The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! and the Spanish Missionaries too

In Chapter 19, Taylor discusses the colonization in western America, mainly Alaska and California. The Spanish missionary work in California is more popular than the Russian colonization and trade efforts in Alaska. The Russian expeditions and treatment of the natives interested me. In 1741 Chirikov and Bering discovered Alaska, but Chirikov was quickly run off by natives, returning to Russia (Taylor, p. 448). Bering and his crew barely survived the winter on an island in the Bering Sea (p. 448). Bering was able to bring back sea otter pelts, which became the catalyst of Russian interest in America. Russians began hunting seals, sea otters, sea lions, and foxes. The promyshlenniki treated the natives horribly. They held the women and children as ransom until the Aleut men brought back a sufficient amount of fur (p. 451). The women and children would then be released back (p.451). It was a system of “forced commerce (p.451).” Women were often used as sex slaves during captivity only adding more fuel to the anger of the natives (p.451). The Aleuts on Umnak and Unalaska revolted, but the Russians retaliated and destroyed 18 villages (p.451). In the 1780s Shelikhov “tried to control, regulate, and reorganize the chaotic and destructive exploitation of the sea otter and the Aleut (p. 452).” Shelikhov did reduce the rape of women and increase the payment for pelts, he still used the forced commerce practice as did the promyshlenniki (p.452). The Aleuts were quickly depopulated due to “hunger, new diseases, labor exploitation, and violent retribution (p. 452).”  Even though the Russians had a goal more similar to the French, I think the treatment of the natives by the Russians would have created a legend similar to the Black Legend in other parts of America.

False rumors of the rate of Russian and British colonization caused the Spanish to panic and colonize California. The Spanish colonization in California was primarily a mission expedition. By claiming that the missions benefited the natives, the Spanish took the land without any formal purchase (p.459).  The growth of colonies was stunted by the lack of an overland route from Sonora to the San Gabriel mission. Some emigration did occur with the discovery of a route, but the Spanish broke their promises to the natives at the critical Yuma crossing. The Spanish took over fields for livestock, raped native women, and whipped the men who protested (p. 459). The natives eventually revolted, permanently closing of the crossing at the Yuma crossing. The emigration to the California colony was again halted.

Although the missions were more popular and successful in converting the natives than in Mexico, the corruption was still present, perhaps to a lesser degree. The neophytes had to work long hours at a steep pace. They were punished if they resisted. Many neophytes died rapidly due to disease and intense labor. The Spanish were able to sustain a mission-centered colony in California despite the high rate of native death and lack of emigration. Taylor describes the Spanish colonization in California well, but I wish he would have made the distinction between how the priests, soldiers, and colonists treated the natives instead of bundling them all under the ‘Spanish.’

In week 2 @JANEWTON made a point to recognize that “there were varying levels of violence, peaceful interaction with natives, trade, implementation of religion, etc with almost every European nation that attempted to colonize the land.” I believe that in chapter 19 Taylor made a point to include the Russians to further emphasize the differences in colonization. The Spanish missionaries in California serve as an example to remind us that each colony was different even if it was controlled by the same country.

Frontier Disputes Between French Indians and British

At the beginning of Chapter 18 of American Colonies, Taylor describes the Seven Years War.  As a background, Taylor explains how the fight for Indian alliances tore the North American settlements apart—especially the British and the French. After the conquer of Louisburg by British colonists, the French immediately proceeded to build “tow new forts at the head of the bay of Fundy to hem in Nova Scotia to the west” (428). Britain then saw this movement as well as French movement in the frontier in Ohio as an encroachment upon their territory, which ultimately led to small skirmishes in the Ohio territory (429). Retaliation by both sides led to what is now known as the Seven Years War. After a few British defeats (Washington, and Braddock) Britain launched a full scale attack on the French (under the leadership of Montcalm) with “45,000 troops” and eventually captured Quebec from the French causing them to surrender.
Now, both Jennifer and Sylvia both thought that Taylor’s account of the economic and geographical disputes between France and Britian, as a pre cursor to the war were “overwhelmingly negative [in the] view of the British.” I tend to disagree with this statement, although I understand why it may seem this way. Taylor provides several primary sources to account for this dispute between countries, some of which are Indians (somewhat neutral POV)(426-427). I think that Taylor may simply be embodying the tone of British colonists—one of disrespect and distrust of foreigners.  As Taylor explains the British so vastly out numbered the French, it became hard to have an incentive to be amiable to the Indians or the French. Thus, Taylor rightly accuses the British. Overall, though Taylor would benefit from having a more neutral stance, by further explaining the French side, to prove his point about the instigations and negative points of the British.

