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THE CHAPTERS: New England in 6 Easy Pieces

April 19, 2015

 

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This is first draft of the organization of the New Book by Steve Culpepper and me: its raw, so don’t blame Steve

1) “Before” 28,000BCE to 1620 – Landing at Plymouth

Population: White 100 Native 75,000

Cleared land: 0%

More than a century before Europeans decided to “land” at Plymouth Newfoundland was visited by John Cabot. Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazano sailed all the way up the Atlantic coastline. His reports encourage Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Bartholomew Gosnold, Martin Pring, and George Weymouth to follow in his wake. The wild landscape and the native culture encouraged further investment and Weymouth brought back a Native American named Squanto who became fluent in English, and served to make the mysterious personal, encouraging colonization.

It was Captain John Smith, Governor of Virginia, in his 1614 trip to the virgin shores of what is now Massachusetts described this part of the world “New England”, and made a wild and often hostile place seem like a New Eden to the Puritans. But Smith also realized that the real treasure of the Maine coast was not precious metals, but cod.

“Discovery” and “New” must have seen very odd words to the 75,000 permanent residents New England’s uninvited emigrants found, whose culture, governance and thriving belied every denigration save the superiority of the tools of war. But the cruelest weapon inveighed against the indigenous people was were the billions of bacteria, viruses and ailments that had been part of the European ecosystem for thousands of years but had not followed the Native People across the Bering land bridge 30,000 years earlier.

While mostly benign for most Europeans these tiny invasive species had created genocide in the century between contact and colonization, reducing many tribes to memory in a huge bloodless culture war, that rendered what the Puritans found a different place than Cabot first visited.

2) “Colonies” 1620-1770 – Boston Massacre

Population: White 700,000 Native

Cleared Land 30%

The first 10 generations of immigrants created a New landscape from one that had existed since the last Ice Age at least 20,000 years prior. It was decisively Not England 2.0. Trees filled what might be fields, winters were brutal without the Gulf Stream to warm the air. The landscape was filled with multiple countries that had languages, borders and world views that these religious zealots did not understand.

Thriving became more realistic as the 18th century ushered in saw construction beyond survivalist protection, commerce versus subsistence and force and disease pushing those the settlers encountered away from competition for natural resources. Success begets opportunists, and the theocracies gave way to heterogeneous settlements, where Boston was rapidly becoming a hotbed of economic and political aggression. Unlike Mother England, ability meant more than class, nobility was authority writ less large, and getting rich was real possibility in one generation.

On March 5, 1770 in Boston, the King’s soldiers killed five male colonists and injured six others. The perception of the Crown was never the same again as Paul Revere and Samuel Adams saw it as a breaking point between a profitable a free New Place and its profligate absentee owner.

3) “Farms Ascendant” -1770-1860 -Civil War

Population: White 3,000,000 Native

Cleared land 80%

While fishing, trapping, logging and other exploitations of natural abundance created many fortunes, it was farming that sustained more than 2,000,000 more mouths to feed. In less than a century 1/2 of the arable land was made farmable by the hundreds of thousands of acres of deforestation. The same radical sense of fairness that made New England foment a Revolution made it a hot bed of Abolitionist Zeal.

Where once Puritans rejected their own persecution for a radical Christianity, New England rejected the idea that slavery was tolerable in God’s (or America’s) value system, moral or legal. Ironically Eli Whitney inventing the Cotton Gin in Connecticut that exploded the value of slavery as it maximized the yield of the slave dependent southern economy, the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, it also foretold the end of slavery in the United States.

Whitney and many others, mostly in Connecticut used the new technologies of mass production, metallurgy and machining to create the massive weaponry that matched the fervor of New England to end an evil, humans possessing other humans, with an evil, humans killing ourselves in War.

!860 saw America ripped apart, where the young men of entire towns went to battle, and often died, together. New England was the generator of that era’s moral outrage and the engine of its triumph, a push that ultimately made New England America’s Factory Town.

4) “Factories Ascendant” 1860-1945 -End of World War 2

Cleared land 55%

War destroys everything it touches, but it needs the tools to wreck what we have created. Late 19th century New England was in a perfect position to become the armory of the north. In the previous 200 years of occupancy New England’s geography of hills and mountains collected the byproduct of a robust temperate climate: water. Impermeable New England bedrock collected large amounts of run-off into rapidly running streams and rivers.

That gravity-caused natural energy of water flow made New England a place of early industrialization before the steam engine was even a gleam in James Watt’s eye back in the mother country. Damming focused that energy, and machines transferred it to looms, granaries, and yes, armories. The explosive (double entendre intended) growth of a pre-existing situation – factories by rivers during the Civil War mobilization was just the beginning.

Steam engines, internal combustion, massive electrical production (in some cases abetted by the same water flow that created energy in the previous centuries) took the Armory of America and made New England into the place many, many things were made: clocks, hats, carriages, textiles, and on and on.

While western expansion allowed New England farmers to find arable land, versus the rocky hills that made even subsistence problematic, the trains that followed the farmers also made Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo pre-eminent in the manufacturing .

Manufacturing crescendo-ed in the United States during World War 2, but for New England the time between that war and the Civil War saw a small part of America lose half of its farmland and have multistory iron, steel, brick and timber buildings flood many of its towns and cities.

Giant, elegantly spare and clean buildings with huge open interiors filled with natural light from huge windows and skylights became the meetinghouses of towns and the barns of the countryside – jobs meant a huge influx of immigrants and an infusion of new cultures that ended New England’s white, English, Protestant homogeneity forever.

Amazing what water can erode, given enough time.

 

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