Literature in the Middle Colonies of America

The printer William Bradford set up the first active press in Philadelphia. When the Quaker authorities tried to censor some of his publications, he transferred his business to New York, inaugurating the first press there. Printers set up shop in Maryland and Virginia, and Annapolis and Williamsburg became centers of cultural and social life, as well as of political and economic activity. The first newspaper, the Boston News-Letter, appeared in Boston in 1704, but more significant was James Franklin’s New England Courant of 1721 because it presented local news, offered local writing, and challenged the governing authorities. When James was censured for the contents of the paper, his younger brother, Benjamin, took nominal control of the paper, even though he was still an apprentice. When Benjamin Franklin moved to Philadelphia in the 1720s, he was involved in efforts to establish another printing office that would give a venue to opposing political opinions. When he took over the press in 1729 from Samuel Keimer, its first owner, he built a thriving business by capturing government printing commissions. A shrewd competitor, he also published a wide variety of material to suit every range of interest and opinion. His Pennsylvania Gazette became an important newspaper, and its appearance, along with that of numerous presses and papers in other colonies, signaled the arrival of the phenomenon J¼rgen Habermas has called the bourgeois public sphere. It gave individuals a place to reason in public about religion, government, science, and the arts. Growth of a print culture in the colonies in the early eighteenth century accompanied an increased attention to the values of learning, politeness, and sociability, which had been promoted in England in Lord Shaftesbury’s Characteristics and Addison and Steele’s Spectator. Franklin invigorated not only the Philadelphia press but also the intellectual scene by organizing his Junto, a group of young tradesmen like himself who wished to improve themselves and stay abreast of the latest accomplishments of the Enlightenment. Franklin printed George Webb’s poem Bachelor’s Hall (1736), a defense of a Philadelphia club rumored to be licentious and dissolute, and his friend Joseph Breintnall assisted him in writing his essay series The Busy Body, which appeared in the Gazette. The glazier and Junto member Thomas Godfrey (father of the poet and playwright of the same name) independently invented the sextant, among his other scientific interests. Clubs and other informal literary circles in Philadelphia and elsewhere created the scene for the production of a variety of writing poetry, essays, satires, scientific papers which continued the manuscript culture of the previous century, but added a sense of intimacy and sentiment different from the political and public world of the printed text. Philadelphia, scarcely forty years old when Franklin arrived, was no intellectual wasteland. William Penn, the colony’s founder, wrote extensively about religion and his vision of an egalitarian society. He encouraged young men of learning and promise such as Gabriel Thomas, Thomas Frame, and John Holme to emigrate to Pennsylvania; they repaid his confidence by writing favorably about the opportunities there. Penn’s greatest protg was James Logan, who came to Pennsylvania in 1699 and was at the center of political and intellectual life there until his death in 1751. Logan was a polymath, interested in politics, philosophy, science he first described the sexual fertilization of corn in a paper published in the Transactions of the Royal Society and the classics. (Franklin published his translation of M. T. Cicero’s Cato Major in 1744.) He encouraged the scientific interests of Franklin and John Bartram, the naturalist, and amassed one of the best libraries in colonial America. At the time of Logan’s death, Philadelphia was in the process of becoming the intellectual center of colonial America. The Philadelphia Library Company had begun in 1731, the first steps had been taken to found the American Philosophical Society on the model of the Royal Society, and discussions were under way to establish a college. The Reverend William Smith arrived in 1754, after Franklin invited him to become the provost of the new academy at Philadelphia. Smith encouraged literary and dramatic performances in the college and wrote competent poetry. The Society of Friends, frequently known as Quakers, had a powerful impact on the culture of eighteenth-century Pennsylvania. Quakers disdained theological treatises of the sort popular with other Protestant divines, such as those in New England, and instead encouraged narratives that testified to personal spiritual experience. Furthermore, because of their belief in the central importance of an inner light, they authorized women speakers in their community and initiated a line of outspoken women reformers from Mary Dyer in early New England to Lucretia Mott in