English 328, “NEW ENGLAND”

We’ve read about the emergence of three colonial societies from the Americas: New Spain, New France, and New England.  Let’s consider the last of these, the Puritan origins of America.  What parts of the unit connect most closely to the United States of America today?    Give one example from one of the texts we’ve read in the “New England” unit alongside some detail of contemporary U.S. culture that appears to stem from it.

20 thoughts on “English 328, “NEW ENGLAND”

  1. A part of the this week’s reading that connects to U.S. culture today is the distribution of racist attitudes between the Northern (New England) and Southern parts of the country. Though he does not at any point denounce slavery or mention any of the many problems it presents, Cotton Mather in “The Negro Christianized” displays a desire for slaves to be educated and at least acknowledged as men, as he says “they are Men, and not Beasts that you have bought, and they must be used accordingly.” Mather’s language and the other things he says in this writing show clear racism, but one can see the beginning of a separating southern and northern view of slaves and racism as a whole. Today, that can be seen still in racist attitudes, but also in the way segragation and political attitudes are spread throughout the country, with more right-leaning individuals and generally more racial tension in the South.

  2. In the reading on Cotton Mather, I noticed that he was described as being in “support of smallpox inoculations, and many important scientific works” but also a prominent believer in the presence of Satan-loving witches in Salem and using pseudo-science to convict them of witchcraft (328). I found it interesting that Mather was supporting science because it was helpful to himself and his religion. Especially considering religion and science didn’t go well together in Mather’s time. I think that that still happens for some people in some religions. Some people believe in some parts of science and not others based on how it correlates with their religion, no matter the evidence to back up the science.

  3. A part of the reading that I can see connected to the states today is the molding of children’s minds through books and in basic primary school. In the book it is said that the Puritans wanted to mold the minds of their children from a young age. In addition to children they also wanted to educate the Natives, servants, and apprentices, which is not usually seen in other places and cultures. How I see the idea of molding children’s minds in a religious sense reflected in America today was through how there was mandated prayer in schools until the 60s. Currently you can see it in the way that some parents will send their children to religious schools.

    • Great point! By molding the children’s minds in school from a young age, pressing religious values and old traditions, it would be ensured that the Puritan legacy would not die any time soon. Religion, of course, is essential to their way of life and one of their purposes for coming to America, aside from fleeing persecution in Europe, was to spread their own beliefs. This would be why they did this with the children as well as any impressionable human being that was in close proximity to them. It is definitely interesting today to see parents restrict their kids to only attend religious schools, or schools facilitated by people who are known to think a certain way.

  4. One of the main topics that stood out to me in relation to the Puritan origins relating to today are that Cotton’s father heading to England to “protest the presence of Royal Governor Andros” (328). For some reason, this reminds me of Christian Missionaries today. Christians are able to sign up for missions, in which they are assigned to a specific place, in order to spread the word of God. While Cotton’s father was protesting, for some reason I still feel as though his actions coincide with what Christian Missionaries do. He traveled to a different place, in order to spread what he believed in and what he felt was right.

    • This part of the passage that we read or unit is that it was almost like the beginning of what we know now of missionaries. Also, I had the same idea when reading this, in how sharing the word of God, missionariess can decide where to share the gosepal and build a somwhat an organization of the it by inspiring other missionaries to come to that region to spread more the Gospel.

  5. The section titled “From the Negro Christianzed” seems to have branched out into the United States. It talks about the racism that African Americans went through during this time period. As we know rasicsm has always been an issue throughout the world. We are introduced to Cotton Mathers who states “you deny your master in heaven, if you do nothing to bring your servants unto the knowledge and service of that glorious master” (pg. 335). Cotton Mathers was stating that while they are servants they should still be educated from our God. This in a way reminds me of colonizers stripping Native Americans from their cultures into one they don’t believe in. Rasicsm is clear from that statement by saying we are better than you follow us.

  6. The connection that I am seeing between the unit and America is education. People are pushed today to go to school to be able to get a “good” job and shape someone into what society says they should be. We see that in this unit that the puritans want to start in early childhood to make sure they will have control over who they become and what they believe in. However, the unit may revolve around religion. I still see a control over someone’s life.

