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Today’s Conservatives Falsely Claiming Boston Tea Party Legacy

File:Boston Tea Party-Cooper.jpg

Far-right activists are staging so-called “tea parties” on April 15 to protest the fact that in a free society one must pay taxes and abide by the decisions of the electorate.  (Old-time image of tea party above.)

The claim being made by these extreme elements, when they are not advocating violence, is that somehow we are moving towards tyranny.

By trying to steal the symbolism of the Boston Tea Party, Republicans and the extreme right (no distinction appears to exist between the two) are confusing the idea of  no taxation without representation with bitterness about losing last November’s election.

(Here is the link to the Boston Tea Party Historical Society.)

Below is from the web home of a tea party web site. They say here that “Revolution is brewing.” Just what does that mean? Is it violence? What do they think a revolution is in this context?  

Tax Day Tea PartyThe actual New Englanders who were part of the real Boston Tea Party are the same people, or the fathers of the people, who would later become FederalistsUnitarians and abolitionists.  

Today’s Southern-based overwhelmingly white American right has nothing to do with the legacy of the Boston Tea Party.

The only historical  tradition these people are drawing upon is that of the treason of the first shot fired on Fort Sumter in 1861  to begin the Civil War. (Engraving below.)

File:Bombardment of Fort Sumter, 1861.png

America does have a visible representative of the best and most inclusive traditions of American History— The America of Thomas Paine, William Lloyd Garrison, Abe Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Sitting Bull, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez. 

That leader is the President of the United States and his name is Barack Hussein Obama. 

File:Ann Dunham with father and children.jpg

April 9, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Colonial America, Martin & Malcolm, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

I Ended Up Watching The Inauguration

This past Tuesday I gave some thought to skipping the Inauguration on TV and heading down the road to Galveston for a walk on the beach. I’m not entirely sure what was motivating my feelings except to say that with time people’s interests can change.  

I did watch the ceremony and I’m glad I did. Yet for as pleased as I am in the change of administrations, Mr. Obama and his team want to manage and manipulate the news no less than did his predecessor.

( Here is the story about the phony music played at the Inauguration.)

Watching all that day-to-day stuff saps my life energy. I can follow the news without seeing Mr. Obama’s stage managed events.

Here is a link to the C-Span American Writers series. It goes all the way back to William Bradford (grave above) in Plymouth in the 17th century. Without context what do we have? The events of the day are often fun to follow, but it can take a few hundred years for the real facts to become clear.

January 23, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Colonial America, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Expansive Idea Of Family In Colonial Virginia

I’ve been reading  Albion’s Seed—Four British Folkways In North America. This book was written by David Hackett Fischer.   

Here is what I read today in this book about the definition of family in 17th Century Colonial Virgina–

“The word family tended to be a more comprehensive term in Virginia than in Massachusetts. Virginians addressed relatives of all sorts as “coz” or “cousin” in expressions that were heavy with affective meaning; but the term “brother” was used more loosely as a salutation for friends, neighbors, political allies, and even business acquaintances. It is interesting to observe that an extended kin-term tended to be more intimate than the language of a nuclear relationship. The reverse tended to be the case in Massachusetts.”   

Fully understanding that this idea of family did not extend to slaves, there is a lot to be said for this concept  of family. It’s an idea we can update for the current day.  The broader the definition of family, the happier your may be. We are all connected in this life. The people in our immediate nuclear family may or may not be the people we really want around us.   

Here is my post “People Have A Right To Define Family Anyway They Wish.” This is a signature post of this blog.

Here is some good history of 17th-century Virginia.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Books, Colonial America, History, Relationships | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Puritans, King, And This Blogger Agree—Evil Is An Active Force In Life

In his Albion’s Seed–Four British Folkways In America, author David Hackett Fischer writes about five major Puritan doctrines and ideas that were brought to Massachusetts from England in the 17th century.

(Here is information about Puritanism in New England.)

These five were depravity, covenant, election, grace and love.

