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J. Hector St. John De Crèvecoeur (1735-1813)

De Crevecoeur is a writer with a divided reputation and a mysterious and fascinating past. Crevecoeur rewards the reader’s close attention but only rarely provides firm conclusions about the author’s views and intentions. In “What Is an American?”–the most famous essay in his internationally acclaimed Letters from an American Farmer (1782)–Crevecoeur offers an idealistic portrait of the soon-to-be United States, one that resonated with later depictions of the nation as a melting pot and a land of opportunity. Farmer James, Crevecoeur’s persona in the Letters, is at his happiest and most hopeful here, and these qualities have sometimes been taken as his creator’s entire understanding of “the American, this new man”; however, the full text of the Letters tells a different story. It includes a shocking depiction of a slave suffering a brutal punishment; and it ends with Farmer James having moved his family to a frontier Indian village out of despair over the fratricidal violence unleashed by the Revolution. The complexity of Crevecoeur’s stance toward Revolutionary-era American society is greatly magnified by the uncertainties surrounding the author’s ultimate commitments. The uncertainties associated with the work itself are amplified by the differences between the English and French editions.

Born Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur in Caen, Normandy, he was the son of a minor nobleman. He came to reject Catholicism as oppressive, and perhaps for this reason he broke with his father as a teenager, sailed to England, and lived there with distant relatives. He traveled to French Canada and enlisted in the militia. He was wounded in the defense of Quebec during one of the major battles of the French and Indian War (1754-63). He later traveled to New York and was naturalized as a British colonial subject in 1765 and changed his name to Hector St. John. Sometimes he went by James Hector St. John, a moniker suggesting that he identified with his persona Farmer James. Crevecoeur traveled extensively in the colonies as a surveyor and a trader with American Indians. He married a wealthy Protestant woman, bought land in New York and settled into life on his farm. They had three children. In his first year at Pine Hill, Crevecoeur began to write a series of essays about America based on his travels and experience as a farmer.

He was arrested and imprisoned as an American spy in 1779, when he tried to sail from the British-held port of New York. Crevecoeur reached London in 1780 and sold his manuscript to a publishing house there, leading to the 1782 edition of Letters. There is evidence to suggest that the British edition was partially rewritten by an unknown editor to draw out its republican themes. He reconciled with his father then moved to Paris. The French translation of the Letters (1784) was recast more favorably toward France.

In 1783, Crevecoeur returned to the now victorious United States. He then learned that his farm had been burned in an Indian attack, his wife was dead, and his children were housed with strangers. After regaining custody of his children and moving to New York City, Crevecoeur was made French consul to New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. He was a great success as a diplomat. He later became an adopted member of the Oneida Nation.

Farmer James writes his letters in response to queries from an English visitor, who wishes to better understand America. The personal letter was a central genre in eighteenth-century literary culture, featured in epistolary novels as well as popular travelers’ and naturalists’ accounts, both factual and fictional. The American farmer was already a well-established figure in the political and social debates of the day.

Crevecoeur’s Letters engage the revolutionary-era debates over human nature and political organization vividly but unspecifically. He inserted himself into the same transatlantic debates over Americanness and its effects on humankind. Crevecoeur’s philosophical themes are woven through his work rather than presented discursively. This allusiveness distinguishes Crevecoeur’s Letters from the political writings of the day and lends the collection its lasting fascination.

 

From Letters from an American Farmer

From Letter III. What Is an American?

 

Begins lyrical and lofty in tone. The new continent is vast. Modern society, but different. No aristocratic families, no kings, no invisible power for the few. No great manufacturers employing thousands, few luxuries. Rich and poor closer to each other than in Europe. United by silken bands of mild government, all respecting laws, without dreading their power because they are equitable. Wants to convey the image that we are all equal and well taken care of. We have no princes. We are the most perfect society now in the world. We are a nation of immigrants. There never was a people, situated as they are, who with so ungrateful a soil have done more in so short a time.  

Crevecoeur writes of how much better this country treats her people. Laws protect people as they arrive and people are rewarded for their labors. People can buy land. Our government sets up the laws.

Crevecoeur sets out his definition of being an American. He mentions language, land, bread, protection and consequence. We all come from other countries and marry people from other countries. “He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men…” We can see our labors changing the world. Arts, sciences, vigor and industry. Incorporated into one fine system. We have new ideas and opinions. Simple subsistence. We are shaped through nurture and find little crime.

