Chapter Eleven

Dependency and Development

The British government hardly gave a damn for its North American
colonists. Its elite was interested in gobbling up valuables if such were
to be found, but you would be hard put to discover altruistic or
sympathetic statements or policies relating to the colonists. So harsh
and neglectful toward its own people at home, it
could hardly be kinder to its colonists:
out of sight, out of mind.

The Board of Trade managed the colonies after 1696;
there were no ministries of culture, social welfare, or education.
(There was the Anglican Church that dabbled in these matters, and
voluntary religious and social groups were starting up.)
Economic development was the dream of the English elite:
the well-behaved colony governed by royal appointees and
engaging in well-regulated activities and trade for the good of
the home government. However, everything done to tie the
colonies to imperial policy ended up in one way or another
by strengthening the colonies and making their posture
vis a vis the empire more aggressive and frankly selfish.

Today we look at Singapore and Hongkong on the map, lying next to
Indonesia and China, and find it hard to imagine their high productivity
relative to such large and heavily populated states.
Similarly, viewing the great expanse of continental
Anglo-America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and
especially given its very high productivity today,
we cannot easily imagine the time when it depended upon tiny
islands like Bermuda, St.Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, and Jamaica for
skilled personnel, lessons from experience, methods of agriculture and
shipping, raw and processed material, and survival itself.
In the first years of Virginia, foodstuffs from Bermuda
may have preserved the colony from extinction.

The British mainland colonies could develop in relative independence
from England by dealing with the West Indies. There would be
less supervision, fewer bribes to give and take, and less snobbery and
arrogance. The Islands were the heaviest purchasers of timber
products. One could put together more complicated and profitable
schemes, such as the notorious Afro-American triangle, in which
major ingredients were slaves, molasses, and rum, with
tobacco, indigo, rice, junk jewelry and several other commodities.
European trade was rather more complicated, with imports that
made the difference between civilization and barbarism -
fashions, books, pamphlets, furnishings, tools,
machines, visitors - needing small space aboard ship.

What could be said of the British islands could to a lesser degree,
except in times of Colonial-Homeland conflict, be said of the island
possessions of Holland, France, Denmark and Spain. It was a cozy
trade, yet often a violent or at least fiercely competitive game
played among the Caribbean Islands and between these and the
mainland colonies. Patriotism was only a weak rule of the game.
Smuggling was rampant.

Actually the very poverty of much of the mainland,
its difficult climate (cold and hot in turn,
moist, marshy, insect-infested, contrasting with
the superior climate of Western Europe, even, all things considered,
of the British Isles), its inaccessibility,
its seemingly unconquerable native inhabitants, and
its useless mountain ranges - this discouraging poverty
invited a crowd of individualistic Caucasians
for whom few need feel responsible or accountable, and
in time they came to be a bustling and hustling society
of vast spatial proportions, who, not content simply
with territorial space, took to the seas for
fish, whale oil, slaving, and transport of traded goods.
The islands, with their slaves and almost no truly independent
Whites, could not become true nations.

Suffering did not produce love at home or abroad.
Even later, the English elite were not especially
fond of their brave colonists who were enriching their coffers.
For these became more and more troublesome.
By 1763 the cornucopia of India
was guaranteed to the English. France bowed out with a tiny enclave;
the Portuguese and Dutch had been defeated earlier and
held only minor positions on the sub-continent.
India provided wealth beyond comparison with British America.
It had brought riches even much earlier.

The enormous fortunes, which turned around the English
aristocracy and enriched it with new title holders,
were earned in Continental trade, the Orient and
elsewhere than in America. To the English elite
America appeared as nests of troublesome subjects
who as often as not did not play by the rules
(one of which was that the Home elite could break rules).
It took a canny Scot named Adam Smith,
unbefuddled by royal prerogative, to realize,
before most others did, how an individualistic people could
create a wealthy nation while pursuing their personal interests.
The American colonies were getting richer by saltations.
They were populating, too, at a great rate.

At the brink of the Revolutionary War, the wealth of the colonists is
estimated to have been 110,000,000 pounds sterling; of this total, 88
millions were in land (60), livestock (10), other producers' goods (9),
and consumer goods (9). About 22 million pounds were invested in
human slaves and bound servants. In dollars of 1978 value, the total
wealth of the thirteen colonies of 110 million pounds translated into
about $6.5 billion. Not included in such figures is public property,
which, however was not a significant factor, except for great tracts of
land; it included inexpensive public structures, arms and
ammunition in small amounts, forts and stockades.
Churches held land and buildings also.

All such figures are questionable: setting a value on the land of the
colonies borders on fantasy. Probably no more than one in a
hundred acres was cultivated or grazed. Much belonged
to governments and foreigners. Much was under disputed title.
Land prices changed with dazzling rapidity.

Since the Industrial Revolution had hardly begun in America, the
production goods were mostly inventories of goods and boats. There
were grist and flour mills, iron works, and quarries. Life for a majority
of people was from, by, or on the sea. Most communications and
letters were conveyed by boat. Sea routes were better and safer and
quicker than land routes. By 1770, the thirteen colonies and West
Florida (temporarily in English rather than Spanish hands) possessed
118 topsails and 283 sloops and schooners,
for a total of 20,620 tons.

Livestock could be evaluated properly and meant nearly what it means
today. Humans are another matter. The valuation of slaves is derived
from prices at the auction markets, but the slaves as human beings
varied greatly from the average market price of 34 pounds
($1845 in 1978 dollars);
moreover the question arises: since the free worker
is deemed to own and dispose of his body, should this
not be considered capital, too, and
valued at the average lifetime earnings? And
since the adult White free worker
disposed of the work of his wife and children, too,
should not the value of all this be entered
into the national accounts system?

The wealth of nations is always difficult to measure and is always
figured relative to the interests of the calculator.
On paper, the per capita wealth of the colonies seemed to be
nearly equal to that of England and Europe and
above that of undeveloped countries of today.
Moreover, the trend was rapidly upward so that one could
feel certain that in the foreseeable future,
per capita wealth and then total "gross
national product" would exceed that of England.

An observant economist might perceive that the colonists might not
yet have become inventive, but that they were
adept thieves of other people's inventions, and that
England, though it may have been behind
by a century in the Renaissance, was a century
ahead in its Industrial Revolution.

Having adapted the Renaissance, evicted the Roman Catholic Church,
tamed an enterprising lot of radical Protestants, cleared the grazing
lands of people, gotten rid of large numbers of undesirables, having
gained dominion over its Isles around (hence tax receipts), having
opened up grand markets in the true Orient, England's alliance of
aristocracy and expanded middle class were enjoying creature
comforts and the leisure to invent. Beginning in the late 1600's and
moving through the 1700's, Englishmen invented and applied to the
realm a panoply of inventions. The Americans, clever and
ambitious copy-cats, would profit enormously thereby.
At that point in time, it might become advisable to
transfer the Capital of the British Empire from London to
America: so said Adam Smith. Smith was well-
informed by Americans such as Franklin,
and they by him. For a political generation, leaders and Framers
discussed and cited him.

I set forth earlier the several wars in which Britain engaged during the
period of American colonization until the Revolution, and described
how each affected Indian relations and was in fact given an American
name to denote this facet of the wars. Each of them resulted de facto
or de jure in an extension of the western domain. Although this
frontier factor is most popular among historians, the seaboard and
marine factors were probably more important, for the colonists used
each and every one of the European wars to strengthen their fleets,
extend their trade, become state-of-the-art with all the
piratical, buccaneering, and smuggling tactics then practiced,
broaden their political and international horizons,
and learn to behave as belligerents.

