Out with the old in with the new

In the reading  this week I found multiple points of interest. The growth of religion in the colonies through a change in the way people preached the word of Christ is amazing to see. I’m shocked that the emotion added into preaching, through those like George Whitefield, was such a successful way of pulling in as many new followers as it did. I found it ironic that the emotion also produced a negative effect though. The fact that the revivals lead to multiple suicides from those who “sought immediately to face God” (346) doesn’t make sense to me because instead of trying to give their lives over to God or even continue living life without religion as they had before, they chose to see what their afterlife would be while thinking it was negative to start.

I also enjoyed analyzing how the new style of preaching had impact over different areas. To begin, this new style stretched all the way to England, as Whitefield began preaching in his new found voice to those on the streets and became a celebrity because of it. This man even traveled to the colonies where he was viewed as an even bigger celebrity and spread the word from Maine to Georgia changing lives all over the area. The change in style was very beneficial in the northern colonies where it pulled in many different new members and brought people towards the idea of changing their ways to give their life to God. Unfortunately the same was not accomplished in the South as it was more spread, had less places to print newspapers, and had less places to worship in comparison to the number of people. (348) The south didn’t even take Whitefield in as the other colonies when he came. The new religion even went to change people along gender lines. Many women began to view Christianity differently as they began to speak out, which was forbidden by Paul, using God’s words. (351) Some women even went as far as to ride out and spread the word of Christ which would have never happened before.

Old World Competition Comes to the New World

Taylor sets up his argument early on in the introduction the chapter eighteen. He lays down the general points of the chapter neatly such as years of important Imperial Wars between the British, Spanish, and French. He also makes a point not to ignore the Indian peoples influences and concerns involving the wars in their regions. The threat of encroachment only worsened as these wars progress and one nation’s supremacy would change the native world forever.

As tensions between European empires rose, war broke out. Different from earlier wars, now battles would take place on New World land which would greatly affect the people living there. The local colonists would be forced to take up arms to defend their land from an enemy that they personally had no quarrel with; such as the defense of Georgia in 1742 from the Spanish. Although, as mentioned by Strauss, the colonists had minor victories when treaties were created the crown stripped colonists of their spoils and created a greater rift between them. These New World conflicts would greatly change the balance of power in these regions.


As the wars progressed, it was becoming clear that the British would dominate the majority of the North America region of the New World. This worried native people because without the conflict between the foreigners the British would be able to focus their efforts on expansion. Also the Indians would take advantage of both sides conflict to push back colonists and raid their enemy camps in the neutral region. Thus many natives threw their support to the French in hopes of them maintaining a foothold in the region to give the natives a needed buffer from the British.

With the defeat of New France, the Indians no longer could get the Europeans to fight each other. Without the French, the Indians could not be competitive traders and were abused by colonial traders and the Indians lost the independence they tried to maintain. With the encroachment of settlers, traders, and missionaries, the Indians either rebelled or retreated further inland.

Witchcraft and the Religious Divide

In his latest post, Sherwood explores the possibility of a relationship between evangicalism and the witch trials of colonial New England. I agree with his conclusion that the relationship is most likely one of contribution on the part of evangicalism. The nature of the sermons at this time pertified churchgoers by evoking a sense of inpending doom and of the closeness of the devil (think of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”) which would have made the presence of witches in their communities seem more plausible. In combination with the uncertainty and turmoil of the region at this time which we discussed in class, the religious fervour could have easily led a New England colonist to see an illness or the death of an important farm animal as a result of witchcraft than of simple misfortune.