Here is what Mr. Hackett writes about the idea of “depravity”—

“…depravity…to Calvinists meant the total corruption of “natural man” as a consequence of Adam’s original sin. The Puritans believed that evil was a palpable presence in the world, and that the universe was a a scene of cosmic struggle between darkness and light. They lived in an age of atrocities without equal until the twentieth century. But no evil ever surprised them or threatened to undermine their faith…. They believed as an article of  faith that there was no horror which mortal man was incapable of committing. The dark thread of this doctrine ran through the fabric of New England’s culture for many generations. ”

While I’m not religious, I do suscribe to some of these ideas about so-called depravity. Life is often a battle between good and evil. And there is nothing so horrible that it can’t happen.

Maybe I find agreement because on one side of the family I’m descended from Puritans off the boat in 17th- century Massachusetts. Or maybe it is because I’m an ideologue and can relate to fanatics. Or it could just be that I have lived in our world and these are the conclusions I’ve reached.

Evil is not just about brutal acts in foreign nations. Evil is a relevant term for our leaders lying to get us to declare war on nations that pose no threat to our security. Evil is a relevant term for the willful mismanagement of our economy for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many.      

Martin Luther King saw evil as an active force in the universe. Here is what he said in his great sermon “Unfulfilled Dreams”  

“….. you must face the fact that there is a tension at the heart of the universe between good and evil. It’s there: a tension at the heart of the universe between good and evil. Hinduism refers to this as a struggle between illusion and reality. Platonic philosophy used to refer to it as a tension between body and soul. Zoroastrianism, a religion of old, used to refer to it as a tension between the god of light and the god of darkness. Traditional Judaism and Christianity refer to it as a tension between God and Satan. Whatever you call it, there is a struggle in the universe between good and evil.”

Like Martin Luther King, I’m hopeful that evil can be challenged and, at times, overcome. It is good that while evil is a fact of our existence, so is the ability to fight back with faith, reason, kindness and hard work.

(Please click here for the best Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List on the web. I’ll be updating it with two new titles early in 2009.)

December 24, 2008 Posted by | Books, Colonial America, History | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can It Be A Real Thanksgiving Without Smallpox?

The following is from an article called “The Truth About the First Thanksgiving” by James M. Lowen. Mr. Lowen has written Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America— (Above–One idea of the first Thanksgiving as painted by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. Mr. Ferris lived 1863-1930.)

The summer after the Pilgrims landed, they sent two envoys on a diplomatic mission to treat with Massasoit, a famous chief encamped some 40 miles away at what is now Warren, Rhode Island. The envoys discovered and described a scene of absolute havoc. Villages lay in ruins because there was no one to tend them. The ground was strewn with the skulls and the bones of thousands of Indians who had died and none was left to bury them. 

( Can’t figure out how to fix the glitchy font on the above paragraph—Things happen.)

During the next fifteen years, additional epidemics, most of which we know to have been smallpox, struck repeatedly. Europeans caught smallpox and the other maladies, to be sure, but most recovered, including, in a later century, the “heavily pockmarked George Washington.” Indians usually died. Therefore, almost as profound as their effect on Indian demographics was the impact of the epidemics on the two cultures, European and Indian. The English Separatists, already seeing their lives as part of a divinely inspired morality play, inferred that they had God on their side. John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, called the plague “miraculous.” To a friend in England in 1634, he wrote:

“But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by the small pox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not fifty, have put themselves under our protect”

Here is a timeline of European disease epidemics among Native Americans.

Here is information about smallpox.

Most of us have much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving and on all days. Yet this does not mean we should forget how we got what we have, and what costs were inflicted on people we felt were in the way.

(Below —A scene from King Philip’s War. This 1675 conflict is a more accurate reflection of relations between white settlers and Native Americans in colonial New England than the painting at the top of this post.) 

Early American Conflict.jpg

November 24, 2008 Posted by | Art, Books, Colonial America, History | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Copley’s Self Portrait & My Monarchical Impulses

Above is the self-portrait of the great artist John Singleton Copley. This portrait was painted in 1784 when Copley was 46.