Exhorted to apprentice themselves on behalf of the mother country,
they signed up and mastered many arts. The merchant and artisans of
the long coastal region lifted themselves at least to the lower and
middle levels of the English, Dutch, Spanish, and French diplomats,
international lawyers, traders, and sea captains.

During the times of which we speak in this chapter, the population of
the British colonies grew rapidly, from 275,000 in 1700 to 2,205,000
in 1770, or 800%. England and Wales numbered about 8 millions in
1770 but with Scotland and Ireland about 13 million. Boston,
Philadelphia, and New York City at this time held between 5,000 and
13,000 inhabitants. New Orleans was larger than any of these by the
end of the century. The Pacific Coast, Florida, the Midwest, and the
West contained many Indian tribes and a few thousand French and
Spanish with a growing number of English.
Father Junipero Serra was founding settlements in
California, beginning with San Diego de Alcala
in 1769.

The death rate was high. Women were still in short supply at the
beginning of the century. They led hard lives throughout the century,
having few legal rights even if born to riches, often performing a great
variety of kitchen and barnyard tasks, including the processing of
foods and the making of clothes. Their death rate was higher than the
rate among men, despite their much more frequent abstention from
tobacco and alcohol. For the latter half of the century,
they gave birth at the high net rate of 3% per annum.

Immigrants came increasingly, from England, and, too, from several
other European countries; there were Germans, Scots-Irish, Highland
as well as Lowland Scots (two fairly diverse cultural types), Welsh,
Dutch, Swiss, Sephardic Jews, and French, plus
miscellaneous entrants unlabeled.

Dour and tough, bred to poverty, with an agrarian crisis and a
depression in the linen trade to propel them, the Scots-Irish came in
large numbers, most of them as indentured servants. Their effect on
the country was continuously heavy, but most historians and
therefore the public have tended to mention them too briefly,
as if they lacked ethnicity, whereas, as we shall see,
their peculiar ethnicity has been the closest shadow of
general American ethnicity.

Over all the colonies, they entered to the number of 250,000 in the
half-century before the American Revolution. The Lord Primate of
Ireland estimated that less than one in ten had money to pay for the
passage to America. In New England the Scots-Irish were hardly
welcomed. A public figure referred to them as "the blockish
Presbyterians from a barbarous nook of Ireland." Mobs
gathered in Boston intending to prevent boats that were
carrying Scots-Irish from landing.

The same had happened with African slaves earlier and would now be
happening with every new wave of immigration; whoever got there
earlier would resent making room for newcomers.
Irish Catholics were barred ingress to South Carolina,
in the same statutory clause that forbade
various criminal types to enter.

Scotland itself was shaking off its children. The Lowlanders had been
coming for some time, many of them making their way along the
English roads to the seaports. Now the Highlanders came, fleeing
poverty, cattle blights, higher rents for their poor tenancies, and
evictions so that their masters, as often English as Scottish, might
make ready sheep runs. England could sell wool now in
vast quantity to the Continent.

Many villages were torn down or abandoned. The land
passed into few hands, first the lairds, then
absentee Englishmen, and in late twentieth century,
buyers equally bizarre from all quarters.
The people never returned. The year 2000 saw
half of Scotland held by 350 persons,
80% of the country in 1,500 estates.

The peak of departure was 1763,
when it seemed as if the Highlanders filled the roads to the sea.
They differed sharply from other Britishers,
and in the New World appeared as bizarre as Indians, with their
pronounced Scottish dialect, special social customs and dress. (A
British cartoonist of the times, called upon to imagine the ancient
Scots and Picts, drew them in Indian dress.) A large number settled the
Cape Fear Valley of South Carolina, particularly after
their revolt of 1745 against the English failed.

Speaking Gaelic, they had everyone else in the Valley speaking
Gaelic, Blacks included. "Assimilation"
(a loose yet useful word) of these new folk,
Americans thought, would be difficult; it was not -
except in one vital regard: they would for the most part
be Loyalists when the Revolution came.
Then, from being Tories, they became
Federalists of the party of Washington and Hamilton.

Wherever mining was to be done, the Welsh were
called upon. They were employed to dig copper
in New Jersey in the 1700's, but their works were
closed, and they to the number of 160
were deemed Loyalist, herded out by American troops ,
after the Battle of Princeton in 1777, and exchanged for American
prisoners of the British.

German-speaking immigrants from several countries appeared on the
scene in the 1700's. Many had a religious motive; they were early
Protestant sects, well-disposed toward Calvinism but in certain cases
more chiliastic. Prominent among them was the Moravian sect, from, it
happens, Moravia, caught among a lot of Catholic neighbors. They
moved solidly into Pennsylvania, welcomed by Quakers, behind a
screen of highly mobile Scots-Irish. They showed other Americans
how to farm properly. They respected the land more. They were more
patient. They saved more and wasted less. They were less vindictive
and punitive toward Indians, although they shared in the trespasses
upon Indian lands and suffered Indian counter-attacks.

They soon began to print newspapers and books in German,
they held religious services in German;
they conducted schools in German.
Musicians and singers came in with them.
There was some wonderment about whether they might not
grow too numerous, then abstain from the motley culture
about them, and would not use the English language.

Like all other immigrant groups, they tended to divide into two large
categories, a readily assimilated portion that disappeared both
ethnically and geographically into the larger population, and a
defensively ethnic part. Even two hundred years later, at the time of
World War II, it was not impossible to find people in small-town and
rural Pennsylvania who could speak "Pennsylvania Dutch" (for
"Deutsche," meaning German). Even at so late a date, too, a
significant pro-German and anti-English attitude in foreign affairs
could be unearthed among the districts of Pennsylvania and
Ohio where persons of old German origin were numerous.
As the twentieth century came to a close,
Germanophones were still among them.

Germans, like the rest, were often fooled into emigrating by promoters
of American immigration, boat captains, land agents, the King himself.
They had to endure the thieves and gangsters who abounded
everywhere. We find early in the century a pitiable petition to the King
carried by representatives of the much reduced group of 4000
Palatinians (Pf¨a¨ltzer), who were first invited to settle in England and
work at processing raw materials for the English military. Badly cared
for there, they were not too concerned when they were forcibly
persuaded to take transportation to the New World, upper New York
State specifically, where they were to settle in and again
work for the British armed forces.

A great many died at sea or soon after landing from hunger and disease.
The remaining two thousands were dropped off in the
wilderness; no one took responsibility for them.
They lacked most means for survival and,
despite numerous pleas to the Governor, to colony officials,
to everyone around, they went hungry and wretched,
without tools, and without a cent of the money promised them. They
were put to work making pitch and tar for the Navy.

When war with the French and Indians came, they were issued
weapons, marched off, and when they returned had their weapons
taken away. They found that the land on which they had settled was
claimed both by Indians and by land speculators. They were ordered
off, but enough force could not be mustered to throw them off. They
persisted, spread out, and ultimately made places for themselves.

Germans from Philadelphia tried to bring the law
to bear against fiendish ship-captains who would, for instance,
get people to sign up to become indentured servants or
redemptioners in return for their fares,
and then inveigle them into taking on the debts of relatives
who might die on the way to America.

In vain their calls for help, because the authorities were in cahoots with
the captains. The reports of deaths at sea were suppressed. One boat
carrying 400 German immigrants in the year 1745 arrived with only 50
left alive. Emigrant vessels sailing from Holland packed their
passengers in a space of two feet by six feet. Rations were little and
foul. The passage was especially hard on small children, most of whom
seem to have died en route to the Promised Land.

