Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Coming of The Enlightenment


Toward the end of the 17th century, Enlightenment thought spread throughout Europe & into the British American colonies lasting well into the 18th century.

Born by scientific advances , particularly those of Isaac Newton (1642–1727), the inductive method of Francis Bacon (1561–1626), and the empirical philosophy of John Locke (1632–1704), the Enlightenment movement emphasized the importance of individual human reason as well as the existence of natural law.

It encouraged literary critics & taste-makers Joseph Addison (1672-1719) & Richard Steele (1692-1729) to publish The Spectator; satirists Alexander Pope 1688-1744) & Jonathan Swift (1667-1745); plus economists (Adam Smith (1723-1790) & Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). In the 1st half of the 18th century, their writings quickly spread to the British American colonies through enterprising booksellers such as young Benjamin Franklin. And more people were learning to read in the 18th century.

Artists inspired by its rationalism & order turned from the florid Rococo toward a more elegant simplicity. At the same time, the discovery of the ruins of the ancient cities Herculaneum (1709) & Pompeii (1748) renewed interest in the arts, literature, and architecture of classical cultures.

At the end of the 18th century, revolutions in France & the British American colonies invited comparisons between classical & contemporary governments. These factors advanced the Neoclassical movement in the visual arts & architecture, and the study of literary classics in Latin & Greek. Young men, and even some women, learned classical languages in 18th century America.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Back in England - A Love Poem from King Charles II

.Sir Peter Lely (1618–1680) Frances Teresa Stuart 1662-65
Frances Teresa Stewart, Duchess of Richmond & Lennox (1647-1702) was a prominent member of England's Court of the Restoration and was famous for refusing to become a mistress of King Charles II.

Charles Stuart II in 1680 Attributed to English Court painter Thomas Hawker
Charles II (1630–1685) was monarch of the 3 kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Charles II poem to Frances Stewart:

I pass all my hours in a shady old grove,
But I love not the day when I see not my love:
I survey ev'ry walk now my Phyllis is gone,
And sigh when I think we were there all alone;
O then 'tis, O then that I think there's no Hell
Like loving too well.

But each shade and each conscious bo'wr when I find,
Where I once had been happy and she had been kind,
When I see the print left of her foot in the green,
And imagine the pleasures may yet come again;
O then 'tis, O then that no joy's above
The pleasures of love.

Whilst alone to myself I repeat all her charms,
She I love may be lock'd in another man's arms;
She may laugh at my cares and so fla se she may be,
To say the kind things she before said to me,
O then 'tis, O then that I think here's no Hell
Like loving too well.

But when I consider the truth of her heart
Such an innocent passion, so kind without art,
I do fear I have wrong'd her and so she may be
So full of true love to be jealous of me.
O then 'tis, O then I think no joy's above
The pleasure of love.
See more on Charles II & Frances at Tom Sykes' excellent blog on the English Early Modern era In Pursuit of History.
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Legal Rights for Women in the 17th Century Colonies

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People settling in the British American colonies during the 17th century were searching for political or legal refuge; adventure and profit; or religious freedom.

Despite professed beliefs in enlightenment and reason, independence for most women in the British American colonies and the new republic was nearly impossible. Individualism and freedom were reserved for men in colonial society throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

Women living in the Atlantic colonies usually did not have the right to vote or hold office. Some colonies and states did allow women to vote briefly, but by 1787 women in all states except New Jersey had lost the right to vote.

If they were married, women could not own land in their names. Men usually willed real estate to surviving sons and only personal property to surviving daughters, ensuring that land would pass from man to man.

If a woman had somehow acquired land or economic security before she married through inheritance or her own hard work, all her property automatically was awarded to her new spouse when she married. In England and its colonies, the common law of coverture placed married women under the direction of their husbands.

Married women could not make contracts, even for their own labor. A wife had no legal identity separate from her husband's. The interests of a wife and her children were to be determined and represented solely by her husband.

Property was power in the colonies, and married women would have neither.

Divorces were rare, and usually men were allowed to beat their wives, just as they beat their slaves and servants and dogs and horses. When a wife chose to run away from an unbearable marriage, her husband could advertise for her capture and return in local newspapers; just as he could advertise for the return of his runaway slaves and servants.