    • I agree that the passage that we read or the unit it is more about religion than education but I believe the society we live is that education is were knowledge starts and that in the unit it does make a connection that each person, each child should not be denied to have an education regardless of race or ethnicity. I believe that is why the education now is free for each child because a child should not be negated to be able to learn basic knowledge.

  7. What I found very interesting in what we read this week is that in the section “From the Negros Christianized”, it states, “To teach your Negros the Truths of the Glorious Gospel, as far as you can, and bring them, if it may be, to Live according to those Truths, a Sober, and a Righteous. And Godly life” (334), which this signifies a connecting to the U.S. now because there is a big movement of sharing the Gospel. This quote gives an example that sharing the Gospel is for everyone with no exceptions.
    This is my perspective especially coming from a Christian home and being part of the world, I see a huge movement to spread Christianity now in the U.S. specifically in this time period when you would see in the news the people singing Christian songs in hospitals and even nations just putting Christian songs in their language so there can be a conversion of Christianity, which can bring hope, refuge to so many people that have lost a love one due to Covid-19, or have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

  8. Stretching Eli and Bayan’s posts, “The Negro Christianized” could also be applied to the view of homosexuals in the United States. African Americans were pushed to be “christianized” and “filled with goodness” (335). Current day, this can be associated with homosexuals being sent to conversion camps by orthodox religions. The souls of African Americans, and homosexuals in 20th/21st centuries, should be “delivered from the Snares of Death” (335). Their pains were “used to conform them to Christianity,” and they would then be accepted by the Lord.

  9. In “The Negro Christianized,” one of Mather’s arguments is that Christians have a moral responsibility to convert and “save” the slaves. Mather’s desire to teach and spread his religion among African Americans demonstrates the concept of white saviorism. An example of white saviorism today is the mission work in Brazilian Amazonia. There has been a rise in mission work in this area, specifically within Indigenous groups that are otherwise completely isolated. More specifically, the evangelical organization, New Tribes Mission of Brazil, has continued to travel to the Javari Valley (home to the largest concentration of Indigenous people) even during the pandemic. This mission work and traveling further endangers an already vulnerable population to COVID-19.

    • Mather argues in “The Negro Christianized” that “Christianity directs a slave, upon his embracing the Law of the Redeemer, to satisfy himself, that he is the Lords Freeman, tho’ he continues a slave” (337). While Mather argues for the spread of Christianity among African Americans, he still believes that they should remain slaves. This also reflects Avery’s argument about if there are really any benefits to white saviorism, especially as seen among mission work. As a Christian, I know that many mission trips are short-term trips in which Christians work to convert groups to Christianity or provide simple services. Missionaries will often form bonds with children just to leave within a couple weeks. This raises the question of how much good these trips actually do for certain groups. While these trips may do some good, they may be missing greater issues as Mather does while interpreting what makes a man free.

  10. One of the things that stuck out to me in this week’s reading was the introduction to a passage early on in the Mather piece. Mather states, “You take them into your Families, you look at them as part of your Possessions, and you Expect from their Service, a Support, and perhaps an Increase, of your other Possessions.” While Mather is referencing the role of slaves in New England at this time and emphasizing the expectations put upon them, I can’t help but make connections to how many white Americans today, specifically white liberals, use African Americans as their own propping point to give off the impression that they are more progressive. Rather than treating African Americans as real people and their various plights within this nation (police brutality, profiling, micro-aggressions, etc.) as props to show their own worth and importance. Similar to Mathur, they treat them like a prized possession that is equated to something that will bring profit. To Mathur this was literal profit in the form of money; today it is status as an ally without actually contributing to any of the current movements or making an effort to be anti-racist. The most direct parallel I can draw is the propping of the “Black Friend” who only serves to justify the racist actions of the modern white American.

