puritanism. And the civil leadership was as diverse and contentious as the preachers. John Winthrop Sr. represented charity, community, wholeness, "leniency," "moderation," and consensus. His son, John Jr., was more tolerant, wordly, and committed to general human advancement. Thomas Dudley, on the other hand, was rigid, abrasive, assertive, and argumentative, a "precisionist" (405). Then there were the prosperous tradesman, such as the Hutchinsons, Robert Keayne, John Endecott, and Roger Ludlow, who were ambitious, energetic, and annoying.
The Puritans spread out almost immediately, founding new towns at a great clip. The population was constantly shifting as dissidents moved to their own towns, and non-Puritan servants who served out their terms moved to find their own opportunities. The great home-regional variation of the colonists served as another source of friction, as the various areas of England had their own dialects, customs, and, more importantly, land use traditions that often grew into legal battles over apportionment and boundaries. Over time, the regional variations tended to meld together into a new, hybrid form, but the conflict it engendered persisted for decades in some places.
But the competing zeals of the believers in various movements within Puritanism was the main source of contention. There was Roger Williams (see prior posts on The Wordy Shipmates) in all his maddening self-confidence, annoying everyone with his adherence to principle and theological and philosophical consistency. He was so dangerous because he was so respectable, so sincere, so right in his taking Puritan propositions to their logical and often inconvenient conclusions. "He was one of them [the Puritan elite]--well educated, well connected, and rational" (435).
In contrast to Williams stood Samuel Gorton, who was not rational, educated, or part of the Puritan elite. He was antiauthoritarian and anticlerical, advocating a more personal religion. In his view, all could preach, even women, if they were with God, and an educated clergy were totally unnecessary. He believed in the direct experience of the Holy Spirit, not mediation through clergy. No wonder he was hounded from place to place, even among other dissidents and in dissident-central Rhode Island, then exiled back to England (though he did eventually settle permanently in Rhode Island later).
The real, bitter, lasting struggle was between Cotton and Hooker. It went back to the fundamental view of the role of the clergy in redemption, a battle regarding "The correct priority between justification and sanctification--that is, direct, inner assurance of salvation or the articulated process of striving, which involved belief, personal sanctity, theological correctness, and the church's ministrations" (450). This "Antinomian Controversy", of which the Ann Hutchinson case is the most famous incident (see, again, The Wordy Shipmates posts), was a fundamental, and to the participants literal, struggle for the soul of Puritan New England. The bloody, brutal, genocidal Pequot War was seen as a just one part of this religious controversy. Cotton eventually deserted the dissidents, but the authorities were still greatly frightened of their threat. As Hutchinson and others of the group were tried, the fear of rebellion was so great that the government ordered people to surrender their guns and outlawed the any criticism of the government. (A reminder, perhaps, that the Constitution and the freedoms we take for granted were not just waiting on the shores of the East Coast when the settlers arrived here.) Eventually, the dissidents either made a reconciliation with the establishment or left, mostly for Rhode Island. But many women, in particular, were prosecuted, exiled, publicly whipped, and imprisoned.
Even after the crisis had passed, and though a kind of orthodoxy in New England Congregationalism created by the 1648 Cambridge Platform, there was never any real tranquility within Puritanism, with its competing strains and impulses. And then those damn oatmeal-peddling Quakers started showing up! They were the antithesis of the "rational, Biblicist, clerical Protestantism" Puritans represented (461). They were anticlerical, antiscriptural proponents of unstructured worship and radical egalitarianism. For many of the more radical Puritans, though, they were immensely attractive. Repressive measures were imposed, including whippings, jailings, and exiles. Eventually, the exiles were threatened with banishment on pain of death if they returned. After 1674, upon orders from Restoration England, Quakers had a meetinghouse in Boston itself.