Many widows chose not to remarry because of these laws; however, most widows with younger children remarried quickly for financial and physical assistance in raising her growing family.


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Monday, February 21, 2011

Queen Elizabeth, Her Stepmothers, Her Half Sister, & the New World

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Elizabeth I began her rule as England's monarch in 1558. Never-married Queen Elizabeth, who loved fashion and men of all ages, avidly studied a variety of languages and cultures. She encouraged her nation to explore the world.

In 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh sent an expedition to settle Roanoke Island in Pamlico Sound (between what today is mainland North Carolina and its Outer Banks) in hopes of bringing riches home to the crown and establishing a base from which to fight the Spanish. Colonists were left to establish themselves, while waiting for a ship from England to return to with needed provisions to keep the settlement functioning.

Worried about the coming of the Spanish Armada, the queen commandeered every able ship to remain in England to fight, leaving no seaworthy vessels to return to the “Roanoke” colony to resupply the colonists.

When a ship finally arrived back on America's Atlantic coast with provisions three years later, all 121 colonists were gone, including the first English baby born in America, Virginia Dare. Elizabeth would not see a successful English colony in the new world during her lifetime.

Although Elizabeth believed that she had been called by God to rule, she was savvy enough to give some governing powers and religious freedoms to her restless subjects. And England emerged from her 50 year reign as a cultural and economic power.

When Elizabeth died in 1603, only four years before the settlement of Jamestown in Virginia, the Stuart monarchs took control. England's political and financial strength faltered. Wars with Catholic Spain had drained England's coffers.

The Stuarts' dogged determination to rule by the Divine Right of Kings, a doctrine declaring that the monarch is answerable not to man but to God only, undermined the peoples' representatives in Parliament. In addition, the Stuarts' Catholic sympathies stirred a new wave of religious unrest.

Elizabeth's stubborn father, King Henry VIII, ended earlier religious bickering by cutting ties with the Catholic Church and declaring the Anglican Church the official Church of England.

This also allowed the king freedom from the Pope, so that he might marry--again and again. "King Henry the Eighth, to six wives he was wedded: Two annulled then beheaded, one died, two annulled but let live, one survived."

Elizabeth's stern predecessor, Queen Mary Tudor, sometimes called Bloody Mary, championed the return of the Catholic Church. Her religious zeal led her to persecute and behead those who disagreed. In 1587, Elizabeth executed her cousin, staunch Catholic supporter Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots.

Religious tensions continued to fester, while the British American colonies were established and eventually erupted into civil war in 1642; the execution of Charles I; and a decade of Puritan rule in mother England affecting the stability of her fledgling American colonies in the process.

Mary Queen of Scots who Elizabeth beheaded


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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Back in England - William and Mary Crowned

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William and Mary, portrait possibly celebrating their coronation in 1689 as King William III and Queen Mary II, from the Guild Book of the Barber Surgeons of York.

Following Britain's bloodless Glorious Revolution, Mary, the daughter of the deposed king, and William of Orange, her husband, are proclaimed joint sovereigns of Great Britain under Britain's new Bill of Rights.

William, a Dutch prince, married Mary, the daughter of the future King James II, in 1677. After James' succession to the English throne in 1685, the Protestant William kept in close contact with the opposition to the Catholic king. After the birth of an heir to James in 1688, seven high-ranking members of Parliament invited William and Mary to England. William landed at Torbay in Devonshire with an army of 15,000 men and advanced to London, meeting no opposition from James' army, which had deserted the king. James himself was allowed to escape to France, and in February 1689 Parliament offered the crown jointly to William and Mary, provided they accept the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights, which greatly limited royal power and broadened constitutional law, granted Parliament control of finances and the army and prescribed the future line of royal succession, declaring that no Roman Catholic would ever be sovereign of England. The document also stated that Englishmen possessed certain inviolable civil and political rights, a political concept that was a major influence in the composition of the U.S. Bill of Rights, composed almost exactly a century later.

The Glorious Revolution, the ascension of William and Mary, and the acceptance of the Bill of Rights were decisive victories for Parliament in its long struggle against the crown.
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