American History: A Survey (Brinkley), 13th Edition


Primary Sources

In the eighteenth century, slavery was hardly out of the ordinary. It existed in various forms throughout the world, and in Britain's North American colonies, it flourished. What was out of the ordinary was that after centuries of relative silence, around the mid-eighteenth century, people began to speak out against the system. Read the following extract, taken from John Woolman's 1762 work, Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes. Woolman was a Quaker. What was it in Quaker theology that might have moved him to take such a stand, and how is this revealed in what he wrote? What argument other than religion does the author offer against slavery? How might slavery be seen as harmful to society as a whole? Do you think that Woolman's appeal moved the slaveholder? Why or why not?

John Woolman

Georgia, for reasons other than those advanced by John Woolman, tried to prohibit slavery. But by the 1740s, the clamor for black labor was growing, and it was only a matter of time before slavery would be legal in Georgia. Below is an excerpt from "A Brief Account of the Causes that Have Retarded the Progress of the Colony of Georgia." What are the reasons given to support demands for slave labor, and why did these reasons have a greater impact on colonists than did Woolman's arguments against slavery? How does the author of this tract refute the contention that people can succeed without slaves (especially in the case of the Saltzburgers, Protestant refugees led by their minister, the Reverend Boltzius)? What other reasons are given to explain why some Georgians still opposed slavery despite its obvious benefits to white colonists?

A Brief Account of the Causes that Have Retarded the Progress of the Colony of Georgia.

In the light of what you have read in your text, what do these documents tell you about religion in the Massachusetts Bay colony, the relationship between church and state in that colony, and the impact of religion on the lives of the Puritans? Reread Document 3 in the previous chapter. How might Puritan leaders have believed that witches were just another manifestation of the fall from grace that had taken place in the colony? How might the witch trials have helped to restore the power that Puritan leaders felt they had lost?

Mary Osgood

Although they were very different sorts of men, Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield used emotional appeals to try to make sinners realize the danger they faced and to see how necessary it was for them to put full faith in Christ and be "born again." Following is an excerpt from one of Edwards's most famous sermons, which he preached at Enfield, Connecticut, in 1741. An original and systematic theologian, Edwards presented his audience with a vivid picture of the terrors awaiting them if they did not repent; his evocations of hell produced great "breathing of distress, and weeping." Whitefield's sermons were said to have had much the same effect.

More orthodox ministers felt that Edwards and Whitefield were appealing to the emotions rather than to the intellect and were distressed at what seemed to be a movement that ran counter to reason. What evidence can you find to support this allegation? How might Edwards and Whitefield have answered such charges?

Jonathan Edwards

Hugh Bryan and his wife, Catherine, were members of a small group of southern gentry who became followers of George Whitefield. Once they were "reborn," they began to reject worldly things and to concentrate on spiritual concerns, which caused them to renounce many of the things that defined the class to which they belonged. Their renunciation not only caused concern among the gentry, who saw this as an attack on their class and its authority, but also created divisions in the Bryan family. The letter was written by Bryan to his daughter, who had strayed from the path set by Whitefield. What does it tell you about the demands that evangelicalism put on individuals? What are the implications in this letter with regard to the division into and distinction among social classes in colonial America? What impact might changes such as Bryan suggested have had on political power? What does this letter reveal about the patriarchal family in the colonies and about the status of women? Reread Document 4, and consider that it was a sermon such as Edwards's except written by Whitefield, that moved Hugh Bryan.

Hugh Bryan

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