Crevecoeur describes different characteristics according to where people live. He mentions those that live near water, and those that live near the center of the country. More people are moving toward the center. The general indulgence leaves everyone to think for themselves in spiritual matters. He describes backwoods people saying they are the wildest bunch being the furthest away from the government. Where you live differentiates you from people living in other areas.

Various Christian sects introduced wear out, and religious indifference becomes prevalent. The nearer the church, the stronger the zeal. The strict modes of Christianity as practiced in Europe are lost. He gives an example. We do not care what religion you practice, so long as you are peaceful, who cares? Your religion doesn’t make you any better or worse than the next guy. “Their children will therefore grow up less zealous and more indifferent in matters of religion than their parents.” The fury of making proselytes, is unknown here; they have no time, the seasons call for all their attention. One may try a different religion’s church because it is nearby; others may stop attending altogether. Thus all sects are mixed as well as all nations; thus religious indifference is imperceptibly disseminated from one end of the continent to the other; which is at present one of the strongest characteristics of the Americans. Zeal evaporates in the great distance it has to travel. It burns away in the open air.

Woods people have to keep predators away. The farmer becomes the hunter. Woods people experience a lawless profligacy. Their wives and children live in sloth and inactivity; and having no proper pursuits, you may judge what education the latter receive. Half civilized, half savage. They are lonely and eat wild meat. No place of worship. They adopt the moroseness of ferocity of a native, without his mildness or his industry at home. As hunters it is divided between the toil of the chase, the idleness of repose, or the indulgence of inebriation. If European backwoods men can become so wild just imagine the Indians!

This place is settled by freeholders, the possessors of the soil they cultivate, members of the government they obey, the framers of their own laws, by means of representatives. The idle may be employed, the useless become useful, the poor become rich by cleared lands, cattle, good houses, good clothes. New arrivals meet with hospitality, kindness and plenty. We seldom hear of punishment or executions. We have elegant towns, industry and freedom. We have rural districts, convenient roads, good taverns and many accommodations.

If you want to work we have bread for you. America will also provide for your children, which is every parent’s fondest wish. “Go thou and work and till; thou shalt prosper, provided thou be just, grateful, and industrious.”

 

From Letter IX. Description of Charles-Town; Thoughts on Slavery; on Physical Evil; A Melancholy Scene

 

Charles-Town is a capital in the north and one of the richest provinces. Carolina produces commodities, has thriving industries and displays its riches and luxuries. It was build at the confluence of two large rivers. It have warfs, docks, and warehouses which are extremely convenient to facilitate this great commercial business. Inhabitants are the happiest and at the center of the beau monde. They have the richest planters with the best health and pleasure. Our space provides better health than the West Indians could ever dream. The growth of this town and province has been astonishingly rapid. The weather is temperate though sometimes when they have no sea breezes the sun is too powerful. There are elegant houses with sumptuous furniture and table settings. The three principal classes of inhabitants are lawyers, planters and merchants. The richest spoils are to them and nothing can exceed their wealth, power and influence. These men are more properly law givers than interpreters of the law. They have the skill and dexterity of the scribe with the power and ambition of the prince. We are a litigious society as well.

At the same time, scenes of misery overspread the country. They neither see, hear, nor feel for the woes of their poor slaves, from whose painful labors all their wealth proceeds. Here the horrors of slavery, the hardship of incessant toils, are unseen; and no one thinks with compassion of those showers of sweat and of tears which from the bodies of Africans, daily drop, and moisten the ground they till. [See ninth edition page 647 for deeper discussion of a slavery.]

A clergyman comes in to soften hearts against slavery. The people got upset and asked him to stick to the bible. We try to conceive of slavery as not so bad since it has been known in all ages and all countries. Does the cosmic order abandon mankind to all the errors, the follies, and the miseries, which their most frantic rage, and their most dangerous vices and passions can produce? Everywhere one part of the human species are taught the art of shedding the blood of the other; of setting fire to their dwellings; of leveling the works of their industry; half of the existence of nations regularly employed in destroying other nations. This displays the violence of colonization. Man is neither civilized in nature nor in city. I prefer the country. Too many people equals more trouble. These are my melancholy reflections. While on a walk I perceived a Negro suspended in a cage and left to expire [649]. I gave him a drink of water. The reason for this slave being thus punished was on account of his having killed the overseer of the plantation.