The victory of the Puritan cause, at least for a time, in the English Civil War, paradoxically represented another major source of tension. Almost at once, the Great Migration stopped. In fact, some went back, many of them of the well-educated and clerical classes. After 1640, economic hard times set in, and all the schemes to help the economy failed, often due to the lack of toleration of the Puritan government. A group led by merchants wrote to London, criticizing the colony's restrictions of freedom, the limitation of offices and the vote to church members, and the religious restrictions. Of course, the establishment fired back with refutations and then legal persecution.
The establishment eventually won their case in London, but their time was limited. Commercial concerns overtook the next generation. The West Indian trade became the chief engine of New England's economy, with slaves, fish, and farm products as the commodities. Kin networks then connected the trade to the larger Atlantic networks. This trade grew ports such as Boston and Salem and challenged strict Puritan hegemony. Merchants began siding with the dissidents against the magistrates. And the generational shift from the dying out of the first generation of colonists in the 1650s and 1660s wrought great change. Religious ardor cooled, and trade increased.
By 1675, British America was firmly established. The people in it...
...lived conflicted lives, beset with conflicts experienced, rumored, or recalled--unrelenting racial conflicts, ferocious and savage; religious conflicts, as bitter within as between confessions; conflicts with authority, private and public; recurrent conflicts over property rights, legal obligations, and status; and conflicts created by the slow emergence of vernacular cultures, blendings of disparate subcultures adjusting to the demands of heightened aspirations and local circumstance (497).The savagery of 16th and 17th century European war (see the Thirty Years' War, for example) was carried on in America versus the Indians. Only the Dutch really even bothered to think about the morality of this, but it didn't stop them. "By 1664, the Indians' world in coastal North America had been utterly transformed, their lifeways disrupted and permanently distorted" (500). Even in the interior, away from direct contact with Europeans, change was felt. Tribal wars, migrations, the emergence of new groups made up of surviving fragments of tribes who succumbed to disease and conflict, religious strife, and the alteration and disruption of custom was felt everywhere.
For the Europeans, even as civil society grew, there was anxiety and brutality. All colonial authorities were challenged and insecure compared to the traditional authorities in Europe. In the Chesapeake, servant relations were brutal and violent, leading to uprisings and the switch to slavery and the system of white supremacy to keep the growing numbers of poor, white freedmen docile. New Netherland was volatile from all the friction of its diversity. The English takeover actually engendered a growing feeling of "Dutchness" in those already there, and tension between the English minority and the Dutch majority. New England was riven by dissension over religion, land, and the busybodying of Puritan village life. Slowly, though, the different regional English cultures merged, amidst an explosive amount of population growth. Without the benefit of major amounts of immigration, the New England population doubled every 27 years. The region grew more parochial, however, fixated on its own concerns, all the grimness of the Puritans but with little of their world-shaking ambitious spirit.
But for all the diversity and division in the British colonies, these British Americans were bound in a greater Atlantic world, on the edge of "barbarity" and "civilization," a new chapter in human affairs that would have consequences far beyond anything they or anyone at the time could imagine.
In my library, The Barbarous Years is best directly comparable to American Colonies, though narrower chronology and geography and deeper in detail. Though perhaps not as witty as American Colonies, or quite the jaw-dropping achievement that American Colonies is as a magisterial survey, it is just as erudite, well-written, clear, and enjoyable. Bailyn has studied this topic for years, and it shows in his deep knowledge and meticulous sourcing.
Despite the incredible length and verbosity of this review, I in no way cover all that is in this study, from demographic statistics to fascinating people like Margaret Brent, Margaret Broenheok, Pieter Plockhoy, and Robert Keayne. Nor can I convey how interesting Bailyn manages to make things like the fine distinctions of Puritan theology, a significant feat in and of itself.
The paper, as always an obsession of mine, is a wonderful smooth, heavy kind, with a wonderful scent.
I most highly applaud and recommend The Barbarous Years for anyone interested in colonial American history and the origins of our nation. It is an epitome of rigorous popular scholarship and well worth the reading.