In 1784 Copley lived in England. He had been born in Boston in 1738 and lived there for most of his life until he left for Europe in 1774.

The timing of Copley’s departure for Europe just before the American Revolution was no accident. He was a loyalist. Copley never came back to the United States.

Sometimes, when frustrated with the general public, I look at Copley’s haughty self-portrait and entertain a brief monarchical sympathy. It’s like a stiff drink to get past a rough moment.  

I think things out and always reject the option of a king or queen. I think the best way to support democracy is to be candid about the flaws of the masses. That way you are ready for what comes in politics and society.

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Art, Colonial America, History | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keep Your Core Beliefs To A Minimum

The passage I excerpt below is from Paul Revere And The World He Lived In by Esther Forbes. The book was published in 1942 and won a Pulitzer prize. I can’t recommend it enough. It makes you feel as if you are living in Colonial Boston. 

What I found of note in the passage is the fleeting luck-of-the-draw nature of what must have seemed core beliefs to the man in question. The subject, Governor Thomas Hutchinson (above), was forced out of a Colonial Massachusetts he has lost control over not long before the American Revolution. As the author notes in Revere, in many respects Hutchinson just came around at the wrong time.

From the book— 

“No man ever loved Massachusetts with a greater intensity than did Thomas Hutchinson. He had written her history, fought for her boundaries, re-established her currency, seen to it that her courts and judicial system were kept to a high standard. He had honestly believed in the centralization of power, and that the centre should be in London. The side which one did not, and yet their grandchildren ( two of Paul Revere’s  were to be dying within the century for the centralization of power in the Federal Government. Hutchinson lost everything by backing the wrong system at the wrong time. His houses, wharves, horses, coaches, great estates, even the tomb of his wife on Copp’s Hill, were confiscated. His name became an anathema. Hutchinson street would be renamed Pearl….and yet if the other side had won, Thomas Hutchinson would undoubtedly be regarded as one of you greatest patriots.”

Belief in British control of the colonies, and in a model of government that placed that control in London, meant nothing after the Revolution. Most of the talk and agitation meant to either keep the colonies under British governance, or, for that matter to free them, had little bearing on the final outcome of the struggle.   

I’m not suggesting it’s worthless to fight for a losing cause or for a cause that has little chance of success in your lifetime. You must go by what you believe. In fact, fighting for such a cause may well constitute a life well-spent.

What I am suggesting is that one way to keep a focus on what is most important, is to keep your core beliefs to a minimum. Protect what you believe from the whims of fate and from the endless distractions of our busy and media overloaded society. 

The liberalism I support is about a role for government in regulating the economy in order to make life more fair, a broad acceptance of people as they are, and democracy and free elections.   

I’m open to various methods and policies to reach these goals. Many “issues of the day” come and go and are quickly forgotten. Many things that seem important are not important.

Keep your core beliefs at a minimum and keep your eyes on the prize.

Here is information on Esther Forbes.

Here is information on Thomas Hutchinson.

July 22, 2008 Posted by | Books, Colonial America, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Picture Of The Grave Of Paul Revere

Here is a picture I took last week of the grave of Paul Revere.

You can find this grave in the Granary Burying Ground which is part of Boston’s Freedom Trail.

Here is information on Revere’s life. He lived 1734-1818. 

Click here to see Copley’s famous painting of Paul Revere.  

July 1, 2008 Posted by | Colonial America, History | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Rhode Island Independence Day!

May 4 is Rhode Island Independence Day.

On May 4, 1776 Rhode Island declared independence from Great Britain. It was the first of the soon-to-be former colonies to take this step.

If you were a school kid in Rhode Island in 1976, you got the day off as a holiday as part of Bicentennial observances that year.

I recall that as a good day. I lived in Rhode Island between 1968 and 1980.

(Below—The Rose Island lighthouse in Narragansett Bay)

Here is some history on Rhode Island ( Click here for the full link) —

Rhode Island was a leader in the American Revolutionary movement. Having the greatest degree of self-rule, it had the most to lose from the efforts of England after 1763 to increase her supervision and control over her American colonies. In addition, Rhode Island had a long tradition of evading the poorly enforced navigation acts, and smuggling was commonplace.