 

From Letter X. On Snakes; and on the Humming Bird

 

While on a walk I came across two snakes, one pursuing the other. The aggressor was of the black kind, six feet long; the fugitive was a water snake, nearly of equal dimensions. They mutually tried with open jaws to lacerate each other. The scene was uncommon and beautiful; for this opposed they fought with their jaws. The black one pulled the water snake back from the ditch. Victory seemed doubtful, inclining sometimes to the one side and sometimes to the other. They both plunged into the ditch. The black snake seemed to retain its wonted superiority. It incessantly pressed down under the water, until the water snake was stifled and sunk. The black snake returned to shore and disappeared.

 

Sarah Kemble Knight 1666-1727

Bostonian Sarah Kemble Knight kept a boarding house and taught school. Her keen writing skills allowed her to teach penmanship, copy court records and write court letters. Taught herself about the law and could settle estates. She traveled alone (while her husband was abroad) to settle her cousin’s estate. The journey was hazardous and not often attempted by women traveling alone. Her travel log was not published until the 19th century. Knight was a keen ethnographic observer of provincial America. She had a sharp humor and did not shy away from the crude or ridiculous. Her journal depitcts everyday life at the turn of the 18th century while revealing some of America’s most troubling prejudices.

The piece below is transcribed and edited. It provides a healthy contrast to the soul-searching journals of Knight’s contemporaries and reminds us of the manifold ways in which provincial Americans absorbed transatlantic models for the expression of the most common and intimate details of their lives.  Her work can be seen as a meditation on what made a provincial culture viable and mature. Knight was a woman who did not suffer fools gladly and she was tough-minded. Her work shows that women early in the eighteenth century had significant economic roles. The text here is from The Journal of Madame Knight, edited by George P. Winship (1920; reprinted 1935).

 

From The Private Journal of a Journey from Boston to New York

From Tuesday, October the Third

[not in new Norton Anthology edition]

This is a travel tale. Ms. Knight writes of a very arduous journey. She and her guide forge a river and travel on horseback through the woods at night. The journal is punctuated with poetry.

When she gets to the inn she cannot sleep for the two men arguing in the next room.

We read a short poem about the arguing men in the next room at the inn. They are arguing loudly. In the poem Knight is hoping the men will get drunk and pass out. She writes that she paid sixpence a piece for their dinners, which was only smell.

 

Saturday, October the Seventh

Having a young male accompany her on her trip–most likely for safety. Knight describes being lost and asking directions. When she arrives in New Haven she pays her guide who then leaves. “…informed myself of the manners and customs of the place and at the same time employed myself in the affair I went there upon.” Knight is discussing the culture and laws of Connecticut and how they are similar to Boston. She feels they come down a bit too hard on the punishment for some rules that don’t allow young people to be young. Public whippings were a preferred punishment. Speaking of negro slaves and Indians who steal and the language barriers that arise when the Native American is brought to court. For fun they go to lectures and perform military exercises. New Haveners marry early, usually before age 20. As a ritual, the groom will run from the chapel right before the joining of hands and his groomsmen then drag him back. The farmers are too friendly with their slaves and they even eat together “…and into the dish goes the black hoof as freely as the white hand.” Knight also speaks of a court arbitration between master and slave in which the slave won.

These are the most unchristian Indians I have ever seen. Indians can own land and live by their own laws, including having multiple wives. Both Indians and the New Haveners do not seem ashamed to get divorced. Indians can only be punished for offenses on English land. When Natives lose a loved one they paint their faces black, cut their hair, and won’t allow the dead’s name be spoken. Indians will trade almost anything for rum, but it is watered down by the English.

Knight tells a humorous anecdote of what usually occurs in a general store [613]. New Haveners have native intelligence but you can’t always tell. Country people should keep to their own hearths and clean. They dress plainly. They celebrate election day like a national holiday.

 

From December the Sixth

Knight is now in New York. Pleasant and compact on a fine river with a shipping harbor. There are brick skyscrapers. She describes the insides of houses, especially fireplaces. Most hue to the Church of England. They are not as strict as Bostonians regarding keeping the Sabbath. New Yorkers are courteous and civil. Knight goes into detail regarding the jewelry worn by middle class Dutch women. You can get a good stiff drink here. In the winter they ride sleighs and visit friends.

 

January the Sixth

[not in new edition]

The journey was so tough that her horse died! (Or acted as if he did!) Knight procured another horse and carried on. She returned home to her “tender mother and dear and only son.” The entire trip took five months. Knight returned home unscathed.