I also think that it is important to look at the effects that the outbreak of witch trials had on the development of the Great Awakening which occured several years later. In chapter 15 of American Colonies, Taylor describes the divide between evangelicals and rationalists which accompanied the proliferation of religious dominations at this time. He writes that reationalists “…rejected the supernatural mysteries and overt emotionalism of evangelical worship” (Taylor 344). Rather than seeing God’s wrath or the Devil’s work in any misfortune, the rationalists looked to science and reason. As the antithesis to evangelical thought, rationalists didn’t believe that God interfered in the world. Therefore, I contend that the witch paranoia of the late 1600s was at least partially responsible for the divide that began to form during the Great Awakening. After the flurry of convictions and executions, government officials were likely embarrassed and wanted to distance themselves from the influence of such intensely emotional religion. As a result they, and others who disapproved of the witch hunting, could have gravitated toward rationalism. In addition, the witch hunting could have been used as support against evangicalism, furthering the opposition to its spread and helping to develop the more moderate and conservative sect of the movement. The relationship between the witch trials and evangicalism is a complex one in which both the witch paranoia and evangicalism influenced the other. It is important not to overlook one’s influence on the other and I would be interested to hear what other people think about this relationship.

Leading up to the Revolution

In Chapter 18, Taylor describes the wars and subsequent effects leading up to the American Revolution. The two separate periods of conflicts before the Revolution primarily involved the British and French. The British far outnumbered the French in North America, but at the beginning the French did have one key advantage. The French developed many Indian allies that aided them in their wars against the British. Compared to the British, the French were friendlier and treated the natives with respect and as business partners. Throughout the chapter, Taylor portrays the British treatment of the natives as brutal compared to the French. I agree with Sylvia in her response to the overwhelmingly negative view of  the British in Taylor. As she stated, Taylor should not have simply given a negative view of the British, but make the “reader consider the English reasoning behind their actions.” The natives repaid the kind French with fighting tactics suitable for North American warfare. This gave the French an advantage, but the British soon caught on. The “unprecedented numbers of British troops” eventually grew too much for the French and Spanish to handle (p. 429).  British victories against the Spanish and French increased the expansion west pushing farther into Indian land. In response to the increase of colonists, the natives rebelled. The Indian rebellions in the late 1750s and early 1760s specifically in the Carolinas and Ohio Valley, increased the racial tensions already present between the colonists and the natives.

Underneath the subheading of “Imperial Crisis” Taylor describes an increased sense of pride in the colonies for being a part of the British empire. Then, he goes on to say all of the reasons the colonies began to dislike the crown. This confuses the reader. The victory in the war did increase allegiance to the crown, but Taylor explains the reasons for the Revolution as “strains initiated by winning the Seven Years War (p.438).” I think he should have made the transition from pride to a revolution clearer. Taylor is very clear in describing the strains brought on by the victory. He lists reasons ranging from no common enemy to the prosperity in the colonies causing an increase in taxes (p. 438-439).  Many of the reasons for the Revolution came as a result of the British army seeing the prosperity and disregard for British laws (Molasses Act) in the colonies during the Seven Years War. Without the Seven Years War, the colonies would have most likely continued to prosper while the oblivious Parliament continued to ignore them. Taylor points out  that the colonies had a “good deal– and they knew it (p. 442).” Many of the strains that eventually caused the Revolution were created because Parliament and the Crown finally realized how good of a deal the colonies had.

Witchcraft and Religion in the Colonies

The Salem Witch Trials have long been discussed by many historians and, no doubt, many history classes before ours. The beauty of historical analysis however, allows us to form our own opinions and voice unique thoughts either bouncing off previous theories or creating an amalgam of different thoughts. I read Sherwood’s(http://sites.davidson.edu/his141/taylor-chapter-15-norton-witchcraft-a-supernatural-inclination/) post and agree that the witch trials and evangelical movement cannot be completely independent of each other. Anyone can see the spiritual similarities and make a guess that there was correlation if not causation. In class, someone (I sadly have no idea who it was) mentioned Taylor’s point about women’s roles in societies in New England. They created networks of information that could be better identified as gossip (the same we all know and love in today’s society as well). I believe that the Salem debacle evolved from what EVFARESE (http://sites.davidson.edu/his141/author/evfarese/) described as “social warfare”. I’m not sure if this phrase is original or not but I like it. My views may be misconstrued by Hollywood’s The Crucible, but I believe the social aspect of Puritan society, mixed with a strong desire to be holy and good, started the entire unfortunate sequence of events. The girls were in small, strict towns and rarely travelled. Some might even spend an entire lifetime (if you weren’t hanged for black magic) in the same colony. In any small community, people have disputes and some simply do not get along. Whether hallucinogens acted as a catalyst or not, I believe this was in fact “social warfare” that ignited the powder keg that was evangelicals’ spiritual paranoia. Witch accusations, hangings, and mass hysteria can all be listed as results. As Sherwood mentioned, Evangelism definitely had a hand in what happened. The spiritual intensity fits like a perfect puzzle piece into the story of Salem’s witches.