As happened first and always in America, some of the worst exploiters
of the immigrants were their fellow countrymen. Newcomers would be
promised non-existent jobs, sold false land titles, duped out of their
meager belongings, and literally led astray. Henry Muhlenberg,
arriving in 1742 to take charge of pastoral activities
among the Lutherans of Pennsylvania, discovered
self-appointed, greedy, and scoundrelly "Lutheran" ministers
wherever he turned; one Pastor Valentine Kraft had set up
a widespread hierarchy of preachers, numerous "worthless, drunken
schoolmasters, who wander about the country as preachers and
make money with the Lord's Supper, baptism, and weddings."

Indians nearly everywhere were showing increasing signs of social
disorganization as the 1700's proceeded - what with their
disbandment - from the new ailment of social dissociation,
as well as from poverty, disease, unsettlement, and alcoholic excesses;
yet they were relatively stable in their tribal configurations compared to
much of the White population. Given then the slaves and the character
of the larger British immigration, experiencing their first or second
generation in America, it would scarcely be possible to calculate the
depressed and oppressed until well into the 1700's
at less than 90% of the population.

The figure is horrific, but then one has to recognize that the British
people during all of this long period was in a bad state, with far more
than two millions on the edge of destitution or worse. Their American
counterparts had more hope - justified or not - of betterment, and could
scent whiffs of free air in the turbulent drafts of social disorder.
Still, far from being the noble state of natural society that
European salons and later historians claimed it to be, the
New World substantiated the state of man in natural society,
as portrayed by the English physician and political scientist,
Thomas Hobbes, in his mid-sixteenth-century work, Leviathan:
"mean, nasty, brutish, and short."

A favorite portrayal of early colonists has them at prayer.
Rather than ridicule this as nonsense, one had better
consult the sociology of religion:
whenever conditions are desperate and sad, people pray,
out of fear or lack of other recourse,
driven to it by their authorities,
out of force of habit, and
to commemorate their sick and dead.
The abundance of such motives indeed would make the
prayer scene typical. Of course, it was also a cliché
going back to early Christian art, the prayerful Christians
of the Roman Circus as the lions came slavering in.

Religious development proceeded apace among the Protestant sects.
Some 62% of the churches in 1790 were Calvinist in orientation.
Defining these as sects upholding the Five Points, they would include
the Puritan Congregationalist Churches, Congregationalists generally,
Presbyterians, Baptists, Dutch Reformed, German Reformed, French
Reformed (Huguenots), Calvinist Anglicans (Dissenters). (Notably,
then, not Lutherans, Quakers, Catholics, Moravians, Unitarians,
Methodists, or Anglicans - who would become Episcopalians - and,
for that matter, not Jews (whether Orthodox or non-sectarian), African
Christians, African Spiritualists, Freemasons, or Free Thinkers, or
other minor-sized groups, with very many to come. In New England,
except in Rhode Island, Puritanism was established by law.
Virginia and South Carolina were strongly Anglican, which,
it happens, was established by law as the
official church of the colony.

In Maryland, immigrants of at least five different Protestant sects came
in to outnumber, then to dispossess, then to allow the return of the
Catholic Church. (Naturally the Catholics did not disappear; they went
underground and played at being primitive Christians.)

The best estimate has the average church congregation in America
numbering 75 members in 1776. There were, it is known today, some
3228 congregations. The total of church membership would then
amount to 242,100 adults. Factoring in children produced a national
religious adherence rate of 17%, excluding Indians.
Blacks were discouraged from setting up churches.
By the time of the Revolution only the smallest fraction
belonged to a recognizable church congregation.
The first African-American church was organized in
North Carolina before the Revolution, as a Baptist congregation.
The second was established after the Revolution,
in 1787, in Philadelphia,
in resentment at treatment in a hitherto interracial church,
by Richard Allen, and here started the extensive and
influential African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Dividing the country into three regions, and confining the figures only
to Europeans, we find that the New England, Middle Colonies, and
Southern Colonies afford respective regional church adherence rates of
roughly 20% , 19% and 17%. One might argue that children do not
count as serious church members, but I believe that children are an
active and fast-learning part of the population, with "allotted places in
heaven" like the adults; therefore the method of
factoring them into the figures is justified.

Most Americans of past times have been deluded as to the overall
reality of church membership in people's lives in colonial times.
The figures do not bespeak a people enthralled by religiosity.
With one out of six persons (including all people)
encountered being church members, the
role of churches in the developing country is brought
into question, especially since these estimates pertain to a point in time
when the momentous revivalist movement known as
"The Great Awakening" was happening.

One may correctly declare that most powerful and wealthy Americans
were church members, and that the clergy, being more or less
professionalized at its tasks - that is, earning a meager living at
pushing their version of Christianity upon society - was a
moderately strong force in shaping standards of opinion, conduct and
public policy. Since the actual behavior of the sects was shaped largely by
their leading laymen, who supported them, and since both sects and
their churches multiplied like rabbits, there could be about as large
differences among churches in such standards as
could be found in the population as a whole.

A person could find a church or parson to suit his needs as he or she
(most church members were women) defined them, or start up one's
own congregation, or even become a minister without portfolio, so
that in the end the American system of religion gave a person as much
leeway in confession, repentance, penitence and absolution, as the
severely criticized, "relaxed or loose or highly varied"
procedures that the centralized and authoritarian
Catholic Church had given him once upon a time.

In Reformed and Presbyterian churches of the Middle Colonies in the
1720's, there arose a demand for heightened religious devoutness. It
assumed larger and larger proportions and spread from one church to
another, one sect to another, one colony to another, ultimately
sweeping through New England and down
South through Georgia, sinking finally in the
wake of the American Revolution.

Membership in a particular sect and cult was de-emphasized in favor
of the brotherhood of Christians. Preaching and worship were
changed into highly agitational forms of seeking and giving response to
the religious message. People were besought to adopt Christ and
Christian symbolism emotionally, not so soberly and ritually and
catechistically as they had in the past. The personal commitment,
profound, heartfelt, became more important than
formal pledges and adherence.

Preachers like George Whitefield, an Anglican revivalist of England,
roamed the colonies drawing enormous crowds - his final
convocation, at Boston in 1740, drew about 30,000 hearers to the
Commons, 50% more than the total population of the City! Great
numbers of people dissolved in tears at the thought of his leaving
them. He implored them, in his own words,
"steadily to imitate the piety of their forefathers;
so that I might hear, that with one heart and mind,
they were striving together for the faith of the Gospel."

One member of his Philadelphia audiences was Dr. B. Franklin, who,
characteristically skeptical and scientific, measured the distance at
which Whitefield could be heard by the vast crowd, estimated the
crowd's size, evaluated his delivery and style, and, by hearing him
often, was able to distinguish the new from the old sermons by the
excellence that practice had brought to the older ones, concluding that
itinerant speakers have an advantage: stationary ones cannot
well improve their delivery by so many rehearsals.

The most important American figure of The Great Awakening was
Jonathan Edwards, a Calvinist theologian, who wrote the best
contemporary psychic analysis and defense of revivalism - "true"
revivalism, of course, there being revivalists, like James Davenport,
who brought disrepute to the Awakening among the upper class on
account of his emotional "excesses."