Religious Passion in the North, Religious Apathy in the South, and Witchcraft

A major theme of this week’s reading is the spread of religious fervor in the New England and Mid-Atlantic areas throughout the 18th century and its impact on colonial life. Although previous religious movements had taken place all over the world, the one in the British Colonies is unique. Rather than spreading across the entire east coast, the Awakening was confined to areas where places of worship and people were closer together and overall, more likely to interact. While the Northern people were captivated by the speeches of George Whitefield and the pamphlets and papers distributed by people like Benjamin Franklin, Southern people were noticeably less moved. Communities in the South were much more spread out, which made spreading the religious movement throughout the region an extremely difficult task. This movement was also original because it involved people forming many different strands of a religious belief. Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists each separated from Protestantism yet all of them remained connected because they all had branched off of Catholicism. Rather than the groups becoming homogenized with each other they became homogenized against the British homeland, which is what makes the Great Awakening so revolutionary.
Taylor depicts the Great Awakening’s appeal to Northern people most effectively through primary sources. Benjamin Franklin’s refusal to donate money followed by his sudden willingness to empty his pockets (348) along with Nathan Cole’s recollection of a “heart wound” (349) were both extremely helpful in demonstrating the power that orators held over colonists who were both educated and uneducated. Massachusetts Reverend Peter Thacher’s account of the newfound appreciation and involvement in religion by males also strengthens Taylor’s argument of a formidable religious presence in the North and religious indifference in the South. Although succinctly, Taylor does an exceptional job explaining why speakers like Whitefield did not experience the level of success in the South as he did in the North.
In conclusion, I would like to comment on the ongoing debate over whether or not the Great Awakening in colonial New England and the witch hunts of the late 17th century have a cause-and-effect relationship. As my classmate Amgaither pointed out, the New England area was composed of more educated, community oriented, and religiously active people. These factors primed the area for such momentous religious occurrences in both cases but one did not cause the other.

The Verbal Worship of the British Empire by Taylor

The Chapter 18 reading of American Colonies presents an alternative view of the New World. Whereas up until this point Taylor has described the New World in terms of settlement and development of political structures and economic systems, he now describes it as a battlefield to set the stage for the seven years war. He opens the history of war in the 18th century by stating that, despite having a well-funded army in the area, the French managed to lose a fortress at Louisberg to what was essentially a New English militia. After initial battles, both the French and the British realized that they needed to pay more attention to the New World as a theatre for warfare. However, as both colonial areas developed into the mid 18th century, population dynamics shifted so that the British found themselves at a massive advantage. They enjoyed areas of centralized, high density population, whereas the French found themselves dispersed along hundreds of miles of land that frankly was unsustainable and nobody could really live on. This lead to a particular point where Taylor refers to the French as “more restrained and civil” during the seven years war.




He goes on to explain himself by stating that since the French had such a dispersed population, they knew that the only way to win the seven years war was to gain the help of the Indian population, and become their puppeteers so that the Indian nations between the French and British Borders would die for the French. I completely agree with Jelaws post stating that The British, in this and several other instances, are painted in far too kind a light.


However, this does not excuse the indignation of the colonists that is described in later chapters. In exchange for fighting for and successfully defending the colonies, The British began to raise taxes on the colonists that were minuscule compared to taxes in England, and extremely affordable in the economy of the New World. However, the Colonists believed that they were being oppressed by their mother country because they were being asked to pay in VERY small part for a war which the British fought for them. Taylor describes the taxes being viewed as an “attack on liberty”, but, as always, in reality there is always a much more simple and pragmatic cause for government actions. Like trying to pay for two imperial wars at once.



She’s A Witch…. Maybe.

The idea of witches is a relatively familiar topic in our society. From Harry Potter to Halloween the idea of witches in commonplace in novels and particularly around October. However, looking at real, actual, tangible history, witchcraft still rears its ugly head. The Salem witch trials are a common studied event in American History classes. It seems odd to me that these events would even happen and that they would continue to make their way into history books all the way up to present day. Let’s examine these two phenomena:

First off, why would these events even happen in the first place? Like many of my classmates, I believe that there was distinct relationship between the rise of evangelical beliefs and practices and the rise of witchcraft. However, Sherwood asked an interesting question of correlation or causation. While I agree that some sort of causal relationship was present, the “Mean Girls theory” is something I think should be considered. From what we know of that time, living in New England in the 17th Century was not very exciting. It is not farfetched to assume that some women got bored and created a conspiracy that spread like wildfire. The once it went too far the girls realized that could not take it back. If your life had been dull and dreary who wouldn’t have jumped on the witchcraft bandwagon, or broomstick if you will.