Ethnographic and Naturalist Writings

The genre of literary ethnography is the written description of peoples, cultures, and societies. It involves a wide variety of styles and can be adapted to many different purposes. Descriptions of nature–naturalist writings, or natural histories as they are sometimes called–have a similar character. Descriptions of the land, its peoples, and its natural resources are central to narratives of contact and exploration and dominate promotional writings designed to encourage investment and colonization. They are often enthusiastic in tone.

Another tone of this type of writing uses religiously inflected language of wonders and portents, sometimes associated with demonic influence. Drawing on folk beliefs as well as Christian traditions, they recorded observations in a quasi-scientific language influenced by the rise of empiricism, but they applied that language to events, or objects, that were not empirically observable in any direct way.

Eighteenth-century writings distinguished from these earlier works by a deepening empiricism and a complexly self-reflective tone that is often manifested through humor. Travel narratives pay substantial attention to the communities and landscapes they encountered on their journeys, offering rich instances of authors seeking new ways to understand cultures and natural environments.

Ancient Athenian Drama

Common themes: divine vs. human perspectives, family, human relationships, justice, state, suffering, and violent/melodramatic plots. Greek drama was performed differently than we experience it today. New plays were performed at festivals involving dance, drama, music, open-air spectacles, poetry, politics, religion, and slapstick. Festivals like the Great Dionysia and the Lernaea incorporated both comedy and tragedy. These festivals celebrated the subversive outsiders.
Comedy comes from komos, the Greek idea of a drunken procession. Tragedy, or “goat song” is a genre that originated as part of a ritual goat sacrifice or one was offered as a prize. Thespis was the name of a person from whom we get thespian who is traditionally said to have invented tragedy in the year 534 B.C. He “stepped out of the Chorus” creating a part for a single actor who could talk back to the chorus. One person stepping out from the chorus changed the entire direction of theater from then on.
Athenians loved the performance of poetry contests and the Homeric poems were an essential model for later drama. Many tragedies dealt with heroes who fought in the Trojan War. Dramatists learned from Homer how to create vivid dialogue and fast exciting narrative, as well as sympathy for a range of different characters.
Most of the works from this time are lost. The only complete works of Greek drama that have survived are a small selection of tragedies from Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides with a few comedies by Aristophanes.
Words were only a small part of these plays. The costumes, gestures, music, props, and visual effects all worked together to create an overall effect. The writer of the play sometimes did everything, even act in his own play. Prizes were awarded to the director. The audience was mostly male and all the cast members were male. The theater was in the open air with the orchestra at the lowest point in the valley. Wooden benches rose up the slope on three sides. A wooden platform and building, or skene, represented interior space. The ekkuklema could roll out and was conventionally used to show interior space, bringing the indoors out. The mechane was a pulley system that allowed actors to appear and disappear by air. All actors wore masks and played multiple roles, for there were only two or three actors on the stage. Facial expressions were irrelevant, so body language, gestures, and voice projection were all-important.
Two important dialogue techniques: agon (contest or struggle) in which one character makes a long speech representing one side of an argument, then the other character has a long speech representing the opposite side. The second technique is called stichomythia (line-speech) where each character says one line and they go back and forth. Greek drama was always composed of verse; mostly elements of iambic.
The choral passages were in extremely complex meters, sung and accompanied by elaborate choreography. The chorus had 12-15 masked dancers with one leader who could speak. The chorus often represent the “home crowd” of where the story is set. They can represent the voice of the common man or word on the street. They may not always make sense and are often incorrect in their assessment. The chorus may listen, then voice internal thoughts of the character. The chorus may be neutral or even hostile toward certain characters. Choruses can be characters themselves, with their own biases and preoccupations.
Mutilation and violent death, by murder or suicide, accident, fate, or gods, are frequent events in Greek tragedy, yet there is little visible horror. The messenger speech is therefore one of the most important conventions of Athenian drama.
Comic poets combined reality, fantasy, and myth to show caricatures of real people mixing with made-up characters. Comedy often made direct references to recent events, and directly attacked, parodied or satirized the behavior of real contemporary people. Plots of tragedy focus on a few traditional story patterns set in the distant past and far away. The author felt free, within limits, to shape the myth their own way. Greek gods were often written as cruel and unreliable, but Athenians of the fifth century saw no necessary connection between religion and morality. Athenian drama was an act of service to the gods (especially Dionysus) because it over-turned the everyday world and explored the power of imagination. Athenian dramatists also served the audience, creating dramas that were gripping, profound, and unpredictable.