*NOTE: I couldn’t find the passage from Taylor mentioned in class and was unsure how to cite someones comment in class.

Shocking Similarities and Awakening

After nearly a century on the continent, European colonists in America had gradually become more proficient in maintaining settlements in the New World and were well on their way to establishing their own nation independent of European influence. Before this could happen, the Salem Witch Trials and The Great Awakening took place, radically altering the religious and supernatural mindset of the inhabitants of the Americans before the Revolution.

In Alan Taylor’s American Colonies, he described the process of this religious revival best when he wrote “after significant lags and regional exceptions, we find a dramatic, widespread, and increasingly synchronized outburst of revival religion.” (Taylor, 339). In a sense, this rebirth of religious devotion in the 1700s has set the tone for the relatively conservative and widespread religious devotion that still exists strongly in the Unites States today.

I found it interesting how the readings were divided between Taylor’s description of The Great Awakening and the four external essays concerning the Salem Witch Trials. Much like EVFRASER, WIROBERTSON, ROMANGONE, CHMASONE and SHCALLAWAY, I too believe that the two events were absolutely interrelated. For better or for worse, religion (particularly Christianity) overtime has used scare tactics as a means of gaining support (e.g. the fear of going to Hell, natural superiority). I believe the Salem Witch Trials and the fear of being persecuted in such a harsh manner was an extension of this scare tactic in an attempt to homogenize society. In her essay “Confess or Deny? What’s a “Witch” to Do?” Elizabeth Reis writes “ministers made it perfectly clear that intimacy with Satan ended one’s chance attaining saving grace and damned one to enter an eternity in hell.” Ministers 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. By persecuting supposed witches for their supposed worship of Satan and other occult practices, churches in the Americas made it clear how they viewed those with different spiritual views, and how through their preaching they are simply trying to save them.

Finally, I found Taylor’s section on George Whitefield especially interesting. His description of him “drawing immense crowds too large for churches” (Taylor, 347) and as a “charismatic and moving speaker” (Taylor, 347) who would move across America delivering his sermon would be just as accurate in describing a notable 21st century Evangelical preacher today as it was back then. Whitefield in a sense almost set the archetype for modern-day “megapreachers” (as we call them in Canada) all the way down to their association with political figures (in Whitefield’s case it was Benjamin Franklin) and strong concern with their public image.

Revivals and Revolution

Revivals and the evangelical movement seem to be full of contradictions. They advocates for a helplessness before God and argues that the only path to salvation was through God’s bestowal of grace. Evangelists also, however, insisted that followers relied on preachers for guidance and engaged in moral behavior to be reborn. While promoting ethical lifestyles is certainly not bad, it goes against the teaching that access to heaven is not contingent upon human behavior. Contradiction is also apparent in the Baptists that dominated Southern revivals. Baptists outwardly appeared somber and restrained but also engaged in wild religious gatherings that emphasized emotions and physical touch. This contrast in different areas of evangelists’ lives and teachings was perhaps to be expected and it is hard for a movement to sustain either pure emotional enthusiasm or total somberness. Human nature requires balance, which, while offered in extremes in the evangelical revivals is what allowed this movement to create a lasting legacy.