Beginning with strong opposition in Newport to the Sugar Act (1764), with its restrictions on the molasses trade, the colony engaged in repeated measures of open defiance, such as the scuttling and torching of the British customs sloop Liberty in Newport harbor in July 1769, the burning of British revenue schooner Gaspee on Warwick’s Namquit Point in 1772, and Providence’s own “Tea Party” in March 1775. Gradually the factions of Ward and Hopkins put aside their local differences and united by endorsing a series of political responses to alleged British injustices. On May 17, 1774, after parliamentary passage of the Coercive Acts (Americans called them “Intolerable”), the Providence Town Meeting became the first governmental assemblage to issue a call for a general congress of colonies to resist British policy. On June 15 the General Assembly made the colony the first to appoint delegates (Ward and Hopkins) to the anticipated Continental Congress.

In April 1775, a week after the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, the colonial legislature authorized raising a 1,500-man ”army of observation” with Nathanael Greene as its commander. Finally, on May 4, 1776, Rhode Island became the first colony to renounce allegiance to King George III. Ten weeks later, on July 18, the Assembly ratified the Declaration of Independence.

Here are some basic facts about Rhode Island.

Here is information on visting Rhode Island.  I’m gald to say that I’ll be spending a week in Rhode Island this summer.

Below is a picture I took in 2008 of the famous Independent Man statue found on the top of the Rhode Island State Capitol.

May 4, 2008 Posted by | Colonial America, History | , , | Leave a comment

Life & History Consists Of Broad Themes—It Is Not A Series Of Fragments

The painting above is Twilight In The Wilderness.

It was painted by Frederic Edwin Church in 1860.

Here is what it says about this painting in the book American Art and Architecture by Michael J. Lewis—

Church did not fragment his colors into intense local passages but subordinated them to an overall chromatic scheme…As with a musical composition, there is a dominant key signature against which contrasting harmonies resonate.   

That’s right!—Life is a few broad themes. Individual events take place within the broad themes. These broad themes last through time.

In the 1796 Presidential election, John Adams won nine states and Thomas Jefferson won seven states.

All nine states Mr. Adams won in ’96 were carried by John Kerry in 2004.

Of the seven states won by Mr. Jefferson, George W. Bush won six of them in ’04. ( Pennsylvania was the only state to switch, as it were, from Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Kerry.)  

As a general matter, the Adams’ states were in the North and the Jefferson states were in the South.

These regions of the country had different patterns of initial settlement. In the early years of the nation they had different institutions and different cultures to a greater extent than seen today.

The 2004 results would suggest, with admittedly some simplification, that despite the passage of 208 years, initial differences between the regions have formed broad general themes that have exercised some control of American political history.

Which, I’m sure, is just the point Mr. Church was getting at in his painting.

A great book to learn about the early years of the United States is American Colonies–The Settling Of North America by Alan Taylor. 

Frederic Edwin Church lived 1826-1900. Here is some information about Mr. Church

The above links to Mr. Adams, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Bush are from the first-rate presidential resources at the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.  

March 13, 2008 Posted by | Art, Books, Colonial America, History, Political History | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Copley’s Portrait Of Paul Revere


This is Portrait of Paul Revere by John Singleton Copley from 1768.

Paul Revere lived 1734-1818.

Here is how this painting is described in the book American Art and Architecture by Michael J. Lewis—

Here was a new kind of painting. Instead of aristocratic subjects in settings of leisure, Copley portrayed merchants and artisans who were not ashamed of their status or their manual labor—Aristocrats of commerce. Revere holds one of his silver teapots in one hand as he prepares to incise it with decoration while the other holds his head, as if to suggest that he earns his livelihood by both his hands and his head.”  

Here is information on Paul Revere.

Despite this painting, Copley was no friend of the American Revolution. He left America in 1774 and settled in London.

Click here for some information on Copley. Take a look at his self-portrait—Just seeing it will clue you in on his feelings about the revolution.   