Anne Bradstreet: 1612-1672

More educated than most women of the day. When she first came to the new world she was resistant to change. She joined the Boston church feeling it was the way of God. Bodily weak, she still had eight children. Was prone to exploring her conscience. She struggled with supposed truths found in the scriptures; didn’t believe in miracles. Her belief in God came from seeing the world with her own eyes.
She wrote poems to please her father. Her brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, brought with him to London a collection of her poetry and it was printed in 1650. The Tenth Muse was the first published volume of poems written by a resident of the New World and was widely read. The themes she explored were the ages of humankind and the seasons, concern for family and home, and the pleasures of everyday life.

The Prologue
I’m not well-versed enough to write of kings and wars. I do get jealous of not having more talent. I am simple. You cannot fix up my writing–it is irreparable. I will not get better at writing poetry given time. If I do write well they will think I must have stolen it. Yes, men are the best, but give us women credit where credit is due. Your works are awesome, but perhaps when you read mine both of our works could shine more brightly.

In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory
This poem is an ode: originally, a poem to be sung. In modern use, a lyrical poem, rhymed or unrhymed, typically addressed to some person or thing and usually characterized by lofty feeling, elaborate form, and dignified style.
The Proem [prelude]
Even though you are dead you are still famous. Your glory was so great that everyone could feel it. You’ve had exceptional gifts and sacrifices made in your name: “Mine bleating stands before thy royal hearse.” You did not disdain the poor, so I know you will also listen to me; I still sing your praises.
The Poem
Nothing can compare to your actions. She showed everyone that women can be smart. She showed up the men on many counts; she kicked butt! I literally do not have enough time to tell you all the cool things she did. She was better than Semiramis, better than Tomris. Better than Dido. Better than Cleopatra. Better than Zonobya. What does our Queen’s accomplishments say about the women’s race? You can no longer say we cannot reason. If we are the same in heaven then she will be ruling from a thrown. She is dead now–and there will never be another like her. “Here lies the pride of queens, pattern of kings, So blaze it, Fame, here’s feathers for thy wings.”
Her Epitaph Another

 

To the Memory of My Dear and Ever Honored Father Thomas Dudley Esq. Who Deceased, July 31, 1653, and of His Age 77
I have a duty to lament through verse; he taught me everything. His daughter knows best how to praise him. “Who heard or saw, observed or knew him better? Or who alive than I a greater debtor?” Everyone who knew him could also give him praise. He helped found this land and made it easier for those thereafter. He did not brag because he put worth into the afterlife in heaven. He did not show off–his thoughts and actions were more important. He served us well here and now he is at peace. I will see him again in heaven.
The last section entitled “His Epitaph” sums up the thought in truncated form.

To Her Father with Some Verses
I honor you by being honorable myself–like you taught me. I’ll try to live right in your memory–pay it forward.

Contemplations
Long days; thinking of summer. If there are so many wonders on earth, imagine how awesome God must be. Our world is so wonderful it seems like a heaven. A tall leafy tree; how long have you been growing? You have lived over many years–a reflection on the concept of eternity. What is glory to the Sun? No wonder people made the sun a god; if I hadn’t known better I would have too. The sun bursts upon the land; you wake up every living thing. We all know of the path and power of the sun. You make the seasons. Are you so powerful that we cannot look upon you? Are you so far away we cannot reach or imitate you? Think how powerful a god would have to be to make a sun. I walked alone and began to sing. Nature shows me my God, but I am not worthy. The grasshopper and cricket seem to sing better to the Lord than I. Looking back in time–God can see the farthest back. The fall of Adam. Cain is born and has no idea of his fate. Eve reflects back on a paradise lost and that she gave it all away for knowledge. Both Cain and Abel brought offerings, but Cain’s was rejected. Cain begins to plot against his brother. Abel suspects nothing before being killed. First blood was spilled–much more to come. Cain thought others would help in his quest, but none would. Cain falls into despair, guilt, worry and builds a big wall around his city. The elders hope the best for their young and teach them, but sometimes they go astray. The old ones seemed to accomplish so much yet the younger generation has hardly done anything. We eat, drink, and be merry until our end draws near. The earth rejuvenates itself with every spring, but when man grows old he must lie in a grave. We are born above all creatures but are cursed and cannot return to our innocence. Who will outlive: man or nature? Sitting outside. Nothing keeps the river from moving to its destination. Little streams mix with you, the river. I want to lead my children on their hoped-for path. Fish go wherever they may go in happiness. As I was contemplating fish, a bird began to sing–so I turned more toward hearing and wished for wings. Oh, to be a bird without care. The bird is zen. The birds all sing in the summer mornings then go to warmer places in the winter. Man is the opposite–full of woe and frustration, but no matter how much pain we endure we do not concentrate on there being a heaven. When the sea is smooth the captain thinks he is in charge, but when a storm comes he realizes his boundaries. When life is good you think you live in heaven, but when bad times come you realize you are a mere mortal. Time brings death. Life passes into the forgotten. All except the Lord will pass to dust.