The Great Awakening as a satisfying religious experience in a thrilling
crowd was one thing;
as reformer of the moral attitudes and conduct of men and women it was another;
as a typical instance of chiliastic crowd behavior still another;
as a contributor to a more sympathetic relationship among the widely separate constituencies of America again another;
and as an episodic American phenomenon was one more thing.
We shall be reading of other revivals of the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, some local, some particular to a certain sect, some
regional, some national, even international.

Perhaps what harm and good they may have done is capable of
generalization. Pragmatically and a priori, the Great Awakening made
masses of people feel alive and dedicated to lofty abstractions;
it lifted them up from miserable and insignificant concerns
(or maybe took their minds off their miseries and
important problems needing material solution).
It made the individualistic American feel more sympathetic
to his fellows in Christ
(but outside Christ? and would not the cure for excessive individualism
better be in exercising practical projects of social reform and social life?)

So it went into history, The Great Awakening, and
we would ask one more question of it.
Did it condition people to collective emotionalism such as would be
required for bringing on and waging a Revolution? If so, could one
offer this opinion: The Great Awakening was one of the
causes of the American Revolution, which erupted as the Great
Awakening movement was ending.

Fantasies and promises abounded, notwithstanding disastrous
expeditions and forays inland and on the sea. Or, one wonders, was the
formula that goes "desperate need - great risk - copious self-delusion"
operating? For the seeds of hope spring best from muck. Prominent
among those of the colonists
who were atypical of the social norms of England
but in the colonies could circulate widely,
were religious turncoats, cultists and prophets, disbelievers,
blasphemers, traitors, men on the run, disgraced women,
troublemakers, and psychotics.
Penniless losers fled their causes, Puritans, Quakers, Cavaliers,
Huguenots, Pietists, Levelers, Moravians, Scottish rebels, Palatinians,
Jews, apostate Irish Catholics - begging, borrowing, pledging as they
went, sometimes dragging along a family.

Even the worse convicts may have been improved by
transportation to America; there were, in the years 1718-75,
66,000 of these, 50,000 out of English courts,
16,000 from Ireland; and who knows how many others came who had
escaped dungeons in other countries by expulsion or flight: certainly
here was a "born again" experience. (Naturally one could expect the
rare realist - there were such - a convict who begged to be hanged
rather than be transported to America.)

A small number of men of seemingly better qualifications made the
crossing and some of these stayed: university students, desperately
poor clergy, and the employees of the several corporations entitled to
take all they could find and divide it amongst corporate sponsors, the
King and themselves: to search for valuable minerals and export crops,
to mark off land holdings, evict squatters, and sell in part huge tracts
of land, to organize and supervise the slaves and bondsmen in the
establishment and working of plantations. Officials, too, were sent
over to collect taxes and impose generally a semblance of order. All
the land of the thirteen colonies had been distributed to less than a
hundred companies and proprietors, and it was from these that
individuals pried loose pieces large and small for their own accounts.

It takes only a few men to own and manage a legal oligarchy, which is
what the colonies, all of them, were set up to be; the system sometimes
seemed to be getting out of hand: that is, there were more than a few
around willing and capable of cutting themselves into the action. But
for the vast majority, conditions were not just tough, such as a man or
woman could stand, but rotten.

Luckily, Americans were already afflicted with that phenomenal
quality so helpful to top dogs; they were individualistic to a fault.
Lacking a sense of community, a neighbor's death or departure could
often be perceived as a chance to better one's circumstances; an
injustice was a chance to escape.

Hope sprang eternally. And out of
hope came the proverbial optimistic individualist American.
Typical then as now. Anything could happen in America, and did.

Going back to 1600 and counting up to 1770, about a million persons
from Europe and Africa survived the trip to jostle the Indians ( perhaps
no more than a quarter of a million in the Atlantic regions now) in
creating the new nation. Probably half the total had set out from an
English port.

As was to be true for every war that the "United States" engaged in,
the population increased tidily during the French and Indian War, and
the Revolutionary War. Elapsed social time for the 160 years since
first settlement would have been 2.4 mnemonic generations of 65
years, 4.8 politico-historical or Jeffersonian generations of 33 years,
and 8 procreative generations of 20 years.

In comparison, Francophones of Canada numbered only 65,000; the
reasons included not only the severe climate, but the higher quality of
life for the lower classes of France relative to Britain.

The English government was implicated in the slave trade.
The Americans were but earnest imitators, and late starters.
When the Virginia legislature in 1723
passed a law forbidding importation of slaves,
its masters at the Board of Trade in London objected for
various reasons. They were pressing slaves upon the colonies because
they wanted more plantations under cultivation to provide more
supplies for the Royal Navy. The London trader interest wanted to
obligate the planters as much as possible also, to the extent that
plantation society as a whole would be in
debt to London usurers.

We speak now of American participation in the slave trade,
aside from the purchasing and use of slaves.
American colonial slave traders conveyed
425,000 Africans to the Americas
in the years 1620-1807.
This would be about 10% of all
persons abducted by Europeans for the American trade.
Rhode Islanders provided the largest number of boats,
manning them with scummy crews from everywhere.

Forgiving one's ancestors comes easy to most people;
one strains to understand or ignore,
if not to sympathize, with people of one's own stripe.
Yet, to defend the wrong side in history is wrong today.
The slave trade, especially, is so revolting that it
must call into question the worth of every
facet of the trading society.
A people's economy reflects the people's character;
how a person makes a living suffuses one's whole life.
Any attempt to divorce the two introduces
hypocrisy in large measure.

In 1770 the colonies exported, in order of their total value, the
following articles: tobacco (0.906 million pounds sterling); flour
(0.504 m) ; fish (0.405m); rice (0.341m); wood in various forms
(0.155m); furs and skins (0.149m); indigo (0.132m); wheat (0.131m)
plus much cereal and flaxseed (to Ireland); whale oil and products
(0.104m); a score of additional less extensive exports including rum:
all of these totaling 3.438m pounds sterling. Shipping
earnings for the year brought 0.615m pounds.
They bought and supported the credit needed to
buy amply abroad from or through England.

The Northern colonies had a harder time mustering the exports
required, if they were to import the goods they needed. Since they had
to import through England, the English authorities encouraged them to
trade with Africa and the West Indies, in other words to get into the
slave traffic and into the rum business. The market value of imported
slaves amounted to 0.108m pounds in 1770, a low year, the average
for the surrounding years running about twice the value. It is well to
note that the slave trade was less profitable than most others, returning
on the average less than 10% on invested capital. It was considered a
high risk, with a chance of rich returns.

Alcohol was a way of life for a great many Americans;
they spent much of their lives making it and
as much of their time drinking it.
Molasses used in making the rum and for other purposes made up a
considerable import item, and a lesser amount of its exports. Rum was
supplemented by corn, barley, rye, and wheat whiskey, distilled
products, beer, homemade wines and the alcohol from any fruit that
would lend itself to the process of potable fermentation.
So goes the ballad of 1630:

For we can make liquor to sweeten our lips,
Of pumpkins, and parsnips, and walnut-tree chips.

About four million gallons of rum were disposable in the colonies, of
which about 300,000 gallons only were exported, almost all to Africa,
to buy slaves. (A tiny portion of the rum went in a potion with sugar
and opium to quiet infant cries and tantrums.) Americans were
distilling and drinking a great deal of whiskey at the same time,
probably twice as much as the rum they consumed.

Calculating from the potential number of male adult drinkers in the
population, something like 16 gallons of alcohol per annum would
have been their average annual consumption; that is, the average
American male drank over a quart of booze per week,
plus whatever beer and wine came to hand.
Women are excluded in the argument, for convenience;
actually they probably constituted one-fourth of the alcoholics.

