Autumn Tea Party winners: Carrie Fancett Pagels' giveaway of Mercy in a Red Cloak goes to Michelle. Denise Weimer's print copy of The Witness Tree goes to Roxanne C. Janet Grunst's winner of a print copy of The Highlanders is Alison Boss. Naomi Musch's winner of an ebook copy of The Highlanders is Sally D. Angela Couch's winners for ebook copies of choice of the Hearts of War series are Linda Palmer and Judy (heyjudybat). Congratulations, all! Please private message your e-mail or mailing address to the authors.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Another Colonial Abolitionist

Earlier this year, I wrote of John Laurens and his efforts to speak out against slavery. Tamera Kraft wrote about abolition in early America, and then Roseanna White shared how Georgia was first seen as opportunity to show charity to London's poor. While researching on the roots of slavery in our country for my new release, The Rebel Bride (a Civil War story, part of Daughters of the Mayflower), I discovered murmurs that the South, despite stereotypes to the contrary, was actually at one time opposed to slavery, while it was New England merchants and ship owners who saw the trade as most lucrative. (I think my personal writing brand should be, "Exploring the Contradictions of History" ...)

Statue of Oglethorpe in Augusta, Georgia
Further digging revealed that James Edward Oglethorpe, founder and trustee of the colony of Georgia, not only envisioned using the land and its resources to extend help to the less fortunate in England, while encouraging industry and trade (a somewhat brilliant idea, even if it failed in execution), but was stridently antislavery in the process. It's remarkable that together with the other Georgia Trustees he managed, at least at first, to ban slavery in the colony--and to promote fair trade with the native peoples.

Shortly after his departure for England, however, in 1744, the other trustees caved to demands to legalize slavery. Oglethorpe remained outspoken against slavery for the rest of his life, and also argued on behalf of the colonies during the American Revolution.


For more reading:

Friday, December 6, 2019

Let Us Not Be Rogues or Fools - A Circumspect Anniversary Look at Thomas Paine's "The American Crisis"

Just as we remember Benjamin Franklin in part for his many wise sayings, the words of Thomas Paine, considered the Father of the Revolution, have also become timeless. Looking ahead toward a new decade, we would do well to look back on December 23rd, 1776, which marks the 243rd anniversary of the first in Mr. Paine’s series of published pamphlets entitled The American Crisis or simply The Crisis.

In our current political climate, it seems a good time to revisit this insightful essay of Mr. Paine’s that is at times convicting, sharp, and humbling. In reading Mr. Paine’s essay, I cannot help but feel its relevance for the present..

Ponder a few of these highlights from The Crisis:  

"These are the times that try men's souls." (Talk about an opening line! I feel this often. Don't you?)

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly." (I wonder if this isn't more true now than it was 243 years ago.)

"All that Howe has been doing for this month past, is rather a ravage than a conquest." (Ouch! He must have learned insults from Shakespeare.)

"I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent. Neither have I so much of the infidel in me, as to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils; and as I do not, I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us: a common murderer, a highwayman, or a house-breaker, has as good a pretense as he." (I appreciate Mr. Paine's confidence in the Divine.)

"Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country. All nations and ages have been subject to them. ... Yet panic, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short; the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit than before. But their peculiar advantage is, that they are the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered. ... They sift out the hidden thoughts of man, and hold them up in public to the world. (Such eye-opening truth! Panic does achieve those things, and is one way in which "every secret thing will be revealed".)

"If we believe the power of hell to be limited, we must likewise believe that their agents are under some providential control." (A wonderful reminder of God's over-arching power and will.) 

"The period is now arrived, in which either they or we must change our sentiments, or one or both must fall." (I have to remind myself that Mr. Paine is speaking of the stark division between Tories and Patriots, and yet...)

"Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it." (Let the thwarting of evil ever be our nation’s unifying cause.)

"My own line of reasoning is to myself as straight and clear as a ray of light. Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to "bind me in all cases whatsoever" to his absolute will, am I to suffer it?" (An argument that still stands.)

"Howe's first object is, partly by threats and partly by promises, to terrify or seduce the people to deliver up their arms and receive mercy. The ministry recommended the same plan to Gage, and this is what the Tories call making their peace, "a peace which passeth all understanding" indeed! A peace which would be the immediate forerunner of a worse ruin than any we have yet thought of. Ye men of Pennsylvania, do reason upon these things! Were the back counties to give up their arms, they would fall an easy prey to the Indians, who are all armed: this perhaps is what some Tories would not be sorry for. Were the home counties to deliver up their arms, they would be exposed to the resentment of the back counties who would then have it in their power to chastise their defection at pleasure. And were any one state to give up its arms, that state must be garrisoned by all Howe's army of Britons and Hessians to preserve it from the anger of the rest. Mutual fear is the principal link in the chain of mutual love, and woe be to that state that breaks the compact. Howe is mercifully inviting you to barbarous destruction, and men must be either rogues or fools that will not see it. I dwell not upon the vapors of imagination; I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as A, B, C, hold up truth to your eyes." (And thus, the groundwork for our 2nd Amendment rights was laid. What has changed? For we must still hold fast to those rights for which men laid down their lives.)
In conclusion, I think it circumspect to look back upon these documents written during our country's birth pangs. We have experienced many growing pains in the 243 years since, and continue to feel the agonies of a nation struggling to survive as it was formed. As we close out the year and prepare to step into a new decade, let us not forget the things we've learned, the wisdom that prevailed so long ago.