 

The Flesh and the Spirit
In a secret place of crying (?) I heard two sisters discussing the past and the future. Flesh wanted money and looks. Spirit thought of the other world. Flesh asked if spirit could live solely on meditation–how could spirit live without all the worldly pleasures? If you desire it, you can see it. Set up monuments in your name. Have silver, pearls and gold. Take what you want–the world can supply more. Keep what you obtain. Spirit says “Enough!” I will fight you all the way on this. You were born of Adam, but I of God. You flatter, but that does not gain my trust. When I followed your ways my life was miserable! I look for higher things. I spend my time better than you. I value things you cannot see. My robes will one day outshine the sun. There is a description of heaven btw. lines 85-95. Heaven will not take you. I’ll live there and you can have the earth.

The Author to Her Book
What she would say to the second edition of her book:
This book was not strong; it was stolen. They didn’t spruce you up at the printer’s. You should have never been published. I would like to fix you up, but the more I try, the more mistakes I see. I couldn’t even come up with ways to make you better. Tell them you have no father and your mother is so poor that she sent you away.

Before the Birth of One of Her Children
Everything ends. We have joys and sorrow. No bond is strong enough to stave off death. How soon may I die? I hope you live longer than me. Let my faults die with me. Remember my good traits. Protect those who live on with you. If I am gone with you read this, kiss this page and remember me.

To My Dear and Loving Husband
This is a love poem.

A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment
How can you stand to be apart? I have so sun without you. I need your warmth. I’ll take the children to tide me over–for I see you in them. I will welcome you home and I want you to stay so we will be one again.

ROGER WILLIAMS: 1603-1683 English

Rabble-rouser. Shipped back to England for spreading “dangerous” ideas. Before they could catch him he debunked to Massachusetts where he hung with the Narragansett Indians. He stood for the idea of religious freedom. Others who felt religiously restricted followed Williams to Rhode Island. In 1663 Charles II granted Rhode Island a royal charter in which freedom of conscience was guaranteed. This idea was eventually viewed as so “American” that provision was made for it in our 1791 Bill of Rights.
Williams worked upon four main ideas that others viewed as threatening.
Believed that the land was not King Charles I’s property–it belonged to the Indians.
No person that was unconverted or uncommitted to a certain religion should be required to pray in churches or to swear an oath in court.

Mass. Bay Colony ministers persuaded the King of England that they wanted to remain with the Church of England. Williams felt that not only should the ministers pull away from the mother church, they should repent that they ever supported it.
That civil authority was limited to civil matters and that magistrates had no jurisdiction over the soul.
He wanted separation of church and state so that the religion of Jesus Christ would not be tainted by worldly affairs.
He found it important to get to know the natives and learn their language. He recognized a civility in the Indians. He did not want to convert people–he felt they were outside the people of God and to force them into a different belief would be unchristian.

from A Key into the Language of America: To My Dear and Well-Beloved Friends and Countrymen, in Old and New England
Williams wanted to create a way to converse with the Natives. A “key”. He wanted to spread civility and perhaps Christianity.
The Indians see all the stuff we have which makes them think our God is greater. When you let them know that Englishmen themselves used to be without creature comforts, the Indians see that they too can evolve.
The Indians feel they are lost and wandering. As an Indian named Wequash lay dying I spoke to him of his soul. Wequash spoke of problems with God and God having problems with him until he repented. The Indian said he had a “naughty heart”, but continued to pray.