This movement also made an impact beyond the scope of religion. As colonists separated themselves from the Anglican church, they created their own identities that were distinct from the mother country. Evangelism emphasized a direct relationship with God that did not require the formality and hierarchy required in the Anglican church. This is interesting in that the English broke with the Catholic Church, at least nominally, for many of these same reasons. Colonists developed a sense of self distinct from an identity as an English subject. While religious revival is certainly not the main cause of rebellion agains Europe nor one that people of the day would have pointed to, it can be seen as the beginnings of an American identity that leads to the strains of conflict discussed in Sylvia’s blog post. Perhaps, the colonists were only willing to compare French colonialism with that of their own homeland because of an increased individualism. This argument may be a stretch but I think it is one worth considering when examining the shift in colonial mindset that eventually  led to American independence.

Relations between the Great Awakening and Witches

Putting both of the readings for Tuesday into one argument, I would say that the witch hunts of the late seventeenth century and the religious Great Awakening go hand in hand. I realize there is somewhat of a debate going on and I would like to make my voice heard. I agree with Romangone who says that the two events were definitely connected. They claim that pastors and religious leaders were using the witch trials to try and scare people into becoming more religious and I think that this has some correct aspects to it. I believe that the witch trials did deepen the peoples belief in the church, but that that was not the pastors’ and religious leaders’ intent. The reason for the sudden witch hunts and trials is up for debate, but whether it was ergot, PTSD, or social warfare, the result of the trials and hunts is undisputed. Throughout the accusations a general fear emerged that these witches were worshiping Satan and that was bringing the Devil closer to Salem. I believe that this led the people of Massachusetts to seek out God in any way possible and they turned to both their old local churches or the traveling evangelicals. The evangelical preachers took full advantage of the fear that had been placed in Massachusetts and they used this fear to convert more and more people to their belief.

Taylor describes the Great Awakening as a “dramatic and sweeping set of religious revivals” (339) and in the mid eighteenth century they were present in many places, especially the northeast. America was the land of religious freedom and protestants of all faiths found a home somewhere on the Atlantic seaboard. Even Catholics had a place in Maryland even thought the majority of the people were Protestants. In the late 17th century, it seemed as though virtually each colony had its own church. The Church of England was the official church of the Virginia Colony, the Puritan Church belonged to Massachusetts and many other New England Colonies, and the Dutch Reformed Church was present in New Netherland. However, the creation and Royal claiming of new colonies between 1690 and 1720 brought more Anglicans over from England and the Church of England grew to be present in more colonies. The Great Awakening was present all over British North America, but was most present in New England who recognized the Congregationalist Church. This was because of the prevalence of churches in that region, Taylor says of New Englanders: “few inhabitants lived more than six miles from a meetinghouse.” (340) The sheer amount of churches and the fact that there were so many educated men from Harvard and Yale to make up the Clergy made New England sure to be the center for the Great Awakening.

The Great Awakening of the 17th century was a time when people restored faith in God and the church became of paramount importance in the colonies. The Salem Witch Trials was by no means the main cause, but I find it undeniable that fear of the presence of the Devil played a significant role in the religious revival of the 1700s.

Religious Hysteria

In response to Sherwood’s post (http://sites.davidson.edu/his141/taylor-chapter-15-norton-witchcraft-a-supernatural-inclination/), I firmly agree that there exists a linkage between the Puritan witch trials and The Great Awakening.  However, I do not believe this relationship is one of causation.  I find my thoughts to closely resemble those of Amelia (http://sites.davidson.edu/his141/the-relationship-between-witch-trials-and-the-great-awakening/).  I think that the characteristics of New England, including a strict, religious society with a relatively dense population, played a major role in both instances.  However, I fail to see how witch trials themselves caused religious revival decades later.

I would also like to comment on other features that I found interesting from the readings.  Taylor rebuked the notion that the colonies developed as a place of religious freedom and claimed that generally colonists “wanted their own denomination to dominate” (339).  In addition to colonists not idealizing religious freedom from the start, elite Virginians also “dreaded ‘freedom of speech'” (356) as late as the 1740s.  The lack of support for these principles shockingly contrasted the ideals on which the policymakers (including many elite Virginians) founded the United States later that century.