Furthermore, the idea of witchcraft is fun, exciting, and captivating. That is why it makes it into the history books. However, there is definitely history to it. Religion in the colonies was at a crossroads when the witch bug hit. A revival of religion was necessary to keep religion buzzing and alive. Nothing proved a fire and brimstone preacher’s point more than the devil alive through sin in a witch in the community. The witches served as a solid real life testament to the devil’s work in the world. For the people of Salem and elsewhere, this made religion all the more personal and real.

There in lies, for me, the answer to Sherwood’s original question. There was most definitely a connection between the religious goings on of the time. However, It could be a product of a few girls’ imaginations or even possibly a scheme brought about by the church. There are numerous possibilities, and I would suggest that it was more likely causation than correlation. Yet, in this case, hindsight is not twenty-twenty but rather shaded by speculation, or possibly witchcraft.

Harry Potter vs. Calvin’s Army

The more I study the Witch Trials of the 17th century, the more questions I have about the cause and effect of the trials themselves. Many different aspects of the culture could have easily affected the witch hunts, including, the religious, social, and political life of the colonial town. Although I think that there were social factors in the trials, ( I think that the religious aspect had the greatest effect on the trials. Religious motivation led to susceptibility of finding guilt in the accused, and this caused more accusations against anyone who opposed the accuser. I like that the essays use links to credit their sources, but I feel like links affected the writers by not explaining their sources as much as they would have in a print essay. When Norton alluded to the study of Ergot and its possible effects on the health condition on  the ‘afflicted’, I wish she would have explained the validity of the evidence in the study, rather than leaving the reader to find out for his or herself.

For the most part, I think that Taylor’s analysis of the Great Awakening is very subjective. I wish he would have talked about Edwards more, but that’s little more than an opinion. I think that Edwards had great impact on the awakening, and therefore deserved a little more attention. I did not know that the Great Awakening had a much greater effect in the northern and middle colonies, and did not greatly affect the southern colonies. I like and agree with Taylor’s analysis of the Old Light versus the New Light and the beginnings of Christian Rationalism, but I definitely think that he could have talked about the genesis of Christian Rationalism in greater depth. I ultimately agree with his main argument that the Great Awakening created a desire throughout the colonies for the religious groups to “transcend the world” (362), which grew the idea of differentiation from the British.


Death and Divides: From Religion to War

I think that an interesting connection can be made between the Great Awakening and the content of the second reading (American Colonies, ch 18). AJ said in his post, ” it was becoming clear that the British would dominate the majority of the North America region of the New World,” referring to the British victory over the French and Indians. I find this ironic, because as we know, the end of the Seven Years War is often seen as the beginning of the revolution. The war actually renewed long-waning British involvement in the colonies, and the tightening hold of the British government post-war made colonists realize that they had become their own entity, separate from British rule. This concept, which Taylor invokes in his introduction to the chapter, referencing “shift in imperial policy” as “shocking” to the colonists (421), can be linked back to Chapter 15 in Taylor, in which he discusses the Great Awakening.

The Great Awakening was very complex, and as we discussed in class, there are many different derivations of Protestants beyond that, Evangelists. We could go into even more detail and discuss the differences between Old Light and New Light Evangelists, but my point is this: they’re all the same to the British government–not Anglican. Taylor discusses the misreading of American history as a quest for religious freedom (339), but it is important to note that these separate religious institutions represent a more fundamental split from the British government than the original Protestant/Puritan one. The extent of the multifaceted religious life in colonial America serves to indicate that ties and times were changing long before 1776.

Evangelism vs. Rationalism

The nature of religion in New England was extremely harsh since the settling of the Puritans. It was only a matter of time before the people adopted changes in their idea of the nature of God to give themselves some peace of mind. New England was described as “conspicuously devout and religiously homogeneous” (Taylor 340) and their rigid societal expectations regarding religion could have made it seem from the outside that people were compliant and content, but there was certainly a great deal of fear and upset within individuals who craved a more loving relationship with their God. However, as Anburton mentions, leaders of the churches wanted to perpetuate this fear because they “could easily take advantage of this fear in their sermon. They could use it to not only add members to their church, but to strengthen the congregation’s devotion.” ( Anburton

How long could they go about believing that their God is something to be feared rather than loved?  It was an unsustainable model. It’s no surprise that the decline of full membership of evangelical establishments was attributed to the growth of rationalism in other sects(Taylor 343-344). Rationalists looked to a more natural explanation of the universe, thus making God seem “less terrifying (Taylor 344). I appreciate how Taylor makes the appeal of rationalism quite understandable, which makes it easy to account for such a shift in thought.