Merry Christmas, and may you be filled with God's peace as you walk with Him.
Naomi Musch

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Painter of the Revolution

John Trumbull, self-portrait ca. 1802
Before a practical method of photography developed around the mid 1800s, the only way people had of “seeing” the past was through written descriptions and works of art. There’s much that can’t be conveyed in words, however, and we would have no idea of what the Founders of our Republic and the military leaders, battles, and landscapes of the Revolutionary War period actually looked like if it weren’t for contemporary sketches, drawings, paintings, and sculptures. In fact, one artist, a veteran of that war, became famous as the “Painter of the Revolution”. Today we’re greatly indebted to John Trumbull for his vivid and accurate depictions of the people, places, and events of a time so crucial to the existence of our nation.

Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, in 1756, the youngest of six children of Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., and Faith Robinson Trumbull, both descendants of Puritans who were early settlers in the colony. His father was governor of Connecticut from 1769 to 1784. Although blinded in the left eye by a childhood accident, Trumbull entered the junior class at Harvard College in 1771 at the age of 15. During that period, he visited John Singleton Copley’s studio and was inspired to become a painter. After graduating in 1773, he taught school but joined the Continental Army when the colonies revolted against the British in 1775.

General George Washington at Trenton
by John Trumbull, 1792
While stationed at Boston, Trumbull provided sketches of both British and American lines and works and was a witness to the Battle of Bunker Hill. He served briefly as aide de camp to General George Washington, and in June 1776 was appointed deputy adjutant general to General Horatio Gates at the rank of colonel. In 1777 he resigned because of a dispute over the dating of his officer’s commission—a common cause of dissention among officers back then.

Deciding on a career in art, he traveled to London in 1780, where Benjamin Franklin introduced him to another American artist, Benjamin West. While studying under him, Trumbull openly supported the American cause, not a wise policy with the war still ongoing! The news of British agent Major John André’s capture and subsequent hanging as a spy by the Americans reached London, evoking public outrage and spurring the government to have him arrested in retaliation since he had been an officer in the Continental Army of similar rank to André. Trumbull was imprisoned for seven months, until West’s intervention secured his release.

Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull, 1819
Trumbull returned to the United States, but when the peace treaty was ratified in 1783, he returned to London to again study under West. Over the next few years he made portrait sketches of French officers in Paris for his painting Surrender of Lord Cornwallis. He also began the early composition of Declaration of Independence, painting small portraits of the signers and copying previous portraits for those who had died, which he later used to piece together the larger painting.

Trumbull was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1791 and served as its president. In 1794 he acted as John Jay’s secretary in London during negotiations for a treaty with Great Britain that settled America’s main boundary with Canada. A couple of years later he was appointed to a commission that mediated the claims of American and British merchants that remained from the war. He married Sarah Hope Harvey, an English amateur painter while there, but his attempts to make a living painting portraits in London had little success, and a studio in New York City met with similar results. Then in 1817 Congress commissioned him to paint four large pictures for the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, where they hang today: General George Washington Resigning His Commission, Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, Surrender of General Burgoyne, and Declaration of Independence. He completed the series in 1824, basing it on the small originals of these scenes that he painted years earlier.

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull, 1820
By far the largest single collection of Trumbull’s works is held by Yale University. The collection was originally housed in a neoclassical art gallery he designed on Yale’s Old Campus. Among his portraits are ones of General Washington, George Clinton, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, John Adams, and many others, some at full length. He also completed several self-portraits and was painted by Gilbert Stuart and other well-known artists.

Trumbull published his autobiography in 1841. He died 2 years later, on November 10, 1843, in New York City at the age of 87. He and his wife were interred beneath the Art Gallery at Yale University, which he had designed, but when the collection was moved to Street Hall in 1867, their remains were reinterred on those grounds.

I love to study the works of artists throughout the ages. In fact, I’d find it hard to write historical novels without having access to such works. How do images created by artists throughout history spark your imagination and enable you to understand and even identify with people, places, and events of previous times? Please share!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Why Turkeys for Thanksgiving?

Image result for turkey images
Thanksgiving is a wonderful day of family and food without all the stress and hubbub of other holidays. We give thanks to God, eat too much turkey, and sink into our couches to enjoy our calorie coma with the family. What could be better?!