Please click here for other Texas Liberal posts on Colonial America.

February 25, 2008 Posted by | Art, Books, Colonial America, History | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Shark Eats Kangaroo—Also, Australia Elects Left-Leaning Government

A shark has eaten a swimming kangaroo off the coast of the southern Australia town of Torquay in the State of Victoria.

This area is part of “Victoria’s mighty Surfcoast.”

The kangaroo hopped into the ocean and was consumed.  

Here is information about kangaroos. 

Here is an excerpt from a story on the kangaroo attack—

“Mr Boucher said the marsupial, which seemed dazed, stood at the edge of the water for about 10 seconds and then started swimming out to sea.

“It was bobbing up and down,” Mr Boucher said.

He told the Geelong Advertiser that the unfortunate marsupial was about 200m (656ft) from shore when the shark struck.

He said the predator’s back was clearly visible above the choppy waves as it launched its attack.

“It wasn’t a huge shark and it was too far out to see clearly, but it was a shark. I couldn’t believe it.”

Here is a story from the Geelong Advertiser about international media response to the attack. This news was reported in India and Germany.

Also, Australia recently elected a Labor government led by new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Mr. Rudd replaces the odious John Howard after over 11 long years.

Prime Minister Rudd promises to be part of the Kyoto climate treaty and to end Australian support of the War in Iraq.  

Mr. Rudd’s election was welcome news.  

The painting is called Watson and the Shark. It was painted in 1778 by John Singleton Copley.

Mr. Copley left New York City for England in 1774 and never came back. I don’t think he was so keen on the American Revolution. He mostly painted people of some social standing.

December 15, 2007 Posted by | Art, Colonial America, Politics, Sea Life | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sin To The Height Thy Fate Is Hell—Colonial Barbados

Colonial Barbados was said by some to be a kind of hell.

(Above—The Barbadoes Mulatto Gorl. A 1764 engraving by an Agostino Brunias. The Barbados Museum and Historical Society is a great place to learn about the history of Barbados.)  

Here is a poem about the place written in 1710—

And for one honest man ten thousand knavesBarbadoes Isle inhabited by slaves

Religion to thee’s a Romantick storey

Barbarity and ill-got wealth thy glory

All Sodom’s Sins are centered in thy heart

Death is thy look —Death in every part

Oh! Glorious isle in Vilany Excell

Sin to the height–thy fate is Hell.

In 1650 30,000 British colonists lived in Barbados. This was a large population for a colony of the time.

The attraction of Barbados that it was relatively easy to cultivate and that the natives had already been exterminated.

Here is information about native peoples of the Caribbean.

In the 1620’s through the 1640’s Barbados was populated in the main by indentured servants from England, Scotland and Ireland who hoped to work their way to freedom.  Most plantations on the island were small. The main crop was tobacco. However, the quality of the tobacco grown on Barbados was not first-rate.

As the economy of Barbados stagnated and hopes were not met, Barbadian planters , in response to a plot of rebellion by indentured servants, executed 18 of the men.

It was in the 1640’s that planters on the island moved to the labor intensive crop of sugar. Sugar grew well on Barbados.

Here is an article about the brutal process of making sugar in the 17th century.

From Alan Taylor’s American Colonies: The Settling Of North America

The sugar boom revolutionized the economy, landscape, demography and social structure of Barbados….Despite its small scale, by 1660 Barbados had 53,000 inhabitants–a density of 250 persons per square mile, which rose to 400 by the end of the century….The planters also filled the island with cane plants, obliterating the native forest. In 1676 the island’s governor observed, “There is not a foot of land in Barbados that is not employed to the very seaside.”…Much wildlife..vanished.

Growing sugar was terrible work—

The sugar planters needed a large and captive body of laborers…During planting season, the master expected every laborer daily to dig at least 60 large holes by hand with a hoe. Each hole contained one cane plant and required the shifting of 12 cubic feet of earth…free people did not volunteer for such…work. The sugar book demanded more workers at a time when the supply of indentured English-men was declining….at the same time, the intense exploitation of labor associated with sugar gave Barbados a more frightful reputation…Desperate for servants, the planters accepted growing numbers of ..criminals and political prisoners…Because white men could more easily escape…planters saw an advantage in employing only permanent slaves of a distinctive color.