Alcoholism was a grave problem in America to begin with. Now, if
today, alcohol abuse costs the nation about $100 billions annually, and
is implicated in two-thirds of all homicides and half of all vehicle
accidents, and involved in from 25 to 40% of all general hospital cases,
the costs to early American society must have been at least
proportional. Nor are the human costs of alcoholic work-accidents,
wife-beatings, and child abuse included. For the amount of liquor
consumed per capita then was more than it is today. New England
alone had hundreds of licensed dispensers of alcohol, and a common
criminal complaint had to do with unlicensed vendors. Operating a
tavern was the chief non-domestic occupation for women in those
days: widows, that is.

The alcohol problem transported itself directly from England, where, it
has been computed, in 1750 and 1751 more than 11 million gallons of
hard liquor were drunk. This would not be quite up to American
norms, but it was enough for a Bishop Benson to write,
"There is not only no safety in living in this town [of London],
but scarcely any in the country now,
robbery and murder are grown so frequent.
Our people are becoming what they never before were,
cruel and inhuman. Those accursed spirituous liquors..will..destroy
the very race of people themselves."
Suppressive legislation followed shortly thereafter, and
presumably is what saved the English race. At least a
noticeable decline occurred in the rate of dropsy.
Gin was blamed more than anything else;
it had come in with the Hanoverian dynasty
from Germany; a compensating merit
might not be easy to find.

A quantitative sort of mind was developing with the progress of
science in Europe and America. One detects the beginnings in the
thought processes of persons such as Governor John Winthrop of
Massachusetts, for instance in his economic lucubrations and social
planning, who deserves, for this and other reasons, a place alongside
his contemporary, Isaac Newton.

But I would refer in the context of alcoholism here to the calculations
of a London magazine article of 1789 who estimates the habitues of
London "tea-gardens" to number 200,000, spending at least half a
crown each, totaling £25,000 in the course of the day. Returning
home, these tipplers can be divided as follow: sober, 50,000; in high
glee, 90,000; drunkish, 30,000; staggering tipsy, 10,000; muzzy,
15,000; and dead drunk, 5,000.

As I indicated earlier, this was soon to become the Age of the
Enlightenment in England as in France, and the Age of the American
Revolution and Enlightenment both. Better than either of these for the
English working classes was the advent and rapid progress in England
and Wales, and right away thereafter, in America, under the inspired
tutelage of the Wesley brothers, of Methodism. Not only did John
Wesley preach at home and in America the needed message that
"Cleanliness is next to Godliness," but he weaned scores of thousands
from the bottle.

This was not the "Social Gospel," so-called, but it was the next best
thing to it. What the Methodists thought of the Anglican establishment
is predictably near to the unprintable: "We would fain draw a veil over
them, if the truth of history would permit it...," wrote the first
Methodist Bishop in America, Thomas Coke, in 1793; "they were, with
a few exceptions to the contrary, as bad a set of men as perhaps ever
disgraced the Church of God..."

In 1999, people think that they know what crime is all about and
believe there has never been more of it than now.
They could not be more wrong.
Corruption and criminality were part and parcel of the
settlement and development of America. The process began early and
has continued to this day with scarcely a let-up. A persuasive case can
be made that America has never been more law-observant than it is
today, and, if this seems to be absurd, the fault lies with the records,
the definitions, and the historians: In comparison with the
countries from which they came, Americans - regardless of race,
color, or national origin - have consistently ranked low in the
various indicators of justice for all, and high in
disobedience to just, or just ordinary laws.

To define corruption and crime to include only what has been
explicitly demanded or forbidden by legal promulgation,
and court judgements on its violation,
prejudices the historical search for crime rates.
That is, crime rates are misleading, even where statistics on the
number of convictions are available or even the number of crimes
reported. Beating up people had always been a crime at the
common law, but personal violence commenced and prospered in
America as in no other country on earth. Witch-hunting was not a
crime in seventeenth century Massachusetts. Kidnaping and selling
humans into slavery was not forbidden in most American jurisdictions;
even after the slave trade was legally prohibited, it went on at a
considerable pace until the Civil War broke out in 1860.

The crime of trespass, punished so severely in England for centuries,
was common behavior in America, often in the enduring form of
squatting; the punishment, unless it ended in deadly quarrels, was
rarely more than mere eviction. Ridding Indian country of squatters
was even less possible and attempted only half-heartedly by regular
British troops, the militia of the colonies being
ridiculous toward this end.

Crimes against "public morality" were vastly numerous. Fornication,
often a crime, was universally indulged. Prostitution as well. Adultery
was universally forbidden, with dire penalties threatened, but often the
"best people in society" enjoyed affairs, while the frontier and the
seven seas beckoned the family deserter and
left the folks back home to philander.

The scandal of Merry Mount in early Puritan Massachusetts is
irrepressible. It was America's first indigenous utopia - certainly
therefore worthy of mention for a nation that has seen thousands of
utopian communities born and buried. An errant Cavalier named
Morton founded the commune on the principle of hedonism and to it
flocked hippies - English, French, and even Indian. (He asserted that
the Indians descended from Homer's ancient Trojans.) They gathered
to eat, drink, and be merry, perchance to work, but minimally. They
brewed a good beer. They erected a 90-foot-tall Maypole with buck's
antlers atop it, for dancing around on Mayday, which ancient custom
called for. But the Puritan authorities despatched a troop to the scene,
under the redoubtable mercenary, Captain Miles Standish. The colony
was dispersed and Mr. Morton was shipped back to England in bonds,
there to write a spoof of his experiences.

Personal fighting, family feuds, vendettas, and gangsterism were not
usually taken up as matters of public concern. Mayhem and disabling
injury were part of many thousands of personal quarrels annually;
commonly, the combatants aimed at gouging out an eye of the
opponent. Calling a man disdainfully a "Scotchman" was enough to
incite a dangerous no-holds-barred fight in the back country of the
Middle and Southern colonies and States. Public opinion was not
sufficiently civil or strong to oppose such conduct.

Nor was there an opinion sufficiently strong to stop intimidation and
gangsterism in the conduct of elections generally. The climax of
election violence would be reached later on at the peak periods of
Jacksonian democracy, the Ku Klux Klan of the 1870's and later, and
the political machine bosses of many cities and counties
all through history until after 1965.

The British officials out of England exhibited profuse corruption, and
their example indelibly marked the colonials. The Virginia House of
Burgesses in one case forgave the enormous peculations of John
Robinson, Speaker and Treasurer, one of their own, unhappily now
deceased, who, it developed, had lent out to legislators and members
of leading families over 100,000 pounds of public money, about $10
million in current exchange.

Several Royal Governors, during the French and Indian War, sold flags
of truce to American ship captains enabling them to do business in the
West Indies on the pretext of coming in to exchange prisoners. The
flags were hardly needed, so flagrant and common was the smuggling
carried on with islands of all nationalities.

In times of peace, American merchants normally avoided the bans on
direct trade with countries other than Britain. They procured false
papers clearing their cargoes as bound for England but they
would carry them to Holland or elsewhere, be it furs or tobacco. St.
Eustatius, which belonged to the Netherlands, was a grand assembly
and trans-shipping point for illegal goods; it was no accident that when
the colonies declared themselves the independent United States, St.
Eustatius was the first foreign station to salute with cannon the
entrance to port of a ship flying the American ensign.