nineteenth-century America. Narratives by women such as the eccentric Bathsheba Bowers’s An Alarm Sounded (1709) and Elizabeth Ashbridge’s Some Account of the Fore-Part of the Life of Elizabeth Ashbridge (1774) stood with John Woolman’s Journal (1774) and John Churchman’s An Account of the Gospel Labours and Christian Experiences of Christ (1779). Slavery had been condemned as early as Samuel Sewall’s Selling of Joseph, published in Boston in 1700, but the Quakers’ eagerness to reform the world made them particularly effective critics of slavery. John Woolman made it his life’s work to convince his co-religionists of the sin of slave owning by traveling up and down the Atlantic seaboard, visiting Quakers in their meetings and as individuals. Woolman published the first part of his long essay, Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes in 1754, with a second part in 1762. Anthony Benezet took the campaign to a larger audience, writing and speaking against slavery and racial injustice from his first tract, An Epistle of Caution and Advice (1754), to his last publication, Some Observations on the Indian Natives (1784). Quaker tolerance, both for other varieties of opinion and for women’s participation in public discourse, underwrote the diverse intellectual and cultural life in early Philadelphia. It was here that in the years before the Revolution, Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson became the center of a group of fellow poets. She encouraged Nathaniel Evans and Francis Hopkinson, who published their poetry, as well as many women poets who published only occasionally or shared their writing in manuscript. Much of this group’s work has been recently brought to light with the publication of Milcah Martha Moore’s Book (1997), a collection of writings by Fergusson, Susanna Wright, and Hannah Griffits. The urban centers of other colonies were also developing centers of intellectual and polite life. New York recovered from its political upheavals in the late seventeenth century, and when Cadwallader Colden, a Scots physician, arrived in 1718 in response to an invitation from Governor Robert Hunter, he became an energetic agent of enlightenment. Appointed surveyor general by Hunter, Colden played an active role in New York politics, serving as lieutenant governor from 1761 until his death in 1776. He took part in treaty-making sessions with the Iroquois and published his History of the Five Indian Nations Depending on the Province of New York in 1727, with a revised edition in 1744. He wrote widely on scientific subjects and corresponded with an international circle of scientists that included Linnaeus, who applauded his account of the flora of New York. Colden’s medical writings were fairly well received, but his misguided attempt to revise Newton’s theory of gravity, An Explication of the First Causes of Action in Matter (1747), was rejected by the scientific community. In correspondence with Franklin and John Bartram, he made the initial proposal that led to the formation of the American Philosophical Society. Colden also encouraged the botanic interests of his daughter Jane and exchanged letters on botanic matters with Bartram and Alexander Garden of Charles Town, South Carolina. New York intellectual circles at midcentury focused more on medical or legal interests than on belletristic culture, but a number of young lawyers who opposed the Anglican foundation for a proposed college wrote poetry, history, and essays, in addition to their legal activities. William Livingston, William Smith, Jr., and John Morin Scott published The Independent Reflector (1752 1753) as a Reformer of Public Abuses, but the main target was the attempt to make the proposed King’s College (eventually Columbia) an Anglican institution. Their essays demonstrated familiarity with John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon’s Independent Whig, a staple of British Whig discourse, and covered a range of topics from extravagant funerals to passive obedience and nonresistance. Livingston earlier published a popular poem in the Epicurean manner of John Pomfret; Philosophic Solitude (1747) praised the choice of a rural life and went into its thirteenth edition in 1790. Livingston became a patriot leader in the Revolution, serving as member of Congress and governor of New Jersey while he continued to attack Tories and encourage the cause of liberty and virtue. Smith collaborated with Livingston on The Art of Pleading in Imitation of Part of Horace’s Art of Poetry (1751) and contributed frequently to New York newspapers. But he was best known for his History of the Province of New York (1757); a continuation not published until 1829 brought the history up to 1762, and it remains one of the best historiographic performances of the colonial era. Popular Culture : The Colonial Williamsburg Official History … Mapq8What were women’s roles in the middle colonies? Mapq813 colonies Mapq8

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