But why turkey?

Probably most of us over the age of 30 can remember dressing up with construction paper feathers and pilgrim hats and reenacting the first Thanksgiving in elementary school. We remember that the pilgrims almost starved their first year on this continent for many reasons and that the friendly natives helped them learn which foods were safe to eat in this new land. 

One of those new foods was the turkey. That's right, it's a uniquely American bird. William Bradford wrote in his journal about hunting turkeys in 1621. In a letter to his daughter dated January 26, 1784, Benjamin Franklin penned the virtues of the gobbler. Following President Lincoln's official declaration of a national Thanksgiving holiday in 1863, turkey gained in popularity until it became a national staple for Thanksgiving meals by 1900.

So next Thursday, as you're slicing into a golden-brown bird, remember to thank God for all the blessings He has rained down upon us ... including the indigenous fowl we enjoy so much.

Pegg Thomas - Writing History with a Touch of Humor

Monday, November 18, 2019

New Light Baptists (and other denominations of the colonial era)

Some time ago, while reading The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution, featuring the journal and sermons of traveling Anglican minister Charles Woodmason, I came across the term "New Light Baptist" and was curious to know more. Woodmason speaks of them in scathing terms, as he does of every other denomination and most people groups in general, but being raised in a Baptist church myself, I was curious to know.

Wikipedia (which tends to be better sourced these days than it once was) offers a good discussion on the subject, but I also found this snapshot of the religious landscape of the colonial era:

Early New Englanders generally practiced congregationalism, though by the 18th century they seldom thought of themselves as the spearhead of the Reformation. A wave of revivals known as the Great Awakening swept New England beginning in the 1720s, dividing churchgoers into New Light (evangelical Calvinists) and Old Light (more moderate) wings. An increasing minority were calling themselves Baptists.

Nearly all Europeans in these colonies were Protestants, but individual denominations were very different. There were Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans, Dutch Reformed, Mennonites and Quakers. While the Church of England was the established church (the official, government-supported church) in the Chesapeake colonies, German and Scottish non-Anglicans were migrating south from the middle colonies, and Baptists were making their first southern converts. Although most Chesapeake slaves were American-born by the late 18th century, they practiced what they remembered of African religions, while some became Christians in 18th-century revivals. [from New Light Schism]

The terms "Old Light" and "New Light" have been applied over the years to several denominational splits, but during the Great Awakening, the debate raged between those who argued that Christianity was more about right doctrine and theology and those who emphasized personal transformation as a result of one's theology. Old Lights were criticized for only caring about one's beliefs, while disregarding behavior such as drunkenness and greed; and New Lights were criticized for their focus on experience and emotion. What began as a split between Presbyterians and Congregationalists birthed the movement called New Light Baptists, when a group of folks influenced by George Whitefield's preaching decided they could find no evidence in Scripture of infant baptism.

John Smyth
But this was not the first time people dissented with such widely accepted theology. There is debate over whether the Baptist church finds its roots in the Anabaptist movement (many say not), or can trace its roots all the way back to the time of Christ, but many say that the movement which led to the modern Baptist church had its beginnings in 1609 Amsterdam, with a man named John Smyth, an English Separatist. These roots, then, cling to the history of the Puritans and Pilgrims, and led to a division between "General" and "Particular" Baptists, who argued whether Christ's atonement applied to all people, or just to God's elect. (Similar debates went on in the Presbyterian Church, famed for following the teachings of John Calvin.) Smyth was eventually imprisoned for his dissent with the Anglican church.

Another Baptist of note was Roger Williams, who founded the very first Baptist congregation in the American colonies (1638, Rhode Island). Not until the First Great Awakening, however, did the term "New Light" become associated with Baptists, when many of them broke away from their Calvinist leanings and it was not held as a complimentary term by those of more established denominations.

Woodhouse rails against New Lights as unlearned, unstable, overly emotional, given to fleshly impulse and vice. He bemoans their lack of Scriptural grounding, their quibbling over liturgical service elements while indulging in public indecency, and their exercise of spiritual gifts as a cloak for sinful indulgence. Doesn't sound so different from criticism between churches today, does it? His accounts tell of shenanigans ranging from a sensuality to rival any modern tabloid, to the cultish and downright criminal. Just the reading of it is enough to make one question one's entire upbringing.

It just goes to show that even the most august structures can have less than auspicious beginnings ... and human nature has certainly never changed, when left to itself.

Despite all that, the Baptist church as a whole found a home in the Carolinas, put down roots, spread across the colonies and into the frontier, becoming a solid, established expression of early American faith alongside more settled and staid denominations.


Additional sources:
New Lights (from NCpedia)
Old and New Light (from Wikipedia)
Baptists (from Wikipedia)