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Friday, June 18, 2010

Department of Book Reports: From Puritan to Yankee

We have a guest book reporter this week! Please give a warm welcome to our own jcricket, who blogs occasionally at the eponymous JCricket.

From Puritan to Yankee, by Richard Bushman (Harvard University Press 1967, $32.00)

The body politic exists for the glory of God.
Elections are a device for implementing God’s will. Elected officials are obligated to God, not to the electorate.
Religious liberty implies freedom to worship not as one wants, but only as The Bible interpreted by the dictates of the congregational ministry.
Sound eerily familiar? While we could very well be describing today’s Right-Winger Christian(ist), we are reading the description of the Connecticut Puritan of the 1690’s as described in From Puritan To Yankee by Richard Bushman (1967). Connecticut was particularly chosen by Bushman as his archetype Puritan society as there were no imperial governors and few British officials acting as outside political influences. Even so, the societal confluences described herein were universal in the colonies.
It’s hard to believe that a society of people happily living under the yoke of religious authoritarianism would a scant 75(ish) years later, produce the same mindset that called for rebellion against the governing establishment and insist on a separation of Church and State. Indeed, even Deism was arguably the spiritual refuge of some of our most prominent revolutionary leaders, replacing a compliant Trinity based reliance. So…aside from the “taxation without representation” impetus, what happened to New England society overall , that not only allowed for a rebellion, but demanded a revolution?
Bushman takes us through the evolution of townspeople to “outlivers”, who moved past the outskirts of the known safety of the immediate community. He tells us of how these risk takers used the rationalization of the need to worship to get the towns to assist in building roads, and then, churches in the outskirts. Churches became part of further infrastructure, further from town centers. He tells us of how merchants, currency, and competitive deviousness changed the economy from frugality, to greed driven capitalism where ‘Brothers In Christ’ undercut each other financially, depending on which church one attended, of course.
By about 1765, only civil authority could act as a binding force in Connecticut (and New England) society. As is documented from a member of the Laity, “Nothing sinks the reputation of the ministry more than for them to revile and reproach each other. No wonder in that case, if we of the Laity have a low opinion of you, when you seem to have a very low opinion of yourselves”.
The New Lights of politics were born. The citizenry had become habitually defiant toward the old religious political regime; “hence for them, defiance against a King and Parliament was neither an innovation nor a shock”. Yes, after permanently casting off the suppressive religious constraints in community government, the New Lights (Yankees) had learned to say “Fuck You” to George III.
Bushman, as a proper historian, authoritatively and knowledgably takes the reader through the evolution of our beloved Yankee character. From Puritan to Yankee is recommended reading for a basic American History foundation. (If only today’s Right-Wingers would pick up a history book. They would find that their constant harping about The Founding Fathers is really a yearning to return the days of the early oppressive Puritan system.)

~Thanks jcricket!

I have some updates from recent authors you've met here: GottaLaff of ThePoliticalCarnival brings an update of Lt Col Barry Wingard & Lt Com Kevin Bogucki's recent trip to Kuwait. Keith Thompson (Once a Spy) wrote a very good report of burning off the Gulf Oil Spill (huffpo) Joshilyn Jackson hit the NYT Best Seller list the first week of Backseat Saints release. Daniel Woodrell was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air this week about the making of the movie version of Winter's Bone. Oh, and I won a movie poster on twitter! Little Brown has a new imprint for mysteries; Mulholland Books, and they will be re-printing his first three books as the Bayou Trilogy.

From Puritan to Yankee is available from Jackson Street Books and other fine Independent bookstores.As always, books ordered here will have a freebie publishers Advance Reading Copy included as a thank you to our blogosphere friends.