Directions for the Use of the Language
Indian language is copious and they sometimes have many words for one thing.

from An Help to the Native Language of that Part of America Called New England
These short pieces are excerpts from chapters from a larger work. They are poetic, short philosophical ponderings sharing information about the Indian way of life and sometimes comparing it to the English way of life. The “chapters” cover topics such as: salutations, eating and entertainment, family and home, travel, the sea, religion, the soul, and art. The chapter on the soul gives many examples of Indian words and their translations. In addition to the translations he sometimes combines short narrative pieces expanding upon an idea.
from Chapter I. Of Salutation
The courteous pagan shall condemn Uncourteous Englishmen, Who live like foxes, bears and wolves, Or lion in his den. The wild barbarians with no more Than nature, go so far.
from Chapter II. Of Eating and Entertainment
Of wholesome beer and wine. Sometimes God gives them Fish or Flesh, Yet they’re content without. And what comes in, they part to friends And strangers round about. Natives share what little they have. They have taken care of me when I needed it.
from Chapter VI. Of the Family and Business of the House
Both English and Native have similar day-to-day concerns.
from Chapter XI. Of Travel
In nature with none to comfort me I had God as my companion.
from Chapter XVIII. Of the Sea
While even on the dangerous sea I recognized God’s wonders.
from Chapter XXI. Of Religion, the Soul, etc.
I must acknowledge I have received in my converse with them many confirmations of those two great points, Hebrews II. 6: That God is. That He is a rewarder of all them that diligently seek Him. When Natives experience crisis they figure God is displeased. They have many gods. The Catholics also have many gods. The Natives believe in the sun god, moon god, sea and fire gods. They have a modest religious persuasion not to disturb any man. They believe that the souls of men and women go to the southwest. The souls of murderers, thieves and liars wander restless abroad. If you want to discuss God with the Natives, here are some things you can say: [gives translations].

from Christenings Make Not Christians: Or a Brief Discourse Concerning That Name Heathen, Commonly Given to the Indians [as also concerning that great point of their conversion]
I inquire into the name heathen, which the English give Native Americans. “How oft have I heard both the English and Dutch…say, These heathen dogs, better kill a thousand of them than that we Christians should be endangered or troubled with them; better they were all cut off, and then we shall be no more troubled with them…” “…this word heathen is most improperly, sinfully, and unchristianly so used in this sence. The word heathen signifieth no more than nations and gentiles…” “why nations? Because the Jews being the only people and nation of God, esteemed (and that rightly) all other people, not only those that went naked…their stately cities and citizens, inferior [to] themselves, and not partakers of their glorious privileges…” “…Christians, the followers of Jesus, are now the only people of God…Who are then the nations, heathen, or gentiles, in opposition to this people of God? I answer, All people, civilized as well as uncivilized, even the most famous states, cities, and kingdoms of the world…” “…for the hopes of conversion, and turning the people of America unto God…we are all the work of his hands…” Both Europeans and Native Americans are sinners. Natives are intelligent, ingenuous, plain-hearted and inquisitive.
Catholics are converting people the wrong way by using unethical ways on the Natives. I could have converted the whole country if we are speaking of the Natives. The conversion umbrellas change with each new leader. So, many who convert are profane themselves. “It must not be (it is not possible it should be in truth) a conversion of people to the worship of the Lord Jesus by force of arms and swords of steel…” “The will in worship, if true, is like a free vote…Jesus Christ compels by the mighty persuasions of his messengers to come in, but otherwise with earthly weapons he never did compel nor can be compelled…The not discerning of this truth hath let out the blood of thousands…”

 

from The Bloody Tenet of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience, in a Conference between Truth and Peace
This is an excerpt from The Writings of Roger Williams, vol. 3.
This piece is Williams’s side of the debate with John Cotton on freedom of religion. He asks how turning against those who do not hold your same beliefs can be holy; everyone thinks their religion is the best.
If we believe one religion to be true, what weapons do you think God wants us to use on the others. Christianity can be superstitious, bloody, oppressive, deadly, and like a “fiery furnace”. It is anti-Christian to persecute others for their beliefs. If you don’t practice the religion YOU think is best then you are sinning. You may have to try a few religions until you find one that fits. You cannot force a religion into a person’s soul.
We must not let go of this freedom for any reason. We must be ruled by truth.

A Letter to the Town of Providence
This is an excerpt from The Writings of Roger Williams, vol. 6. The topic is religious autonomy and civil restraint. He calls this “liberty of conscience”. Since there are people of all religions they should neither be forced to come to the ship’s prayers or worship, nor forced to pray. We can have our own religions, but civility must reign.