Trading with the enemy was widespread in every war that involved the
colonies, or even the States in revolt, or for that matter in the crises of
the Embargo period and War of 1812 later on. The French-Indian
War, which American historians cherish for its building of a sense of
union, should also be celebrated for having helped to build the
American merchant marine and enrich the coastal cities through
smuggling, buccaneering, and profiteering. American boats were in
and out of non-British and Caribbean Island ports continually. The
British Royal Navy could not stem the traffic. "A lawless set of
smugglers," Lord Loudoun called the Rhode Island merchants who
were briskly trading with the French.

An English customs officer in Boston, who was paid 100 pounds
annually, could count on picking up 6000 Spanish dollars in a year.
Several years' service in America would provide a custom official with
enough money to purchase a seat in the House of Commons from one
of the numerous "rotten boroughs," districts whose population had
been evicted, or gone to America, or departed
for other reasons and or other places.

Franklin, with his careful mind, gauged the average market price of
such a seat at 4000 pounds sterling. He probably exaggerated for
effect when he claimed that the whole British government could be
bought by the expeditious expenditure of two million pounds. Franklin
was one of many Americans who blamed the American penchant for
corruption on the examples afforded by their English rulers. But why
did it then continue forever after?

We should not worry, however, to hear that America was born in sin
and corruption. In the first place, nothing can be done to correct
history. In fact, we should be pleased to learn of it, inasmuch as we
have gained so little in virtue by imagining our ancestors to have
conducted themselves better than in truth. We should also put such
matters in perspective. Human government, wrote the German-Jewish
political scientist Oppenheimer and many another, began with
conquests. Slavery began with the winners and losers of the first
struggles. Noah got unabashedly drunk from the first
grape pressings after the Deluge, relates the Bible.

What began in colonial times has not ended to this day:
the tug-o-war between admiration and scorn of European culture,
which the English had too little of, and also a contempt for,
was reinforced with their extensive emigration to America.

Poets appear to have been rare (a volume of them is available but is
generously inclusive) in the colonies, although from time to time
poetasters' clubs appeared. Early seventeenth century New England
had Ann Bradsheet rewriting her daily prayers in doggerel, while in
Mexico Sister Juana Inez de la Cruz was composing plays, lyrics and
delicate spirituals, a poet's poet. Possibly - we may never know -
there were Indian and African counterparts but
hardly among the Nord Americanos.

No indigenous original music, except for the Afro-Americans and
Indians, could be heard, and these were persecuted, suppressed,
ignored, contemned. Many of their liturgical and historical chants
would have qualified for an anthology, but
few have been preserved.

No painting, sculpture or other fine arts, of intrinsic value, struck the
eye until after the Revolution. We have to speak as archaeologists:
The first family portrait by an American artist that is extant is Feke's
"Royall Family," dated at 1741; that seems incredibly recent, four
memorial generations ago, while Mexican
painting had long been in flower.

There are earlier individual portraits. The pre-eminent portraitist was
John Singleton Copley, who painted sweet pictures for the Boston
elite, crowding the ambiance with objects unaffordable by his clients;
but he (and his work) became depressed as the Revolution
approached, so he exiled himself to England.

The first professional theatrical troupe came from England to
play at Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1752. It does startle: that a century
and a half would pass before an American
could buy a ticket to a play.

Education was mainly in the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic,
early prescribed in Massachusetts for every township to dispense, not
commonly elsewhere, or provided by tutors, with a few private schools
to which a poor child might rarely aspire. Colleges had been founded
in all colonies by the time of the Revolution; they did not equal the
universities found in every one of the 42 European countries then
existent, including Ireland or Scotland, without exception, nor did they
yet outshine the Universities of Central and South America,
even after 200 years of settlement.

A few men had gone to Oxford or Cambridge, and were observed to
be superior beings. A few artists had studied in Italy, and
were ipso facto unquestionably comme il faut.
(Benjamin Rush, best of the lot, tarried thereafter
in London for the rest of his life.) The persistence of Bible studies
and of Greek and Latin in the curriculum, plus a
modicum of astronomy and physics, to the exclusion of pragmatic
education, so badly needed, shows us how desperate were the elite
colonists to emulate the homeland.

A good sign was the penetration of Harvard and Yale College libraries
by works in German on philosophy and science, and translations of a
number of European classics. That Wolfgang Goethe was alive and
well was appreciated by a great many German-readers around
America, but the great man, his pal Schiller, who fervidly
supported the American Revolution, and for that matter
Voltaire of France, had only decimal followings. Obviously a great
set of educational tasks awaited the future.

There were indications of achievements in science to come. At least
there were men who were touted as the greatest in the world, a sure
sign - this attitude - of the early acquisition of
boastfulness by the American Character.

One of these was Benjamin Franklin, whose general experimental
frame of mind was useful in all spheres of life, whose largest scientific
achievement was the demonstration of the identity of the electrical
"fluid" in both lightning and ground electricity. He originated the
Franklin Stove, a useful refashioning of the old. His famous Almanac
was a bright example of the European species. He was also the first
media mogul, investor in a chain of newspapers, in this case the frail
budding newspapers that the German immigrants fell to printing as
soon as they settled a place. His diplomatic genius in England and
France over a vital stretch of years was even then legendary. But he
was most clever in every way, at whatever he looked into,
Maestro Benjamin, Dr. Franklin.

He introduced pornography to America with his "Advice to a Young
Man on Choosing a Mistress," (1745). Around the same time, his
manuscript, "A Letter to the Royal Academy at Brussels," was
circulating, purporting to contain a scientific way of deodorizing farts.
He imported the first copy of Fanny Hill into the colonies; these
colorless "Memories of a Woman of Pleasure," in an American printing
of 1810, had to be destroyed, and endured many silly escapades with
American authorities well into the twentieth century.

Franklin invented a sturdy stove. Unfortunately,
what was cooked on the stove or in the clumsy large
fireplaces was a poor version of the at best mediocre cuisine of the
British. The better fares of the Germans, French, Spanish, and Dutch
were a joy to their settlements and to travelers. Caribbean Blacks and
Whites were doing some good in this regard as they were transhipped
to the continent. The Cajun bastion of Louisiana was just developing
its defensible peculiar cuisine. "Plain and hearty" might be said of the
American cuisine wherever the modified British prevailed, when in
good supply, and certainly more of the population had adequate food
than had the British. The situation has prevailed to this day among
their descendants.

Chunks of meat and potatoes (an Indian contribution) were the ideal.
Pork offal was both affordable and popular to half the people, so also
corn and bread puddings. The peculiar American fruit, nut, and squash
pies, such as apple, pecan, and pumpkin (Indian) pie, resembling many
others in Europe, nevertheless had and have a
commendable quality of their own.

A second genius of the 1700's was David Rittenhouse, an autodidact,
who made his living from clocks and instruments, and therefore built
telescopes and studied the heavens and arranged a great convocation
of amateurs to watch the transit of Venus on June 3, 1769,
at which moment, exhausted from his efforts,
he fainted beneath his telescope.
He was a most successful propagandist of scientific activity.

A third would be Thomas Paine who wrote books on political science
that compare favorably with any similar works until the 1920's. Paine
justified the American position against England and provided a
philosophy of direct radical democracy in Common Sense and the Age
of Reason. But he did not arrive in America from England until 1774,
when he was 35 years old, and, after delivering America from the
enemy, went back to fight the good cause in England, whence he had
to flee to France, where he fought for his direct democracy again and
ended up in a French Revolutionary prison, where most of the great
French revolutionaries also landed, - there and on the guillotine,
which he mercifully escaped. George Washington spat an obscenity at
his name, but granted his book on independence was
worth a regiment. More, I think.