  11. Many of you already touch on the negative legacies of the Puritans. So, let me add what strikes me as a positive quality. Education was essential for Mather and many Puritan intellectuals. The oldest North American universities–such as Yale-provided religious instruction. This is true, yet they also planted foundations for the rigorous secular education you enjoy at UMW. We may be surprised to learn how much of the Puritan’s “seriousness” around higher learning helped establish a U.S. educational platform with a global impact. Many foreigners dream of attending Yale, Harvard, and other prestigious universities in the United States. Mather did not see this development beyond New England. But there it is!

  12. I would argue that a huge legacy of the Puritans would be the importance of education today and how we teach it. You really have to look no further than children’s books and how they’re written. The New England Primer really set the stage for how we teach children the alphabet and other life lessons. It has a very striking resemblance to some of the books my younger brother has on the shelf at home right now. Though words like “Apple” and “Igloo” have replaced the Primer’s “In Adam’s Fall We Sinned all,” and “It is good for me to draw near to God,” the idea is still the same. So, I would say that the way we teach children lessons, through little picture books and that we place such an importance on literacy and moral and intellectual education, stems directly from Puritan ideals.

  13. To touch on what others have stated about, “The Negro Christianized” is that it is very apparent today within religious and social rights inside the United States, but further than that we see ourselves delving into these same practices passed our own waters. We believe it is our duty and right of the “Free World” to take our beliefs and morals and push it onto other countries and societies. It is a bigots claim to state America as the Free World because there are a number of other countries on Earth that are “Free”. It is wrong to believe that a single mans beliefs and morals should be accepted by all and that is the issue that has faced the world we live in today because even through education being significantly influenced by religious beliefs, even today, we are unable to break the cycle of ignorant thoughts and actions. It is a struggle to see something such as the inauguration of the US president. It is not required for the President to be a Christian, or is it required for the President to state, “so help me god” at the end of his oath but through tradition and conservative values it is still present even with such a drastic change with having the first Black President. Even as an individual dedicated to change, you must still have some belief in the traditions and conservation of what was in order to please the masses of your support or there will be no change.

  14. In the piece “The Captivity of Hannah Dustan”, Cotton Mather produced what seems to be a classic North American Native captivity narrative…a story in which the savage natives abduct a Euro-American white woman. But the story of Hanna Dustan and Mary Neff complicates the traditional narrative as well as assumed gender roles when they gain their freedom through the violent act of scalping their captors. Like many of the stories I’ve read in this anthology, I was surprised that I hadn’t read anything regarding this incident. I’ve read other works by Cotton Mather and I’ve read other captive narratives but nothing on Dustan and Neff. One of the biggest controversies surrounding historical education today is the inclusion of voices that were previously excluded, voices like Dustan and Neff’s that complicate our idea of traditional captive narratives by including instances that are outside of the gendered norm. Has the Dustan and Nef narrative been suppressed because of the fact that the women involved enacted violence against indigenous people? Or because they were women who acted like men?

  15. New England’s puritan origins compares to the United States today in its perception of slavery and enslaved people. Although converting enslaved people to new religions was not a new thing, it is evident that, because of the Protestant religion, enslaved people were perceived in at least a slightly different light. This is evident in section from The Negro Christianized, where it states “Your Servants, may also be His […] your Servants be not Over-wrought, and that while they Work for you, you should Feed them, and Cloath them, and afford convenient Rest unto them, and make their Lives comfortable” (334). This quote emphasizes the differing perceptions of slavery in the North and South, since it emphasizes increased care for enslaved people, which did not exist in the south. It also reflects the continuing perception today. In modern education in America, slavery is often taught as an issue of the North (as “anti-slavery”) versus the South (as pro-slavery). Furthermore, the concentration of political demographics in northern states today versus southern states today perpetuate the racist ideals of the past as they were based in slavery.

  16. One of the things the puritans passed down is the urgency to ensure all young children are able to read. Whether you’re rich or poor in America, you’re literate. You may not be the best reader, but you can read enough to get by. I’m not sure how it is in other countries but most kids are in Pre-K at 3 or 4 years old and most are enrolled in public schools at 4 or 5 years old. The New England Primer is a great example of how children from that time and even now are educated from a very young age.

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