Abolition

The abolition movement was a very important factor in the leading up to the civil war. Obviously, it was the main cause for the thoughts of secession by the south who felt like their lifestyle was being threatened. It is important to see the why the those in favor of abolition took that point of view. While some did it because they saw how wrong slavery was, others did for intrinsic reasons, fearing that this mistreatment of other human beings would make them appear unfavorably in the eyes of God. I think that the latter reason for calling for abolition is missing the point, although it still does get the job done. Since slavery was an accepted part of American society, most people didn’t have a problem with it until they saw it escalate to the severity and brutality of plantation enslavement. I think the second group were not opposed to the idea of owning people, but once they saw the mistreatment of enslaved people, particularly on plantations, they began to worry about how their society appeared to God. In the end though, all abolitionists had the same well-intentioned goal in mind.

The Second Great Awakening is linked to the abolitionist movements as SYSTRAUSS points out in their post. They make a good point in that maybe the abolitionists who used evangelist words did not exactly have the interest of the slaves in mind when they were speaking. This comes back to the point of how the majority of abolitionists had their own relationships with God in mind rather than the lives of the slaves. I would argue that this makes them appear worse to their God because they are valuing this relationship more than another human being’s life. I am not actually that religious so I cannot speak to this point with that much accuracy, that is just how I presume it would be. This group of evangelists abolitionists who fight against slavery may not be doing it for exactly the right reason, but they should still be recognized as being far ahead and far more honorable than a large population of the country.

Witchery and the Great Awakening

The Salem Witch Trials, and other witch trials though out the early American colonial period, were a terrible tragedy, the reasons of which are still debated. A variety of possible reasons have been claimed, but one stands out to me as the most likely reason. Many of my classmates have put forward one argument or another, and I think most of the reasons put forward did, to an extent, have  an effect on the witch trials. Overall I agree with Kindig that the primary reasoning behind the witch trials were religious, however I would expand on that assertion.

In looking at the witch trials in the context of the great awakening, it bares an obvious resemblance to the witch trials which took place in Europe following the reformation. But what is the uniting factor which explains why both these periods of religious change should cause witch trials? As I see it, the witch hunts came about as a result of a shift of religious authority  from the educated elite to a more personal or grassroots religiosity. This change in who controlled the religious power could have moved the concept of witchcraft into the forefront as the more superstitious religion of less educated common folk moved to the fore. This i think is the most logical explanation for the trend itself, however each individual trial was most likely caused by different individual factors, which played into the trend.

Conquest of California

The Spanish’s interest in gaining California is interesting. The Spanish were dominant in Mexico and afterwards, Cortes turned his gaze northward up the coast of California. In the early to middle part of the 17th century, the Spanish were exploring up the coast of California, looking to see what the land there was like. They found a land that, to them, did not seem worthy of their attention or further exploration. The Spanish Empire was stretched very wide at this point and it was probably a smart decision to focus themselves on what they had already gained. As JaNewton points out, it was the threat of the British and the Russians that scared the Spanish into returning to explore California. I think it is interesting to look at the competitiveness of the Spanish and how that forced them into gaining as much land as they could before the British or the Russians could get there.

This also points to the vast lack of knowledge of the Pacific coast of North America. The Spanish had heard that the Russians were moving into North America via modern day Alaska and they felt threatened even though the two empires were thousands of miles away from each other. Also this is an example of how communication might have been exaggerated as there were only “a few dozen Russian traders” (445) in pursuit of sea otter pelts for commercial trade. Clearly, a few dozen men over 3,000 miles away shouldn’t be much of a threat, but the Spanish were very eager to keep their land and not let anyone get it. The Spanish needed this land to act as a buffer between their precious Mexico and the Hudson Bay Company and whoever else may be to the north and the more land they have, the bigger the buffer is. They were also intent on gaining more and more land in the New World to compete with the thriving colonies of the British. I think the Spanish felt threatened by the success of the British colonies and were determined, due to their competitive nature, to outdo them and become more successful, and that meant gaining new territory and new Christians.

The other important aspect of the Spanish colonization up the coast of California was the fact that they were spreading Christianity through missions. Although these missions were tough to maintain, the Catholic Church in Rome was willing to help out as they might get more followers. The missions played a major part in forming relationships with the natives of California and many became dependent upon them for providing them with easy food. They were, however, put to work and became at great risk for contracting a myriad of diseases. The Spanish missions were integral in making their stamp on the coast of California as many of them are still standing today, reminding all Californians and Americans who was there first.

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.

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.

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 http://sites.davidson.edu/his141/shocking-similarities-and-awakening/).

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).

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.

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.

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.