The practical arts were modestly innovative. The Pennsylvania or
Kentucky Rifle, so-called, was a weapon that had been improved by
Swiss-Germans of Pennsylvania. So was the Conestoga Wagon that
became the standard vehicle for transporting people to the western
territories. In 1789 Samuel Slater immigrated, carrying plans for
various cotton mill machinery in his head; he had been an apprentice to
the best of English inventors since childhood and had been reached by
American advertisements for machines. He was hired, his memory
pumped, and the British machines reconstructed by the syndicate of
Moses Brown in Rhode Island.

Eli Whitney patented his cotton gin to comb out cotton seeds
mechanically in 1793; it enabled an exponential growth in the amount
of cotton that could be processed, and with an economy of labor, all
slave. It guaranteed the South would take a hard position
against the abolition of slavery. Soon cotton became king and
hundreds, then thousands and tens of thousands of
spindles were put to work spinning cotton.

Whitney also was an inventor of the system of interchangeable parts,
on the basis of which he obtained military contracts to provide
muskets. This fundamentally simple idea was, in his words, "to
substitute correct and effective operations of machinery for that skill
of the artist which is only acquired after long practice and
experience; a species of skill which is not possessed in this country to
a considerable extent." Precursors of the system had occurred in
France and England, and in America Simeon North had worked out a
similar method for the manufacture of pistols.

Here was another clear example of military requirements stimulating
inventiveness, which the Greek philosopher Heraclitus had noted 2500
years earlier and which would characterize much of the most recent
innovative development of American industry - in aeronautics,
condensed foods, nuclear energy, computers, tele-communications,
acoustics, and so on. Necessity is the mother of invention, but
necessity is acutely defined by those who command violence; that is,
warfare is a prolific father of invention.

In the more artistic sphere, shadowed from the sun by the sails of the
clipper ship, itself partly developed by American mariners, was the
wood-whittler. Whittling proffered some cute variations. It could be
pure "free-standing" sculpture or applied for interior design. The art
was particularly suited to the seafarer, at home and on the seas.

It is surprising to discover so few major novelties before the turn of
the century into the 1800's. Hispanic architecture in the Southwest was
beginning and would one day offer an original look here and there in
California, Arizona and New Mexico. Settlers built slightly modified
adobe cottages that descended the centuries till now.

Habitations on the East Coast were copies of the Old Country houses,
simple frame, swollen in size in New England when one's wealth
allowed, ornamented and columned like some of the classical
imitations found in England, Georgian mansions transported. The log
cabin had its European antecedents, Finnish it is claimed.
The wigwam and long house of the Indians had their imitators.

If we turn our attention to the methods of agriculture in America, we
are bound to be disappointed in them. There were not enough
Germans to go around, or perhaps, when scattered, they succumbed
docilely to bad company. Inventiveness was lacking; only incremental
adaptations of tools, notably in the axe and gun, were made. Farm
structures were poorly assembled, despite the plenitude of cheap
wood. The Christmas-card paintings and drawings of the habitat of the
early Americans were and are hokum.

The people who descended upon the New World seemed to be
singularly innocent of the major occupation of the Old, farming.
"..the aim of the farmers of this country, if they can be called farmers.."
wrote George Washington near the end of the 1700's, has been to get
the most out of the land with the least labor because labor is expensive
while the land is cheap. Some years earlier a Swedish botanist, Peter
Kalm, had written that "the grain fields, the meadows, the forests, the
cattle, etc. are treated with equal carelessness."

Then, in words that should bring the contemporary environmentalist
back to our beginnings, "..their eyes are fixed upon the present gain,
and they are blind to the future." Blindness to the future: this was to
be generally true, not only of the environment, but of other areas:
slavery, property rights, industrial growth, crime and corruption, city
development, the legislative process and passage of laws,
human welfare and many another.

Labor-saving, which can be another word for laziness, is logically
achieved when people squander resources to avoid tending to them,
and confine their attention only to the present. It would be silly to deny
that this trait has not been widespread in America: an ignorance,
denial, and contempt of foresight.

The fact that this image of Americans is denied will only introduce that
element in the national character called "hypocrisy." Hypocrisy
consists of assuming a false appearance of virtue or goodness, the
Oxford Dictionary tells us (as we all too well know). Hypocrisy can be
conscious and unconscious: for instance, any number of defenses of
bad farming practices can be made, like a poor plow or lack of help,
but if the unspoken reason is personal laziness and unkemptness, we
have a case of hypocrisy. If the lazy farmer truly believes himself a
hard worker cursed by bad land, then he is a sincere hypocrite. And if
he says in the same breath that "This country has a great future," he is
more clearly hypocritical. But, too, most likely a sincere hypocrite.

The question is resolving into "When did the trait that most peoples of
the world ascribe to Americans - hypocrisy - develop, and how?"
The trait is usually raised in connection with the contradiction between
the virtues a person ascribes to oneself and those that one
possesses and evidences by his conduct. Thus, scientists of the history
of religion note the correlation between peace-preaching and blood-spilling,
and remark that the claim to love peace when accompanied by
aggressive behavior is hypocritical. Further, the more intense the
demands made by a religious dogma upon a person, the more
likely that a hypocritical evasion of the demands.

In the reformed Protestantism that dominated churches, schools, laws,
and public opinion in early America, hypocrisy was rife, and as the
century that culminated in the Enlightenment passed, more and more
people threw off religious dogma and rituals, but these same people
could not be expected to reach down into their souls and perform
something that today the most sanguine psychiatrist will tell you is
most difficult to bring about, the consistent and total reconciliation of
what one believes with how one behaves.

Indeed, not until modern social psychology and psychiatry, infiltrating
the social sciences and even reformed religion, came about, and
developed a large audience for introspecting and clarifying personal
motives, did there appear to be any lessening of the American
penchant for hypocrisy. The composition of the American population
from the beginning was so mixed, undistinguished and deprived, that
there were myriad opportunities and every wish to assume a
hypocritical past and identity.

England had probably already acquired something of a reputation for
raising an unusual quota of frauds and swindlers - the preacher
Samuel Purchas wrote as the 1600's began, of those who were
"exceedingly subtill, hypocritical and double-dealing," a significant
concatenation of epithets. Many times, writers, including this one,
have indicated the large role of the promoter, advertiser, and booster
in America from the earliest solicitors of passengers for the
New World to the latest shenanigans of the
securities and exchange industry.

Foreigners wondered at the eager friendliness of Americans
despite a known penchant for violence, racism,
a moral code justifying self-serving, and
aggressiveness generally. In Europe an ordinary person's
character was more likely to be read as suspicious, sour,
open or indifferent upon first contact. But Americans for centuries
have been trained to "be nice to people."
The plethora of people's backgrounds demanded this trait.
As a result, hostile tendencies have not been apparent,
until, surprisingly, they are exercised.

It is notable that until the end of the 1700's the printing of books, even
including bibles and law books, waxed with exceeding slowness;
meanwhile, however, the newspaper, pamphlet, and handbill
prospered. There was exhilaration in the immediate, and the
extravagant from one end of the colonies to the others. If a person
today were to sample the nation's weekly press and many of the daily
newspapers from the smaller cities, she would discover a remarkable
parallelism with the newspapers of Franklin's day. Very early, one
could observe that distribution facilities
determined ownership, profits, and control,
just as it does today in the mass media.