The surge of rationalism created an entirely different perspective regarding how tragedy occur without having to attribute it to either a harsh and unforgiving Calvinist God or, in earlier times, witchcraft. It makes perfect sense that eventually the focus shifted from believing actions were controlled by the devil or arbitrarily decided by a punishing God to a more laissez-faire type mindset that the natural world was created by God, and that mishaps were not “direct interventions of divine anger” (Taylor 344).

Witchcraft Effected More than just the Colonists

While the recent blog posts make a compelling argument for the comparison of how the rise of evangelicalism influenced the witch-hunt trials in the years to come; a comparison I find more interesting is the fear of witchcraft between both the colonists and the Indians.

Witchcraft was something that took many of the colonists, mainly those in New England, by storm. The accusations and persecutions of those believed to be witches occurred significantly in the late seventeenth century. Fear led to accusations of any behavior that was remotely out of the ordinary and this led to a period where the colonists’ lives were consumed by the idea of witches that ran rampant. Yet, were the colonists the only ones affected by the idea of witchcraft?
After this week’s reading I felt compelled to write about a various aspect that stems from the collection of essays on American witch trials. Something that struck me was the undeniable similarity between the colonists’ and Indians’ beliefs in witchcraft. Although this may have not been a central argument to the essay it was definitely something that intrigued me and I felt the need to address it. Not only was it a matter of just believing in the presence of witchcraft but the certain reasons to believe in it and how certain accusations were carried out.

For so long the common conception was that the natives and the colonists were so very different. In fact, the colonists went as far as to call the Indians “savages” based on their lifestyles that varied from those of the colonists. Yet one thing that the colonists shared with these “savages” was their belief and fear of witchcraft. This concept or idea pertains to the essay titled American Indians, Witchcraft, and Witch-hunting. In this it is seen how the Indians, most specifically the Iroquois tribe, feared witches and often associated sickness with witchcraft. This is a practice that is carried out by the colonists as seen in the various other essays. Much of the time when someone would die of a simple cold or various illness the colonists were quick to blame witches and their practice of witchcraft. Much of this blame was due in part to the fact that during this time medicine was not very advanced and when a random death would occur the colonists didn’t know how to diagnose it other than it was an act of witchcraft.

Therefore, the colonists and Indians shared this fear of witchcraft and it was a big part of their lives for a short period of time where fears escalated as the popularity of this idea grew. This similarity between the colonists and the Indians is one among others and leaves me wondering how similar were these “savages” and colonists?

An American Identity Rooted in Religious Revival

To explain the difficulty colonies had finding official ministers, Chris stated in his most recent post, “Costly and time-consuming, I assume that many priests either lacked the funding or didn’t want to risk the long journey.” I definitely agree with Chris and would like to add that the colonists did not really try to train new ministers in America either. Geography also contributed to the decline in full church membership, since churches were often long distances away from southern communities separated by miles and miles of farmland. Although full church membership decreased, church attendance still increased, demonstrating how religion still played a large role in the colonists’ lives.
The dwindling church membership cultivated a split between evangelicals and rationalists, between the old and the new. The evangelicals aimed to convert as many people as they possibly could, as well as revive religious fervor among the colonists in what was known as the Great Awakening. “To stimulate revivals, energetic ministers preached “soul-searching” sermons meant to shock their listeners into recognizing their impending and eternal sentence in hell” (Taylor, p. 345). Taylor emphasizes how evangelicals used fear and despair in their revivals, which were often dangerous and caused harm to the weak-hearted. It was shocking to discover some people actually resorted to suicide to escape the anguish they experienced after an evangelical revival. The fear of not attaining salvation that evangelical ministers employed in their revivals could have its origins in the witchcraft trials, which took place a few decades earlier. The New England colonists believed witches were connected to the devil, fostering this fear of hell in place of salvation.
Perhaps the greatest outcome of the Great Awakening was the large-scale dissent from traditional English Anglicanism. Some looked at America as a religious mess with all the different churches that split into different religions. Conversely, America was finally able to distinguish itself from England as a land that fostered many religions and backgrounds; I believe this religious pluralism was the beginning of a common American identity among the colonies. In the end, the Great Awakening had succeeded in reviving faith and religion in America, while fueling a revolutionary break from England that would occur a few decades later.