By 1660, Barbados had become the first English colony with a black and enslaved majority…The growing slave population depended on increased slave imports, for the Barbadian slaves died faster than they could reproduce….The slaves succumbed to a deadly combination of tropical diseases, a brutal work regimen and the inadequate diet, housing and clothing provided by their masters. Rather than improve these conditions, the Barbadian planters found it more profitable t0 import more slaves.

However, rarely in life as it often seems, the oppressors suffered as as well for their misdeeds

…the Barbados planters paid some heavy psychological and physiological prices for their wealth and power. An especially ethnocentric people, the English found it …distasteful to dwell among Africans deemed so utterly different in complexion, speech and culture. With good cause, the planters also suffered..nightmares of slaves rising up to kill in the night. Adopting a siege mentality, the planters walled themselves within fortified houses that kept their blacks out. After 1680, the most successful grandees sought to escape from the profitable but troubling world they had made…

Most planters though, died before they could get away. During the 1640’s they had increased their exposure to deadly diseases by importing slaves bearing new pathogens from Africa…yellow fevermalaria...leprosy … elephantiasis.

The most thoughtful planters expressed dismay at what they had created….

Here are some facts about present-day Barbados from the BBC

Barbados is one of the more populous and prosperous Caribbean islands. Political, economic and social stability have given it one of the highest standards of living in the developing world.

It is a centre for financial services and has offshore reserves of oil and natural gas.

In recent years a construction boom has taken hold, with new hotels and housing complexes springing up. The trend accelerated as the island prepared to host some of the key Cricket World Cup matches in 2007.

However, a shortage of jobs has prompted many Barbadians – more often known as Bajans – to find work abroad. The money that they send home is an important source of income.

Most Barbadians are the descendants of African slaves who were brought to the island from the 17th century to work the sugar cane plantations.

Limestone caverns, coral reefs and a warm climate tempered by trade winds are among the island’s natural assets. Barbados is relatively flat, with highlands in the interior.

Here is some history of Barbados from the BBC. 

Here is the blog Barbados Free Press.

Here is a link to Nation News of Barbados.

The picture below is of a man riding a bike in Barbados.

December 14, 2007 Posted by | Art, Books, Colonial America, History, Poetry | , , , , , | 3 Comments

What Kind Of Man Was Salem Witch Trial Governor Samuel Sewall?


In his Pulitzer Prize winning The Colonial Mind 1620-1800, published in 1928, Vernon Parrington writes an interpretation of the life and career of Massachusetts colonial Governor Samuel Sewall (1652-1730.)

In addition to being governor during the trials, Sewall was one of the three judges. 20 people were put to death as a result of the trials. 

Here is information about the Salem Witch Trials.

In Parrington’s view, Sewall was a figure mostly resistant to change who in many ways was representative of a transition between an English and theocratic Massachusetts Bay Colony to the more open and democratic ways of the New England Yankee. It was this Yankee type that would play such a large role in the Revolution. 

( Click here to get a more full account of what I’m saying in the above paragraph. )   

A somewhat contrasting view of Sewall is offered in a new book about the governor called Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall. In this book, which I’ve not read, author Eve LaPlante seeks to show Sewall as man who spent much of his life after the Witch Trials trying to atone for his acts.     

The information I have on the LaPlante book comes from a review in the New York Times.   

Sewall retains some fame today for serving as Governor during the trials and for having kept a detailed diary.  

Said Parrington about Sewall, his diary and his times—

The diary of Samuel Sewall not only narrates the homely activities of Boston in the evening of the theocracy…but it unconsciously reveals the transformation of the English Puritan to the New England Yankee. The sober Boston citizens who on the Sabbath…took notes of long sermons, on weekdays plied their gospel of thrift with notable success. They loved their meeting house as their fathers had loved it, but they were the sons and grandsons of tradesman, and true to their English instincts they set about erecting a provincial mercantile society, dominated by the ideas of the little capitalist.