The earliest entrepreneurs of the printing shops discovered that they
could best survive in business if they started up newspapers.
Americans also had a haste about them, already known to the world at
large, and they were more interested in the ephemeral and newsworthy
than in the Great Books. Authors of the better books often published
their own works, and printers, by virtue of their facilities,
often became authors of a sort.

By 1691 hundreds of papers had appeared and thousands flourished
and expired before the seventeenth century was out. Printers interested
themselves in the postal services to obtain a prompt delivery of their
product, and often a town printer would be publisher of newspapers,
advertisements, notices, legal proclamations and books, and carry on
also the functions of postmaster. Benjamin Franklin was
prototypical of all of this.

There was much censorship, but it was personal, arbitrary, and spottily
effective; controlling the press, as this has to be called, was no more
possible than the controlling of alcohol abuse. The case of Peter
Zenger in the 1730's was exceptional, though it became the standard-bearer
for all future legions defending the freedom of the press. He
was a "hired gun" of colonial leaders, who financed his newspaper
because they were hostile to the quarrelsome and tough royal
Governor Cosby of New York. Zenger was arrested and tried for
publishing a criminal libel, but freed when the jury
was swayed by barrister Andrew Hamilton's plea that
publishing the truth was not a libel.

The newspapers of those days were not at all better than those of
today, but were not worse either. Contents?: the weather, elections,
crimes, economic conditions, sales of all kinds, comings and going of
notables, proclamations of laws and court trials, editorials,
sailing technique, medical nostrums, and deaths. The wealthy and
powerful, and therefore healthier and knowledgeable
class of people, read the newspapers, the number
growing speedily with increased literacy.

It is usually to these thousands of readers, one in ten perhaps, on the
average, that historians have referred, producing a highly colored
image of an optimistic, sturdy civilization, assigning offensive behavior
mostly to English officials on temporary duty in the colonies and to
bad Indians. Pictorial documentation, whether sketched or painted
then or depicted "in the light of history," is skewed toward the
minute upper-middle and rich classes and, among these,
in their romantic impressions of an ideal life-style.

Studies of the belongings left by the deceased, as contained in probate
court records, are illuminating. (Only a minor proportion of the
population were represented in the records, because the
Afro-American population, 20% of the total in the latter part of the 1700's,
could legally leave no property; and the Indians, another 15% of the
colonials perhaps, could not either; nor did the
poor Whites leave wills.)

Still, we can examine five cases, briefly, to glimpse what people might
have and did have in the way of personal property. Notable in all cases
is the awful care with which the trivial remnants of a life were detailed,
evidence of the universal poverty in material goods. Buckets, spoons,
chamber pots and "chairs of necessity" (chaises de necessité),
mosquito nets, and pillows were carefully registered. A riding horse
was fairly common, a carriage rare.

A highly privileged case:

Thomas Gerry of Marblehead, Massachusetts died at 72. He was a
very rich merchant. His physical wealth totaled 5,741 pounds. His real
estate was in a warehouse, adjoining land, five houses, two schooners
and two small boats. He had much Jamaica fish, sugar, beef pork, 100
casks of whiskey, rum, raisins, Malaga wine, molasses, many kinds of
clothing and notions. He had a slave, unusual for Massachusetts,
Canto, ticketed at 37 pounds. He had silk gloves, gold buttons, velvet
suits, pewter ware, brass ware, much silverware, books, ten cords of
wood in the cellar, along with a goodly amount of liquor.

A decent case:

A widow, Sarah Brown of Queen Anne's County in Maryland, had
died aged 45 or more, leaving much less: 2 pounds worth of apparel,
"1 old Negro man named Durham," valued at 7.5 pounds, a 16-year
old black mare appraised at 2.2 pds, and a small colt worth 3.6. She
left a feather bed, a walnut table, a spinning wheel, several silver
spoons, an old pine chest, crockery, a half dozen glass bottles, pails
and tubs, etc. Her net worth came to 14 lbs. She had no real estate,
crops, or financial assets.

A barely decent case:

John Nickerson, a mariner of 45 years, died leaving 7 lbs from his last
voyage at sea, and 7 lbs worth of property, composed of a bed, articles
of apparel, a looking glass, miscellaneous household items, 5 old
razors, various jugs and bottles, and 26 gallons of molasses.

A barely decent case:

Thomas Ring, a laborer of Medway, Mass., died at 21, leaving a horse
and saddle, a hog, a dapper wardrobe, 2 sheets and bedstead, a few
kitchen items and a candlestick. Could he have sung "Yankee Doodle
Dandy"? No, that came later.

A fairly privileged case:

Hugh James, a farmer of Charlotte County, Virginia, aged between 26
and 44, left land estimated at 99 lbs and physical wealth of 206 lbs. He
had four Negroes, valued at 83 lbs, 1 horse worth 4 lbs, 14 hogs, some
leather, some feathers, and some corn. He owned a gun, pewter, a
punch bowl, 2 beds, an assortment of modest furnishings, a bell, and a
hogshead of tobacco.

All in all, about 5% of the adult population held assets of over 1000
pounds in personalty and 1000 pounds in land. This amounted to half
the wealth of the whole country, plus one-seventh of the whole
population as slaves. Probably 90% of the American population in the
period before the Revolution owned less that the average college
student today brings with her to school come September.

Personal property, however, does not define and measure all that we
understand by the good life. Wealth, influence, and welfare, we recall,
are the basic components of well-being for the individuals of a society.
So we must cast a judgement upon eighteenth century American
society over the span of all components, and do so in regard to the
proportions that would be deemed miserable, decently provided for,
and privileged. In this case we emerge with the following estimates for
the three centuries that have occupied us until now.

1492 1600 1700 1800
Population in millions 1.5 =
0.7 = 100% 1.2 = 100% 4.2 =
% Miserable 31 36 85.5 75.5
% Decent 67 62 14 24
% Privileged 2 2 0.5 0.5

The table offers a set of guesses, framed in quantitative form.
If it contains surprises and is perplexing,
this may be because one is habituated to a
historical myth of a fully White middle-class America.
We think that the Indian nations in the year 1492,
who composed 100% of the population,
suffered some unknown sum of misery from disease and
the ordinary miseries of life.

The beginning of the next century, 1600, was
still fully Indian in the "USA.", but suffering from diseases carried
in from all sides by occasional intruders. The year 1700 saw them still
suffering heavy losses from disease, and they were being deprived of
power over their lands and undergoing humiliation in wars. In 1800 we
find the Indian population, the Afro-Americans, and the White
population all severely deprived by disease, hunger,
warfare, and oppression.

The situation improves considerably for parts of the White population
by the time the new century begins in 1800, but, one recalls, the
proportion of slaves in the population was increasing greatly and the
Indians were continually losing along the whole spectrum of values.

Only one in every two hundred Americans in 1800 gets a good
average grade on a full set of life's values: wealth, respect, affection,
knowledge, health and power. That would be some 21,000 persons in
a population of 4.2 millions, practically all of them adult male
Caucasians of the Eastern seaboard.

This "privileged" level and the "decent" level would, of course, be at
the standard obtainable in that age. These might not be what in
present-day America would satisfy even a modest person.
Exceptionally, one would make the trade happily, so as to escape
crowding, industrial and consumer noises, the speeded-up pace of life,
and other insistent malefactors of modern existence. Or perhaps one
would truly appreciate a crude and simplistic life, without social
services or certain "higher" cultural pursuits - to
be a Campfire Girl forever.