John Winthrop: 1588-1649 English

When the Pilgrims came to New England they were entering an already-occupied land. John Winthrop was governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and declared the land a “vacuum” saying the Indians had been unsuccessful at taming the land and only had a natural right to the land, not a “civil” right, which had a legal connotation. The Puritans appealed to the Bible in which they found reasons to believe they should take the land. Winthrop was in charge during a war with the Pequot and Narragansett Indians. The English decided to attack non-combatants as a way to psychologically break the Indian warriors.
At the very start of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, the governor, Winthrop, had declared the philosophy of the rulers: “… in all times some must be rich, some poore, some highe and eminent in power and dignitie; others meane and in subjection.” Rhode Island and New York at this time were becoming feudal kingdoms.
Winthrop wanted to reform the national church from within by purging it of old Roman ways, especially the hierarchy of the clergy and all the traditional Catholic rituals. At the same time, Winthrop could not openly defy the king; instead he petitioned the king to emigrate. In 1629 a group of Puritan merchants were able to get a charter from the Council for New England for land in the New World calling themselves “The Company of Massachusetts Bay in New England.”
Winthrop delivered his sermon A Model of Christian Charity while on the trip to the new land. This sermon contained ideals of Christian community. Fifty years after Winthrop’s death, Cotton Mather wrote of Winthrop as a model of a perfect earthly ruler. Winthrop’s ideal of a selfless community was impossible to realize. Winthrop is known as a man of unquestioned integrity and deep humanity.

A Model of Christian Charity
1
A Model Hereof
There will always be rich, poor, high and low, mean and nice.

The Reason Hereof
1) God has always made his kingdom with a variety of differences for the preservation of the whole.
The Lord makes the wicked so he can moderate and restrain them. He makes the rich so He can teach them to honor the poor; he makes the poor to teach them not to rebel and cause anarchy. He makes degenerates to practice their faith, patience and obedience.
We all need each other and should treat each other with affection. No man is more honorable or more wealthy than another. We must honor the Lord with our riches.
Two rules: justice and mercy. There is the law of nature, of grace and a moral law. Every man should afford his help to another in every want or distress and should perform this out of the same affection he has for his own things.
The law of nature is one in which we are saved. Do good to all. Consider all a friend and love thy enemy. Christians must sell and give to the poor. Sometimes we must give beyond our ability. When there is no other way for our brother to be relieved, we must help him beyond our ability. Giving, lending and forgiving. Give out of your abundance, or set some extra aside to give to others later when they are in need.
Every man must provide for his family. The first that gives to the poor lends to the Lord. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth. A woman must give before she must serve her own family.
We have to stand aside till His turn be served. If a man asks to borrow, but you see
he cannot pay you back, give according to his necessity. Thou must lend him, though there be danger of losing it. If you see a man cannot repay you you must forgive him. If there are no poor around, save until you see someone with whom you need to share.
What do we do when our community is in need? The same as before, but larger with less respect towards ourselves and our own right.
Such as have been most bountiful to the poor saints, God hath left them highly commended to posterity; be over liberal in this manner. He who shutteth his ears from hearing the cry of the poor shall cry and shall not be heard. The definition which the Scripture gives us of love is this: Love is the bond of perfection. First, it is a bond or ligament. Secondly it makes the work perfect.
True Christians are of one body in Christ. If one member suffers, all suffer with it. Ye ought to lay down your lives for brethren.
Adam rent himself from his creator, rent all his posterity also one from another; whence it comes that every man is born with this principle in him, to love and seek himself only, and thus a man continueth till Christ comes and takes possession of the soul and infuseth another principle: love to God and our brother. Exercise of this love is twofold: inward or outward.
In regard that among the members of the same body, love and affection are reciprocal in a most equal and sweet kind of commerce.

II
Four things will be explained: people, work, the end and the means.
People: we profess ourselves members of Christ. No matter how physically apart we may be, this knits us together.
Our work is that we want to seek out cohabitation under a form of government both civil and ecclesiastical. The group is more important than the individual; this is our civil policy.
The end is to improve our lives so that we may increase our service to the Lord.
The means to accomplishing our goals are twofold: a conformity with the work and end at which we aim. What we view as truth must be our everyday practice. Love thy brother and help with his burdens. We must serve the Lord without fail or we may be punished. When he gives us direction he expects strict observance. We have entered into a covenant with the Lord and shall not break our agreement. “Do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.” Let us overlook small differences so we can supply our necessities. Meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must make each other’s conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together. People are looking to see how we will perform; we must live rightly as a beacon of hope. If we perform poorly we will besmirch God’s name.