Of this rising world of mercantilism, Samuel Sewall is a worthy representative. A Puritan magistrate and village capitalist, he made full use of his opportunities to worship God, thrive and rise….”

Sewall married a woman who had a rich father, attended to his duties and his business ventures with hard work and diligence and rose to be Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Says Parrington—

“He understood how desirable it is to put money in one’s purse; so he made a great alliance and proved himself a shrewd husbandman as well as a kind husband. From commerce and land speculation and money lending and the perquisites of his many offices, he accumulated steadily until his wealth entitled him to be regarded as one of the first citizens of Massachusetts.”

While noting Sewall’s opposition to slavery and to the death penalty in cases of counterfeiting, Parrington does not see much growth in Sewall’s capacity for open-minded thinking over the long span of his life. 

Parrington ends on Sewall by noting the better aspects of nature—

Happily there is another and pleasanter side to the character of Samuel Sewall….It was his neighborliness that made him so representative of the leveling tendencies of provincial village life, an easy comradeship with man of all conditions. Sewall is the first Yankee who reveals the native kindness of the New England Village… Growing more human with the ripening years, yet instinctively conservative…he reveals the special bent of the New England character…a practical race that was to spread the gospel of economic individualism across the continent.

While Parrington was most interested in Sewall’s overall character, the LaPlante book appears focused more on the Witch Trials and sees Sewall’s life afterwards as an effort to repent having a hand in sentencing the accused witches to death.

The Times’ reviewer, Temple University history professor David Waldstreicher, says Sewall’s more personal story may have been lost over the years “beneath the quest for the Puritan mind.” That might, or might not, be a reference to Parrington specifically. Though in any case, it does seem to get at what LaPlante is trying to accomplish in her book.   

Sewall had four young children die before the 1692 trials. Salem Witch Judge begins with Sewall watching over a dying newborn at 4 AM. It’s suggested that these deaths  may have made Sewall think more about his own sins.

Maybe that was indeed the case, though some pretty bad people people in history have had family tragedies and have cared about their own families. It’s easy to care about your own family. 

Sewall is said by LaPlante to not have doubted the guilt of those accused of being a witch at the time of the trial. His own minister, Samuel Willard, had doubts, in time, and eventually disinvited Sewall from private prayer meetings.

From the review—

In 1697, at a public fast day service, he handed..Willard… a sheet pf paper to read out…He asked “pardon of men” and God for his role in the trials…after the confession he experienced ” spiritual relief” in Laplante’s words, but nevertheless began to wear a makeshift hair shirt. Within a few years he showed a more pacific attitude towards the Indians and published an important early antislavery tract, the first to appear in print in North America. He was thinking big, despite having been humbled.      

Professor Waldstreicher comments that LaPlante should have made more out of the political and social climate at the times of Sewall’s initial acceptance of the charges and his later repentance. Sewall was, after all, a politician.

The final conclusion of the reviewer as he took from the book was that by concern for the rights of Indians and slaves, Sewall had at least been able to take a bad act and transform it into some good for others.

Was that enough? A few years ago in my life I would have said it was not enough. As I get a little older, I’d be less certain of that response today.   

The painting is called Judge Samuel Sewall. It was painted by John Smybert in 1729.    

(Please click here for other Texas Liberal posts on Colonial America.)

November 30, 2007 Posted by | Art, Books, Colonial America, History | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

500th Texas Liberal Post—Each Post Worse Than The One That Came Before


This is the 500th Texas Liberal post. While not a big deal for you the blog reader, I’d like to comment. 

500 posts is not a lot for some blogs, yet it is still quite a bit of work.

I enjoy blogging and I’m thankful to have the ability and the time to communicate with others.  

Three important things we have in life are our relationships, our values and the ability to communicate.

Since the beginning of October I’ve run just under 400 page views a day according to my WordPress stats. That’s good I’d say. I appear to still be moving up in traffic. My goal is 1000 page views a day at some point in 2008 and to take it from there. 