Norton highlighted secular disputes as a leading cause for witch accusation in the colonies.  She did a nice job of explaining that witchcraft provided a logical and widely accepted explanation for misfortunes in colonial society, so ill-fortuned people considered supernatural altercation by an enemy a very viable possibility.

Reis noted the influencing factors and prejudices that led to women consisting of the most accused and convicted witches.  She mentioned that women’s perceived mental and physical weaknesses allowed Satan to more effectively target and corrupt women than men.

Woodward’s article about witch hunting in New England prior to 1692 and Denis’s article about native peoples’ witch hunts fascinated me the most, as they offered new and educating perspectives.  I lacked knowledge of New England’s witch hunts prior to that of Salem, and found the varying aspects particularly interesting.  Exploring other witch hunts illuminated features regarding the processes of accusation and conviction in colonial witch hunts that I did not know about by solely studying Salem’s witch trials.  For example, I did not know about Bulkeley creating new standards for evidence in witch craft trials in Connecticut.  It was interesting to note his standards from the early 1660s when considering the evidence used to convict witches nearly thirty years later in Salem. Denis compared and contrasted witch persecutions in colonial societies with those of the native peoples.  Native religions consisted of more supernatural beliefs, and the sudden devastation brought on by European colonization led many native peoples to attribute the misfortunes to witchcraft.  Descriptions of witch hunts by native peoples struck me as surprisingly similar to those of colonial Europeans.  Although Denis did note that gender did not play a factor in native witch persecutions.

Overall, I felt the readings gave a very solid overview of religious chaos in colonial America.  Taylor coherently illuminated the causes and results of The Great Awakening, and the collection of authors provided numerous interesting insights on witch persecutions.



The beginning of the end of English control in North America

In this chapter, Taylor outlines some causes that brought on the Revolution and also compares the English attitude to colonization versus that of the French and the English colonists living in North America.

Taylor again paints the English as a larger enemy to Indians as compared to the French. In the description of the Seven Years War, Taylor emphasizes a kinder relationship in Indian-French affairs and more of a conqueror-conquered relationship between the Indians and the English. As he did in his descriptions of the first imperial takeovers in the Americas, Taylor makes the French look like the ideal colonizers and the English as greedy land-takers. Taylor does this to emphasize why the colonists would want to break away from the overpowering and cruel English nation. This, however, can generalize the French as the “good guys” and the English as the “bad guys” which is not entirely true. As was mentioned in a classmate’s previous blog post (http://sites.davidson.edu/his141/history-trumps-childhood-chapters-3-5/), Taylor often commended the French for their kinder tactics when dealing with the Indians, but they were not completely harmless to the Indians. The French still took advantage of the Indian fur trade, and mainly did not fight the Indians so they would not lose any profit.

Taylor also notes the split between the colonists that lived in North America, and the English government, still trying to keep control of the distant colonies. During the imperial wars in North America, the colonists had minor victories that they took pride in, but when the empires drew the treaties, the English allowed the other nations to strip the colonists of their conquests, causing a rift between the colonists and the crown. While explaining the reasons for colonial dissatisfaction with the homeland, Taylor again makes the English look imposing and the colonists look helpless. The constant taxing, the increase in troops, and the British feeling of superiority, drove the colonists to revolt against the larger, more powerful, and malicious English. While the English were still an overbearing imperial power, they did have some reasoning for taxing the colonists – repayment for a costly colonial war – and sending over British troops – to enforce these taxes to restore their economy. The crown’s intentions were warranted, but the execution of these actions was not as fair, a point I agree with Taylor on.

I understand Taylor’s reasoning for making the British appear like the enemies to all other groups in North America, but a more nuanced description of the good and bad aspects of the British crown’s role would force a reader to consider the English reasoning behind their actions, and not just the a negative view.