If you like Texas Liberal, please forward the link to somebody you think might feel the same way. The internet may seem like mass communication, but you build an audience for a blog one–by one–by one. 

There are a few of my entries I’d like to link to that I feel, for various reasons, have some merit. ( At the bottom of this post I’ll mention some other strong blogs. It’s no fun without other blogs.)

Malcolm, Martin & Liberals Like Myself is a brief overview of how I came to my outlook on politics and society. It describes why I’m often not at ease with people who might in some respects appear to be natural allies.   

My Excellent Wife Wearing Wedding Dress And Holding Bowling Ball is a great post because it involves my wife. My wife is the best person in the world.

 A Very Good Phone Call With Melissa Noriega is my favorite post about Texas politics. I went from skepticism about Houston Council candidate Noriega to an ongoing dialogue with someone who is now a friend and a sitting Councilmember.   

Colonial Loyalists As Modern Conservatives With Bonus Tarring-And-Feathering Picture is a good post from the number of entries I’ve made on Colonial America.  

Texas Fish Kill As Andy Warhol Painting is my favorite post on sea life. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage posting about sea creatures. In this post, I simply enjoy the three illustrations of the fish.

As Liberal As I Am, If Hillary Clinton Is The 2008 Democratic Nominee I’ll Give Her My Strong Support lays out some of my views about the 2008 campaign.

I Tipped The Kid Who handed Me A Burrito $5 Because I Felt He Shared My Outlook And Might, With Time, Share My Values  is a post that I hope suggests we can always be of help to good people.   

People Have A Right To Define Family As They Wish is the post I’m most proud of on the blog. Every day I get search engine traffic from someone googling the term “define family” or “what is family.” I feel maybe this post has helped somebody.   

Posts I’ve written have been linked to by Crooks and Liars , SlateThe Agonist, rebecca’s pocket and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune . I’ve been picked up by BlogBurst a number of times and those good folks have landed me at USA Today, The Austin-American Statesman and the Reuters News Agency. 

Blognet News/Texas and Lefty Blogs are most helpful. And, of course, so is WordPress. I can’t say enough good about WordPress.    

I have one of five featured political blogs at the Houston Chronicle and I also blog at Where’s The Outrage?

Where’s The Outrage? is the home of the Errington Thompson podcast. 

My thanks to Dwight Silverman at the Chronicle and Errington Thompson at WTO? in North Carolina for these opportunities. 

Friendly bloggers and good blogs can be found at, among other places, Jobsanger, Brains & EggsLast Row, Blue Bloggin’ , Who’s Playin? and Panhandle Truth Squad.

South Texas Chisme does a very good job of conveying a lot of information in an efficient way while keeping a sense of humor.    

I’d also like to note two blogs, on the opposite side of the aisle from myself in some respects, that were nice enough to recently place me on their blogrolls.

Bloggin’ All Things Brownsville is well-conceived and well-executed. I’ve had to find a voice for my blog. I think BATB knew what she was doing from the start.

And—Thanks to my friend Tito for the link from Custos Fidei. That link is, I think, another example of how people often sense they have something in common despite clear enough differences.  

Also, closer to my side of the aisle, The Field Negro out of Philadelphia is well-tuned to my sensibilities. Thanks to that blog for the link.

Thanks George and Bill in Cincinati for all the comments and thanks to Citizen X for reading the blog. Thanks to many long-time friends who read the blog.      

Thanks to super-smart Alex Ragsdale at the U. of Houston and thanks to her good friend Will who is studying at Georgetown. Both are bright young folks who will do great things.    

Most of all—Thanks to everybody who has read Texas Liberal and thanks for the comments. As I mentioned up top, please consider sending this link to others as I work to grow Texas Liberal.

The illustration is of some type of pygmy Mastodon. The Mastodon is the state fossil of Michigan.

November 29, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Cincinnati, Colonial America, Good People, Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Martin & Malcolm, My Wife Is The Best Person Ever, Politics, Sea Life, Texas, Welcome To TexasLiberal | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments