Hits and Misses

Hits and Misses

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Duly Noted: Deplorables, or Disposables?

“Duly Noted” are posts that call attention to work by other people.  “Deplorables, or Disposables?” summarizes my friend Arthur J. Kover’s research on the degree to which Americans feel that they are disposable.  Arthur Kover adapted his work for publication in a magazine, but apparently no editors appreciated its relevance.  His work deserves a wider recognition because it presciently identifies an attitude that led to Donald Trump’s election. 
In 2013, Arthur Kover and Howard Moskowitz did a study of 250 people drawn randomly from a larger, representative panel.  The 250 people were asked to evaluate the chances of six hypothetical persons being laid off.  These hypothetical individuals were from varying occupations:  a hotel maid from Jamaica; the owner of a local deli; a machinist in a US company; a teacher in an urban high school; a stockbroker; and an executive in a large international company.  A subsequent study included two more hypothetical people, a fashion model and “a person like me.”

A constant was calculated to give an overall idea of the probability of anyone being disposed of.  This single number is the contingent probability of anyone thinking anyone else could be disposed of.  For this study, the constant was 27.  This number represents the estimate that between one-quarter and one-third of the populace would think that others—any others—could be thrown away.

27 may not appear to be a large proportion, but there are some surprising aspects here.  One is that there is relatively little difference from this base contingent probability for any of the six hypothetical people.  That means that people believe that nearly everyone in our society has an equal chance of being disposed of.  Everyone is vulnerable.

The case was different in regard to the two added hypothetical people.  As one might readily expect, most respondents viewed the fashion model as having a greater chance of being disposed of.  In contrast, “the person like me” was viewed as having a lower chance of being thrown away.  Objectively, perhaps, a respondent might acknowledge that this could indeed happen, but subjectively it would be more likely to happen to somebody else.  (The research data is noted at the end of this post.)

Early in 2015, Arthur Kover did a second study that was qualitative rather than quantitative.  He wanted to explore how people felt about their perceived vulnerability.  He interviewed six men and two women, ranging in age from mid-twenties to almost ninety.  Their occupations included a retired police chief from a small town, a college student, a truck driver, a retired professor of sociology, a building contractor, a homemaker, a high school teacher with tenure, and an unemployed laborer.  The retired police chief rejected the idea that people could be thrown away:  “When bad things happen, you just dust yourself off and find something else.  It’s a question of character.”  The high school teacher saw disposability coming down the line in the not so distant future:  “Just wait and see—tenure won’t mean anything in five or ten years.”

The other six all viewed themselves at risk of being disposed of.  Socio-economic level mattered less than the drastic external changes time could bring about:  no one was secure; everyone was living on the edge.

What both of these studies revealed is that nearly all feel their livelihoods at risk.  But Kover points out that the disposability of people is not restricted to employment, even though that is a large part of it.  Nor is it about a kind of passivity, a refusal to take charge of your own life and find something else—a defect of character, as that retired police chief described it.  Rather, the disposability of people involves the specter of being abandoned.  People don’t return your calls. Friends melt away.  Family life deteriorates.  The world becomes indifferent to you, and then you internalize that difference.

In this situation, Kover suggests, individuals will not band together to become a larger force.  Every abandoned person carries the past within his or her being.  The former executive and the former machinist had little or no contact in their past lives.  Their pasts prevent them from seeing their common plight,  The more the stressful present impinges on them, the more they will retreat into the past to erect new walls.

Kover concluded this portion of his study by asking an acute rhetorical question, one the more striking because he formulated it well before the Republican primaries.  He asks, “Does America need a demagogue to effect even some change?  Who will be the next Savonarola, willing to take on that risk?  and what group, faith based or political, corporate conglomerate or some idealized 1776 revolutionists—will he or she represent?”

Now we know the answer to that question, even though many of us are dreading what those changes may involve. In these terms, “Make American Great Again” was the perfect slogan.  The voters who gave Trump his Electoral College (if not popular) majority are more accurately characterized not as deplorables but as disposables.  Their only hope lay in a demogogue, and Trump told them what they wanted desperately to hear.  Arthur Kover nailed it.

For supporting data, see Howard Moskowitz et al., Directory 40 (Mind Genomics Books), vol 12 (Fraying of America): https://www.dropbox.com/sh/su4cyn94o0w5x21/AAB-ITyP_sqwmFXH1hB_WksJa/40.MG.Books.New.Novum.Organum?dl=0&preview=New.Novum.12.Fraying.Nov.2014.pdf.  

The qualitative research is copyrighted by Arther J. Kover and reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Duly Noted: Do Roe Deer Know North and South?

"Duly Noted" posts pass on information gathered from other sources.  This post was sparked by my reading Jason G. Goldman's summary of some research on the escape patterns of European roe deer that appeared in the October 2016 Scientific American.  I found his summary so interesting that I looked up and read the original article.

This research was funded by a grant from the Czech Republic and published as "Compass-controlled escape behavior in roe deer" by Petr Obleser, Vlastimil Hart, E. Pascal Malkemper, et al., in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 20: 1345 (August 2016). Roe deer graze in open fields and run away when they see humans, so these researchers deliberately spooked 188 groups of deer grazing in three different areas during April and August of 2014.  68 were males, 120 were females.  115 were singles; 45 were pairs; 19 were groups of three; 5 were groups of four; and 4 were groups of five. Rather than running directly away from the humans or toward the nearest cover, the roe deer preferred heading toward magnetic north or south.

This magnetic alignment was more pronounced in groups than in singles.  When an observer approached from the east or the west, the deer did not flee in the opposite direction, but northward or southward.  There are advantages in a herd fleeing in the same direction: individuals can escape without colliding with each other, and they can reassemble easily as a group once the perceived threat is over.  But that would be true for any direction the herd took--the question is, why did these deer so consistently escape to either the north or the south?  These researchers conclude that the deer might be able to detect the earth's magnetic field.

All kinds of questions immediately come to mind.  Is this behavior consistent in other seasons of the year?  In areas other than South Bohemia and West Moravia?  And if so, to what degree, if any, does it hold for other species of deer?

I confess I've never paid attention to the escape directions of the mule deer or whitetails that I've hunted, but I'm going to start.  If anyone else does the same and passes on the information, I'll be happy to post the results.  You can reach me at ghcox3@gmail.com.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Fitting New Grips to a Uberti 44 Army & Fixing Three Mistakes

The 1860 Colt .44 Army revolver has been called the best looking revolver ever made. That is debatable, of course, but I tend to agree.  Perhaps more to the point is how well the 1860 Army points.  This may be due to its balance (or, perhaps more accurately, its moment of inertia) and, to me personally, its grip, which is longer than the Colt Single Action Army's and thus fits my hand better.  I own an 1860 Army reproduction by Uberti, and I decided that replacing its walnut grips with synthetic ivory would keep it just as pointable but make it even better looking.

After looking at a number of websites, I ordered a kit from Tombstone Gun Grips of White City, OR. Its website has detailed instructions for making templates from 3x5 index cards; Dave Corbin casts the polyurethane resin grips from these templates.  Although the web site warned that there might be a rather long interval before the order could be filled, my kit--two grips and two spacers--arrived in just a few weeks.

The instructions are quite detailed.  The first step is to make sure that the grips are oversized in all dimensions.  It's relatively easy to reduce them, but not to make them larger.  If they are too small, Dave Corbin will replace them as long as they haven't been altered.

The instructions recommend using contact cement or Gorilla Glue to glue the spacer to first one grip and then the other.  I readily admit to not being the most adept person at gluing objects together, and my previous mistakes have made me prefer glues that are reversible.  That is, if you make a mistake, you can take the pieces apart and start over again.  Contact cement made me uneasy because I almost never have used it.  As for Gorilla Glue, which I have used, I was pretty sure that it was not reversible.  I called the company to  check: once it's set up, I was told, it's permanent.  I  decided therefore to use Brownell's ACRAGLAS epoxy, which can be reversed with a heat gun.

The process begins with flattening the grip frame.  Then you flatten the frame side of each grip.  As the instructions recommend, I used 100 grit paper on a flat surface--in my case, the surface of my drill press table.  The instructions suggest that you paint what you want to flatten with a magic marker.  Assuming you've held the piece vertical, when all the black marks are erased, the surface is flat. Next, work on the corner where the each grip joins the frame: everything follows from this angle being correct. My grips were close, but each one required some judicious sanding and trying before it fit.

While the grips are still a bit oversized, fit the spacer.  Here is where I made the first of my three mistakes.  The instructions state, "Shape the spacer to fit between the hammer spring and the back strap.  It must be as close to a snug fit as you can make it."  Two spacers came with the kit, so I fitted the one with the curve that most closely approximated the inside curve of the back strap and glued it to the right grip panel, clamping them with a C clamp and rubber bands.

See that empty space just above the bottom of the grip frame?  What I failed to realize--and what the instructions don't mention--is that not only the side of the spacer must fit against the back strap (which continues around the butt as well) but the bottom of the spacer must fit snugly as well.  If not, the grip will not keep vertically aligned.

I could have avoided this mistake by looking more closely at the original wooden grip. Fortunately, the solution was simple.  I measured the gap between the bottom of my glued spacer and the frame and cut a piece from the second spacer to fit.  Some sanding and fitting soon made it a snug fit, so I epoxied that extension to the grip as well.

The spacer will now protrude above the frame on the remaining side.  The instructions say to make the spacer flush with the frame but leave the method up to you.  I used a piece of 100 grit sandpaper wrapped around a finger plane (with the blade raised, of course), making sure that the base of the small plane was always over two sides of the grip frame.

This approach worked well for making the spacer flush with the frame, but--my second mistake--I failed to realize that using epoxy to glue the second grip to the spacer would push the grip away from the spacer. Even a thin layer of epoxy has volume, after all, so epoxy between flush surfaces must leave a narrow but discernible gap.  That was the bad news.

The good news was that the epoxy was reversible.  My heat gun mysteriously had gone missing from my shop, so I directed the heat from my wife's hair dryer to the spacer and soon had the bond weakening.  A bit more heat and I could separate the two pieces and scrape off the epoxy.  Making sure to keep the side of the spacer flat, I sanded it until all of it was just a tad below the edges of the back strap.  That gap would accommodate the epoxy and still keep the edges of the grip tight against the grip frame.  Six rubber bands held the grip in place while the epoxy cured.

The left grip slipped just a bit away from the action in the clamping, but I decided I could live with it.  The grips were far from pristine, but I knew that sanding them to be flush with the frame would soon clean them up.

Next came the final fitting and polishing of the grips.  I started with 220 grit paper with the grips off the frame, putting them back on to check my progress.  I soon decided, however, that the quickest way to a flush fit between brass grip straps and poly grips was to depart from the instructions and sand them simultaneously in a shoe-shining fashion.  I took the sandpaper and backed it the long way with duct tape.  I then cut strips into the widths I needed.  As best I could, I was careful to follow the curves of the original grip. The brass of course became scratched, but each successive grit lessened the scratches.  After sanding with 600 grit, I thought I was through.  Two thin coats of wax, and it looked pretty darn good.

And that was how I made my third mistake:  I depended on artificial light to determine I was through.  Given the number of gun stocks I've refinished, I should have known better! The grips were nicely fitted, but looking at them in natural, raking light showed up a number of scratches I had simply not noticed in artificial light.  I marked and sanded each one, and then went through the grades of sandpaper all over again, finishing up this time with 1000 and then 1500 grit--all in natural light.  This time, the grips passed scrutiny.

Two thin coats of Renaissance wax made them look even better.  Here's the result:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Mussels and Garlic Sausage, Portuguese Style

My wife and I have just returned from a wonderful trip to Portugal, where we ate seafood almost every day.  This recipe adapts the Portuguese method of cooking clams and garlic sausage together in a covered pot, a cataplana.  Portuguese clams are different from ours, so I have substituted mussels.  Butter clams would also be good.

2 pounds of mussels
1/3rd of a pound Spanish chorizo sausage, cut into 1/4” cubes
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4” squares
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 onions, sliced and minced
1 box Pomi brand chopped tomatoes (26 oz.), or two cans
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika (I like smoked paprika)
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine (or vermouth)
Chopped parsley

In a large pot with a lid, melt the onions in olive oil, then add the garlic.  After a minute or two, add the chopped tomatoes, sausage, bell pepper, bay leaf, paprika, and hot pepper flakes.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

Add the white wine, stir, and then add the shellfish.  Cover and cook for 5-6 minutes, then check that all the shellfish have opened.  If not, re-cover and cook a few more minutes. Discard any that remain closed.

I shell half the mussels, then spoon those and the remaining mussels and tomatoes into soup plates and sprinkle with parsley.
Serves 2.  For more servings, add 1 pound shellfish per person, more onions (1 for every 2 people) and garlic (ditto). 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Brad Watson's New Novel, Miss Jane

     That fine writer Brad Watson has just published a new novel, Miss Jane (W. W. Norton, 2016).  Drawing in part on family stories about his great aunt, Watson has set Jane Chisolm’s story in the east-central Mississippi farm country of 1915.  Jane is born with a urogenital sinus anomaly with persistent cloaca—her urethra, vagina, and anus fused into a common channel, precluding intercourse, and her sphincter doesn’t function.  Corrective surgery was not possible at that time, so Jane remains incontinent and must wear diapers all her life.  Jane is strangely different, and that difference propels the novel.  As an adolescent, Jane has a crush on a neighbor boy, so her parents promptly send her away to the nearby town to help her elder sister run her dry cleaning and laundry business.  After her father drinks himself to death, she returns to the family farm to care for her increasingly despondent mother.  After her mother’s death, Jane lives alone on the farm.  Eventually, she is offered corrective surgery, but she refuses it.  She continues to live on the farm until she dies in her sleep.

     The voice of the narrator is matter of fact yet sympathetic about Jane’s otherness, and it immediately establishes our senses of Jane and of place. Take the first sentence:  “You would not think someone so afflicted would or could be cheerful, not prone to melancholy or the miseries.”  Instead of keeping the audience at arm’s length, that “you” pulls us in and makes us complicit.  At the same time, the reference to “the miseries” reminds us of an earlier,  country mode of speech.  The next sentence about Jane is straightforward narration:  “Early on she acquired ways of dealing with her life, with life in general.”  But the next, concluding this opening paragraph, hints at what Watson does so skillfully, alluding to a dimension that remains just out of reach:  “And as she grew older it became evident that she feared almost nothing—perhaps only horses and something she couldn’t quite name, a strange presence of danger not quite or not really a part of the world.”

     As a young child one evening on the verge of dropping off to sleep, Jane hears “the low growling of something, a growl of something that sounded massive, slow, and fierce passing just below the window of her room.  Some unspeakable monster.  Her heart seized and she shouted out" (p. 61).  Her father checks the ground outside her window for tracks:  nothing is there.  Her sister Grace ups the ante by suggesting that it could have been a bear, but her father dismisses that possibility scornfully.  “‘Not only would we’ve heard that,’ her father said, ‘we  sure would’ve smelled it.  Nothing stinks quite like a bear.’”  Comforted by Grace’s presence, Jane does go back to sleep.  What the narrator makes clear is that this unspeakable monster remains in Jane’s mind, even though she is never conscious of it:  “her only nightmares would be about the nameless beast she had heard, her sleeping mind imagining it in all kinds of forms, none of which she was ever able to recall upon waking” (p. 62).  Later, when as an adolescent Jane is trying to figure out the mechanics of making love, she spies on the young couple who are sharecroppers for her father.  Afterwards, Jane worries that she has done something terribly wrong, with the result that she has become the monster outside the window, the other who cannot do what normal people do in loving one another.

     Jane’s guilt is assuaged by Dr. Thompson, the man who delivered her and who continues to care  (in every sense) for her.  As she matures, he explains the facts of life to her, facts that unfortunately will never apply to her personally.  Dr. Thompson never loses hope that eventually surgical procedures will be discovered to correct her problems.  In this sense, he serves as a foil to Jane:  what he sees as an abnormality, she of course takes to be normal for her, and she adapts reasonably successfully.  Both of  them learn how to live alone and not be lonely, and their love for each other is no less real for being Platonic.  At some point after Dr. Thompson has died, Jane receives a letter from Johns Hopkins offering to perform the operation they have pioneered, free of charge.  She feels indignant because she sees no reason to be “fixed”; she has long since become accustomed to who she is, and that’s the end of it.

     But Jane’s life is not defined by loss.  On the contrary, she possess an altogether remarkable and to some degree compensatory awareness.  It ranges from relishing the mud squishing up between her toes the first time she goes wading in the beaver pond to her visits to her secret meadow, a clearing in the woods she considered her very own.  There she could step altogether out of time:  “The eyes of all the wild, invisible animals watching her.  Time was suspended, or did not exist.  She could linger there as long as she liked and when she returned no time had passed at all since she had stepped into the clearing and then awakened from it” (p. 75).  At their most intense, these feelings deepen from sensuous to sexual (although Watson is careful to say that she was too young to verbalize what this meant):  the taste of her first raw oyster, the soft skins of wild mushrooms, the pecan nuts in their smooth brown shells that  she rolled between her palms—these were all more than sensuous for Jane. They produced a sexual climax: “She felt it inside herself though, as deeply and truly as a lover.  She fell into the grove’s rough, tall grass and into darkness, some charged current running through her in pleasant palpitations of ecstasy” (p. 110).

     Over time, the peacocks that Dr. Thompson had introduced on his place so multiply that they come to inhabit Jane’s farm as well.  He had introduced them on his farm because they were at once beautiful and strange—he felt people didn’t know what to make of them.  In this sense, the peacocks are like Jane.  The peacocks are also the creatures Jane sees before she goes to sleep for the last time.  As she does, she dreams she moves through her secret clearing and, in her yard, enters a secret avian cathedral.  It’s not filled with peacocks—that would be too easy.  No, these are “some kind of winged and feathered things” that she had never seen.  They don’t appear to be the monsters she dreamed about in her youth but never recalled when she woke up, but neither do they appear to be altogether benign.  Miss Jane ends with the sentence, “They stood very still, hushed, their gleaming black eyes fixed on her, white beaks open in a strange, alert anticipation.”  Is this the “strange presence of danger not quite or not really a part of the world” that Brad Watson invokes in the opening of the novel?  Or is this one last suggestion that this wonderfully strange and strangely wonderful character Jane can perceive what the rest of us cannot know, tethered as we are by being altogether ordinary?

     Sir Francis Bacon observed in his essay “Of Studies,” “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, . . . some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”  Miss Jane falls into the third of Bacon’s categories.  A tour de force, it abundantly rewards reading with diligence and attention.  I would add only that the best of these books are to be read slowly and with appreciation, their language heard in the mind's ear the way good whiskey is savored on the tongue.  Brad Watson’s Miss Jane is one of those.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Plagiarism: What Is It & Why Does It Matter?

When you use another writer's intellectual property--language, visuals, or ideas--in your own work without giving proper credit to that person, you commit plagiarism.

Pretty simple, right?  And I bet you didn't realize that this description of plagiarism is itself plagiarized:  I took it word for word right from Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference (Bedford/St. Martin's).  I did make a few changes.  I substituted "writer's" for her "author's," I left out some of her statement, and I added "to that person," but these minor changes in no way get me off the hook.  I used Diana Hacker's language and her ideas without giving her credit.  I passed them off as mine.  I stole them, to put it bluntly, and that constitutes intellectual theft.  If I used Hacker's definition in public--in a blog post, a speech, or an essay--and didn't give her credit, I would add fraud to theft.

The first time I ever taught a Shakespeare course at the University of Washington in Seattle, I discovered a wonderful example of plagiarism.  I had been preparing to teach this introductory course for some months, but a fair amount has been written on Shakespeare's plays and I was barely keeping one week ahead of my class as I continued to read up on the plays I was teaching.  Then the term papers came due.  As I started to read a student's paper on The Winter's Tale, I had a sense of deja vu:  this was very like something I'd only read a week or so ago.  I reached over to the stack of books on my desk and pulled out E.M.W. Tillyard's Shakespeare's Last Plays, turned to the chapter on The Winter's Tale, and there it was:  the term paper copied Tillyard word for word, and without any acknowledgment.

I wrote at the end of the paper, "This is an excellent paper, but of course Tillyard is an excellent critic.  Because you have plagiarized without any acknowledgment of your source, your grade is F.  Please see me if you have any questions."

A young woman promptly came to see me.  I have long since forgotten her name; I'll just call her Jane Doe.  Jane Doe kept repeating that she just couldn't understand her grade.  Finally, in some frustration, I said, "Miss Doe (this took place many years ago, remember), I can't understand why you don't understand.  You copied your paper word for word, paragraph for paragraph, from Tillyard's book, Shakespeare's Last Plays, and you never acknowledged him as your source.  This is plagiarism, and that is why I am failing your paper."

At this, Miss Jane Doe burst into tears.  I silently handed her a box of tissues.  Finally she said, "Oh, Professor Cox, I copied this from my sorority's file of term papers.  But if I had known it was plagiarized, I never would have copied it!"

We now have the spectacle of the Trump campaign denying that Melania Trump's speech on July 18th was in part plagiarized from the speech given by Michelle Obama in 2008.  It is bizarre to have a possible First Lady quoting from the current First Lady (as opposed, say, to Mrs. Hoover), but all anyone has to do is look at the two passages side by side to realize that part of the speech did plagiarize both language and ideas without acknowledgment.  Melania Trump reportedly told NBC's Matt Lauer before she gave the speech, "I wrote it.  And with as little help as possible."  Oh, right.  But who wrote the speech is not the issue, it's who plagiarized it.  Even more bizarrely, the people running Trump's campaign apparently thought that that she/they could get away with this.  These days, all you have to do to identify plagiarism is type a phrase or two into a software program.

Most bizarre of all is the level of dishonesty on display.  For the Trump campaign initially to deny that plagiarism ocurred is beyond belief.  Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager, came up with the statement, "We don't believe there is anything in that speech that doesn't reflect her thinking"--as if thinking and plagiarizing were synonymous.  The opposite is more likely:  people plagiarize to avoid thinking.  And Chris Christie bloviated that ninety-three percent of the spech is completely different--as if plagiarizing only seven percent of the speech made the problem somehow recede into something acceptable.  At least Miss Jane Doe acknowledged (albeit comically) that she had copied someone else's work.  She ended up passing my course.  So far, Donald Trump's campaign managers and staff writers deserve an F for plagiarism.

Monday, June 6, 2016

My Family's Puritan Ministers, Part 3 of 3

This is the third of three posts about my recent discovery that my father's side of the family abounded not only in Puritans but in Puritan ministers.  The first post focuses on why Puritan ministers left England for what they hoped would be a "New" England.  The second post concerns those who came in the early 1600's to Masachusetts Bay Colony. 

Other Puritan ministers in my father's family went first to Massachusetts Bay and then on to what is now Connecticut.  Reverend Nicholas Street (1603-1674) was from Bridgewater, Somerset.  Atypically, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Pembroke College, Oxford, before changing to Emmanuel College at Cambridge, where he received his A.M. in 1636.  After coming over on the Susan & Ellen in 1635, he was ordained in Taunton in 1640/1.  Nearly twenty years later, in 1659, he removed to New Haven, the most strict of all the colonies.  So far, I haven't discovered why he moved.

Ephraim Hewitt (1604-1644) was from Wraxall, Warwickshire.  He attended St. John’s, Cambridge, and then became a curate at Knowle, Warwickshire.  He was silenced by John Thornborough, Bishop of Worcester, in 1638; Laud reported that Hewett had “condemned the decent ceremonies commanded by the Church.”  Hewitt consequently arrived in Windsor, CT, the following year.  He was ordained in Windsor in December 1639.  He died five years later.

Reverend John Jones (1593-1665) followed the more typical route of coming to Massachusetts Bay first and later moving to Connecticut.  Born in Northamptonshire, he went to Queens’ College, Cambridge, receiving his A.M. in 1616.  He had become a deacon at Peterborough in 1613; he became rector at Abbot’s Ripton, Huntingdonshire, in 1619.  He served there until 1630, when he was deprived of his living "for refusing to adhere to rites and ceremonies in the book of public prayers."  I don’t yet know how he survived the years between 1630 and 1635, when he sailed on the Defence, together with Peter Shepard.  He lived in Concord from 1635 until 1644, becoming ordained in Cambridge in April 1637, with Peter Buckeley as teacher.  (His daughter Sarah married Bulkeley's son Thomas about 1640.)  In 1644, he moved to Fairfield to become the minister there for the next twenty-one years.  He presumably was present when Goody Knapp was hanged as a witch in 1653.  He died between January 17th and February 9th, 1665.

The most influential of these ministers in my family who came to Connecticut was Thomas Hooker (1586-1647).  As did so many Puritans, he attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge, earning an A.B. in 1608 and an A.M. in 1611.  He then became a Fellow there.  After serving first as a rector in Surrey and then as a lecturer at St. Mary, Chelmsford, in Essex in 1625-29, he was silenced for non-conformity.  Hooker then kept a private school at Little Baddow, Essex, for two years (his usher in the school was John Eliot, later to become famous for his work with the Indians).  Becoming persecuted again, Hooker left for Holland.  He preached at Delfthaven for two years and then hoped to accept a position in the English congregation at Rotterdam.  But because he became involved in a dispute with John Paget, he didn’t obtain that position.

In 1633, Hooker came over with John Cotton on the Griffon.  He became the minister at Newtown (Cambridge), where some 58 from his congregation in Essex, England, had already settled; 53 more were soon to follow, according to Bailyn.  Believing the Boston-Newtown-Watertown area was too crowded, Hooker applied to the General Court for permission to leave and settle in Connecticut.  Fearing that geographic dispersal would weaken the spiritual support afforded by these nearby congregations, the Court denied his petition.  

Undaunted, and never less than contentious, Hooker reapplied the next year, and this time he was successful.  In 1636, he led most of his congregation overland to the Connecticut River, where they founded Hartford.  Although Benjamin Trumbull declares in his romanticized Complete History of Connecticut (1818) that they had to travel “more than a hundred miles, through a hideous and trackless wilderness” with no guide but a compass, they actually could follow an existing Indian trail.  Even if they had more provisions on their way to Hartford than the milk of the 160 cattle Trumbull says they subsisted on, theirs was quite a journey.  Hooker’s wife, my 9th great-grandmother Susanna Garbrand, was so sick that she had to be carried on a litter the entire way.  (She recovered, however, and outlived him by nearly thirty years, marrying twice in succession during that period).  He was the minister for the Hartford church until he died in 1647.  He had at least twenty works published. His Survey of the Sum of Church Discipline (published in 1648) has been called one of the classic statements justifying congregational policy. Their son Samuel went to Harvard College, became a Fellow there in 1654, and was ordained at Farmington, Connecticut, in 1661.

While in Hartford, Hooker mentored Roger Newton (1620-1683).  Newton had matriculated at King’s College, Cambridge, in 1636 but left before graduating.  He arrived in New England in 1638 and in 1640 studied at Harvard College (which had been founded in 1636) but again left without graduating.  Not only did Newton study theology with Hooker, he wooed and married Hooker's daughter Mary in 1644.  How long Newton continued to study with his father-in-law is unclear.  Thomas Hooker died in 1647, but Newton did not follow him as the minister at Hartford.  In October 1652, Newton was ordained as the first minister of Farmington, being installed the first day the church was formed.  He left after three years, and it doesn’t seem to be known what he did in the interval before he was installed at Milford on August 22, 1660.  Newton remained at Milford until his death on June 7, 1683. 

Scholars disagree on how many Puritan ministers came over to New England.  Estimates range from somewhere in the 90’s up to perhaps 130.  The nine ministers in my family that I’ve written about here therefore make up less than 10% of the total.  But all of them had been tried by adversity and not found wanting.  Even after the Parliamentary forces gained control in England, these ministers remained in New England.  (Susan Hardman Moore has estimated that 25% of the ministers who had emigrated returned to England during the Interregnum.)  After their arrival, they devoted themselves to making the best they could of this "new" England, hoping that its renewal would become the saving revival of the older one.  

Even though I find nothing appealing in their Calvinist theology, the research I've done on these ministers has made me respect their integrity.  Part of Thomas Shepard’s journal has survived.  He dedicated it to his son Thomas, writing on the top of the second leaf Paul's admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:21:  “Try all things and hold fast that which is good.” Thomas Shepard the younger earned a bachelor’s and a master's at Harvard in 1653.  Like his father before him and his son Thomas (who also became a minister) after him, we can assume he did his best not only to move his congregation to practice what he preached, but to follow that way himself.  I have no sympathy for their Puritan theology, but I do respect their unyielding resolution, generation after generation, to do what they conceived to be good, no matter what trials they had to withstand.

Selected sources:

Ashely, Maurice.  England in the Seventeenth Century.  Penguin Books, 1965.

Bailyn, Bernard.  The Barbarous Years.  The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of  Civilizations, 1600-1675.  New York:  Vintage, 2012.

Bremer, Francis J.  Shaping New Englands:  Puritan Clergymen in Seventeenth-Century England and New England.  New York:  Twayne Publishers, 1994.

Delbanco, Andrew.  The Puritan Ordeal.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard Univ. Press, 1989.

Fischer, David Hackett.  Albion’s Seed:  Four British Folkways in America.  Oxford Univ. Press, 1989.

Gura, Philip F.  A Glimpse of Sion’s Glory:  Puritan Radicalism in New England, 1620-1660.    Middletown, CT:  Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1984.

McGiffert,  Michael, ed..  God’s Plot:  Puritan Spirituality in Thomas Shepard’s Cambridge.  Rev. ed.  Amherst:  Univ. of Mass. Press, 1994.

Mather, Cotton.  Magnalia Christi Americana.  London, 1702.  Bk. III, Ch. xvi.

Moore, Susan Hardman.  Pilgrims:  New World Settlers & the Call of Home.  New Haven:  Yale Univ. Press, 2007.

Seller, W. C., and R. J. Yeatman.  1066 and All That.  New York:  Barnes & Noble, 1931.

Weis, Frederick Lewis.  The Colonial Clergy and the Colonial Churches of New England [1936].  Lancaster, MA, 1961.

My Family's Puritan Ministers, Part 2 of 3

One of my forebears, Reverend Thomas Shepard (1605-1649), left a manuscript describing his encounter with Archbishop Laud (see list of sources at the end of Part 3).  We should perhaps allow for Shepard heightening the drama, but he represents Laud in the interview as enraged:  "He asked how long I had lived in his diocese.  I answered, Three years and upwards.  He asked who maintained me all this while, charging me to deal plainly with him, adding withal that he had been more cheated and equivocated by some of my malignant faction than ever was man by Jesuit, at the speaking of which words he looked as though blood would have gushed out of his face and did shake as if he had been handed with an ague fit, to my apprehension by reason of his extreme malice and secret venom."  Shepard, by all accounts one of the mildest of men, begged to be excused from answering (in fact, he had been supported in Essex by Dr. Edmund Wilson, the brother of my ancestor Reverend John Wilson, whom I’ll mention below).  Laud then began to rail bitterly at Shepard, eventually sentencing him as follows:  “I charge you that you neither preach, read, marry, bury, or exercise any ministerial function in any part of my diocese, for if you do, and I hear of it, I will be upon your back and follow you wherever you go, in any part of the kingdom, and so everlastingly disable you.”

We need to recall that Laud wielded both religious and political power.   Laud’s “charge” to Shepard was legal and all-encompassing, having effect throughout the realm of England.  It quite literally took away Shepard’s means of supporting himself as a minister.  Not only that:  I take Laud’s use of “everlastingly” at the closing of his charge—“and so everlastingly disable you”—to mean that any disobedience of Shepard will mean that he’ll be lost both in this life and in the life to come.  The interview ends with Laud exclaiming, “Get you gone, and now make your complaints to whom you will!”  “So away I went,” Shepard relates, and his next phrase quietly underscores that he serves a greater master:  “and blessed be God that I may go to him.”  

For Thomas Shepard and other ministers of the Puritan persuasion, Archbishop Laud’s burning zeal to enforce uniformity made many of them question whether they should—or could—stay in England.  In The Barbarous Years, Bernard Bailyn magisterially sums up the outcomes of Laud’s campaign:  “It created fear and a sense of desperation, forged a mutually supportive community of previously scattered dissidents, steeled their resistance, propelled many from a ‘loose conformity’ to outright nonconformity, and precipitated a willingness on the part of certain of the Puritan leaders to contemplate flight.”

One of the ministers in my family tree who did take flight was Samuel Whiting (1597-1679).   Originally from Boston, Lincolnshire, Whiting received his A.M. from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1620, and, subsequently, his D.D.  He served as Rector of Skirbeck, Lincolnshire, from 1625 to 1636.  His second marriage was to Elizabeth St John in 1629.  When his case came before Laud’s Court of High Commission, the Earl of Lincoln intervened on his behalf.  Having momentarily escaped Laud’s clutches, as he presumably saw it, Whiting came over to New England in 1636 and served as minister in Lynn for the next 43 years.  Three of his sons followed him into the ministry.

Another forebear was Reverend John Wilson (1591-1667), the brother of the Doctor Edmund Wilson who helped support Thomas Shepard in Essex.  He could have had an illustrious career in the Church of England:  not only had he gone to Eton, but his father was a canon at Windsor and his mother was a niece of Archbishop Edmund Grindal.  At King’s College, Cambridge, however, he became a Puritan.  He received his A.M. in 1613.  From 1616-1618 he was a Fellow of King’s.  A lecturer in Sudbury, Sussex, Wilson was suspended in 1627 and imprisoned for seditious speeches.  He was restored after the Earl of Warwick intervened on his behalf.  When he was investigated again, he resigned and emigrated to Boston in 1630.  His wife, Elizabeth Mansfield, flatly refused to accompany him, so he went back to England the next year and eventually persuaded her to return with him.  After being the teacher in Boston, he became the first minister of the First Church in 1632, with John Cotton following him as teacher.  He volunteered to be a chaplain in the Pequot War in 1637.  He remained in Boston until his death in 1667.  His son, grandson, and great-grandson all became ministers in their turn.

Reverend Peter Bulkeley (1583-1659) was the brother of my ancestor Judith Bulkeley.  Their father Edward came from a landed family in Odell, Bedfordshire; he had been a Fellow at St. John’s, Cambridge, earned a D.D., and then became the Rector of Odell.  Peter Bulkeley followed his father to St. John’s, earning his A.M. in 1608 and then on his father’s death becoming Rector in Odell.  The Lord Keeper Williams was a long-standing friend of the family, so he had overlooked first Edward’s and then Peter’s non-conformity, but when Laud became Archbishop in 1633 that was no longer an option.  Bulkeley was silenced with his case being referred to the High Commission.  With no hope of reinstatement, he sold his estate and came over to New England with his family in 1635.    
Peter Bulkeley settled first in Newtown (Cambridge).  The next year, with twelve others, he purchased land from the Indians and began the town of Concord.  John Jones was the first pastor at Concord, and Bulkeley was the teacher.  Then, in 1637, Bulkeley was installed at pastor.  That Concord never suffered attacks by Indians was generally credited to his good relationships with them.  He served the church in Concord until his death in 1659.  A son, Edward, and a grandson, John, followed him into the ministry. 

This brings us back to Thomas Shepard, whom we left right after his interview with the furious Archbishop Laud.  Silenced and unfrocked, Shepard, his first wife Margaret Toutville, and their son Thomas (who would also become a minister) sailed on the Defence to Massachusetts Bay in 1635, arriving on October 3rd.   Thomas Hooker baptized their son, who was about a year old at that point. 

Hooker was about to lead his congregation to the Connecticut River, so Shepard and his congregation bought their houses and property.  Shepard was ordained at Cambridge on February 1, 1636, and ministered there until he died in 1649, aged 44.  Harvard College was located in Cambridge in part because of Shepard's ministry there, and he served as its unofficial chaplain as well as an overseer.  When the college was nearly insolvent, Shepard proposed a "motion of beneficence" to the Confederation of New England in 1644:  each family was asked to donate annually a quarter-bushel of wheat or its equivalence.  The motion gave Harvard nearly 270 pounds over the next nine years.  Shepard had some fifteen works published during his lifetime and after his death.  Three of his four sons followed him into the ministry.  Described by Edward Johnson as a "poor, weak, pale-complexioned man," Thomas Shepard by all accounts was an extraordinary preacher, a "Pastor Evangelicus," in Cotton Mather's phrase.

My Family's Puritan Ministers, Part 1 of 3

Some fifty years ago I took two graduate courses at Stanford on the New England Puritans.  I disliked their doctrinal hairsplitting, their emphasis on predestination, and, closely related to that, their perpetual anxiety about whether they were sanctified.  Ironically, thanks to ancestry.com, I have discovered recently that nearly all the branches on my father’s family tree stem from Puritans.  And not just Puritans, but Puritan ministers.  Faced with this version of cognitive dissonance, I’ve done a lot of research in early American history.  After much reading, I still don’t agree with their doctrines, but I have come to see these Puritan ministers in a different light.   

The program ancestry.com is a great resource for discovering familial relationships extending back in time.  Not surprisingly, it is best at identifying names and supplying relationships:  parental, marital, siblings, and so on.  Previous users have scanned in additional material on what some of these people did, but not all of it is relevant, any more than all the familial relationships are factual.  I perhaps should admit here that tracing generations back into New England is relatively easy.  There are baptismal records, marriage records, wills, and probate records—all of which are in English and many of which can be accessed through ancestry.com.  Research in New England is thus considerably simpler than trying to find information about forebears who may have been living in this country but who continued to use the language of their country of origin.  It is exciting to trace back members of a family, discovering relations between generations, but what I found even more exciting was trying to discover who these people were, fleshing out their names, so to speak, and trying to understand why they were in a given place at a given time.

As I began to get back eight or nine generations, I began to notice that many of them were living in Connecticut.  I wondered why so many of them were there.  Then, going back another generation, I noticed that many of these same families had been in Massachusetts, or, more accurately, the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Only at this point did I realize that these ancestors of mine had to be Puritans, and therefore the same as the ones I had so disliked studying when I was getting my PhD at Stanford.  These weren’t the equivalents of English Cavaliers, “Wrong but Wromantic,” to quote 1066 and All That; these forebears were Puritans, the equivalent of English Roundheads, “Right but Repulsive.”

Nevertheless, I was related to them, and I felt I owed it to them as my forebears to learn more about them.  I had read David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed:  Four British Folkways in America some years ago, never dreaming that the chapter on “East Anglia to Massachusetts:  The Exodus of the English Puritans, 1629-41” had anything to do with my family.  I reread that chapter, impressed all over again by the disparate elements Fischer is able to pull together into a coherent whole, and then began to ask historians I knew at Cornell what I should read.  Bernard Bailyn’s The Barbarous Years, a study of the “Peopling of British North America” from 1600-1775, was recommended by everyone.  It is a breathtakingly good overview, and its extensive documentation provided me with a useful guide to further research. 

As I read Fischer and Bailyn and then the primary and secondary sources they cited, I began to notice some names that were similar to the ones I’d traced through ancestry.com.  Could they be the same people?  I checked their dates of birth and death, and to my surprise, they were the same.  Not only were many of my forebears Puritans, some of those Puritans were ministers, key figures in settling first Massachusetts Bay and, very soon after, Connecticut (which at first was an extension of the Bay Colony).

But why, I wondered, were ministers key figures in the Puritan migration to New England?  From what I was reading, a given minister would decide to emigrate, and many in his congregation then would emigrate with him.  I could imagine that a minister might well inspire his flock to follow him, but what factors in England made the ministers want to leave?  Trying to answer that question gave me even more information about these forebears.  

For the sake of convenience, I have divided a longish essay into three parts, the first dealing with the conditions in England that motivated ministers to emigrate; the second with those in my father's family who emigrated to Massachusetts Bay; and the third with those ministers who settled along the Connecticut River. 

Part 1

It’s alway useful to define terms, so let me begin with the term, “Puritan.”  A Puritan is someone who believed that the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century had stopped too soon:  the Church of England still needed to be “purified” further.  Their ideal church was one similar to that of the early Christians.  Puritans wanted to substitute a congregational structure for the hierarchal one of archbishop, bishops, and priests; they wanted to reduce the number of sacraments from seven to two, baptism and communion.  The Puritans viewed The Book of Common Prayer as merely a collection of empty forms that a parrot could pronounce.  What the Puritans believed important for salvation was neither participating in the liturgy nor partaking of grace through the sacraments.  What was critical was reading the written Word in the Bible and hearing the Word explicated in sermons.  Puritans wholeheartedly agreed with Paul in Romans 10:17, “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”   

Under Queen Elizabeth, who ruled from 1558-1603, the Church of England more or less successfully kept to what has been termed the via media, a middle way between the traditions and practices of Roman Catholicism and those of Continental Calvinism.  Unlike the recrusants, the English Roman Catholics who were persecuted as traitors both to the Church of England and to Queen Elizabeth, the Puritans who kept their heads down were left pretty much alone.

After James VI of Scotland became King James I of England in 1603, however, the Puritan challenge to the hierarchical nature of ecclesiastical authority became an issue.  The reform-minded faction urged the abolition of bishops because they were not sanctioned in the Bible or the early church.  King James correctly saw this issue of ecclesiastical hierarchy as part and parcel of the notion of order that would later became known as the divine right of kings.  At the Hampton Court Conference in 1604,  James agreed to three of the four requests by the Puritans:   he was willing to countenance abolishing baptism by women, let a “preaching ministry” continue, and reduce the number of livings a cleric could have.  But when one of the Puritan representatives suggested that “prophesyings”—meetings of the clergy to expound doctrine—should be revived and any disagreements resulting from them should be referred not to the bishop but to a group of presbyters, King James blew up.  He smote the table with his fist and declared, “No Bishop, no King!”

Matters became even more strained when King Charles I succeeded his father James in 1625.  King James had appointed William Laud as Royal Chaplain,  Not only did Laud continue in that position, but under Charles he gained more and more influence.  Laud became first the Bishop of London and then in 1633 the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Laud controlled the Church’s Court of High Commission and the Privy Council’s criminal Court of Star Chamber.  To ensure uniformity of worship, Laud began the practice of “visitations” all over the country to verify that worship followed the Thirty-nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer.  If he saw his efforts as curing the Church of a malignancy, Puritans saw them as persecution of the godly.  

And thus we have come to compelling reasons for ministers of the Puritan persuasion to migrate.  As visitation after visitation occurred, as minister after minister was stripped of his living, excommunicated, or imprisoned, Puritan ministers began to believe that a new age of martyrs was almost at hand, one that would soon replicate the imprisonments, the tortures, and the burnings at the stake in the reign of Queen Mary.  

Friday, May 20, 2016

Not Coming Over on the Mayflower

I’ve been doing some genealogical research on my father’s side of my family.  He knew some names as far back as his great grandfather and several stories, but that was about it.  One family story had some ancestor (name unknown) settling in Long Island in 1642, and another story posited someone equally unknown being a major in the Great Swamp Fight (whenever that was), but that was the extent of it.  As so often happens, neither of those stories appears to be true.  What I have discovered, however, is that some were captured by the Indians, or fought in various wars, or founded towns.  I thought I’d devote a series of posts to some of these individuals, trying to place their lives in their historical context.  This post focuses on my ancestor who refused to come over to America on the Mayflower

His name was Thomas Blossom, and he was born in in 1568 in Parham, Somerset County, England.  Blossom was one of those who fervently believed that the Church of England required further reformation.  He shared with those reform-minded Puritans the conviction that the entire episcopal hierarchy of archbishop, bishops, and priests was a corrupt, papist innovation, sanctioned neither by the Bible nor by the practices of the early Christians.  Instead of this top-down structure, as we might describe it, Blossom wanted a bottom-up, congregational structure.  A few God-fearing worshippers would form their own congregation, elect a minister and perhaps a teacher, and remain altogether independent of every other congregation.  This independence meant in turn that their congregation would be entirely apart—separate from—the Church of England.  As a consequence, in their time they were called Separatists; we have mythologized them as the Pilgrims.

Under the successive reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I, the Church of England was the national church.  Attendance at Sunday service was obligatory; you were fined for being absent.  The more radical Puritans like the Separatists had therefore only two choices:  they could meet to worship in secret, or they could leave the country and go to Holland, another Protestant country, and one far more tolerant than England.  Blossom may well have done both, marrying his first wife Ann Sarah Palmer (1570?-1650) about 1588 or so and taking care to avoid notice by the ecclesiastical establishment.  His daughter Frances (1589?-1635) apparently was borne by Ann Palmer.  Blossom’s second marriage took place in 1605:  he married Anne Elsdon, who was the mother of his two sons Thomas and Peter.  In 1609, his daughter Frances married William Palmer (no relation to Blossom’s first wife), by trade a maker of nails. 

At some point, Blossom and his family emigrated to Holland, first probably to Amsterdam, where William Brewster had established a congregational church in 1608, and then, like Brewster in 1609, to Leiden, where they became members of John Robinson's church.  In Leiden, the Separatists were indeed free to worship as they pleased.   The difficulty was that, with a few exceptions, the Separatists were desperately poor.  Not only were most of them at an initial disadvantage in knowing no Dutch, but many of them had been farmers and herdsmen.  In Leiden, an urban center, they could gain only menial employment at minimal wages.  Worried about their children becoming more Dutch than English, anxious that the twelve year truce between Catholic Spain and Protestant Holland would be expiring in 1621 and war might resume, the Separatists began to consider emigrating to North America.

When their congregation finally obtained financial backing from a company of investors in London, Blossom decided that he, his wife, and his two sons would be among the 30 or so passengers on the Speedwell, a ship that would sail from Holland, meet the Mayflower in England, and then sail in company to New England.  The Speedwell had been fitted with new masts and sails, and there is some evidence that its master deliberately overmasted the ship because he had no desire to cross the Atlantic.  The two ships met up at Southampton and duly sailed.  Both began to leak, the Speedwell alarmingly so, with the result that they returned to Dartmouth for repairs.  Again they set out, and again the Speedwell leaked alarmingly.  Back they went to Plymouth, and this time the master refused to continue in the Speedwell.  The outcome was that the already crowded Mayflower took aboard some of the Speedwell’s passengers and made the voyage alone (it may be relevant that the Speedwell continued subsequently as a trading vessel for a number of years).  They arrived late in the year, and what with inadequate shelter, insufficient food, diseases, and the cold, nearly half of the passengers died that winter.

Thomas Blossom and his family were among those who decided not to go on the Mayflower.  They returned to Leiden, presumably hoping that they could soon make the crossing to New England.   Money continued to be scarce, so not many more were able to emigrate.  His son-in-law William Palmer came over on the Fortune in 1621; his daughter Frances, on the Anne in 1623.  Not until 1629, nine years after the Mayflower sailed from Old Plymouth, did Blossom and his family finally reach New Plymouth—on, coincidentally, a ship also named the Mayflower, but an altogether different vessel.  

Thomas Blossom was soon elected a deacon of the church in Plymouth.  (Robinson's church in Leiden appointed deacons for life, so Blossom may well have been a deacon before coming to Plymouth, but there's no record of it.)  Apparently he fulfilled that lay office well for the three years he had yet to live.  He died in 1632.  In his history Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford mentions Blossom by name as one of the "ancient friends" from Holland dead from an "infectious fever" that struck upwards of twenty people.  In The Barbarous Years (New York, 2012), the first volume of his work on “The Peopling of British North America,” Bernard Bailyn quotes a contemporary description of Deacon Thomas Blossom:  he was “a holy man and experienced saint, . . . competently accomplished with abilities” (349).  That sounds to me like a worthy epitaph.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Unnatural Sex and the Puritans

I've been doing some research on my father's side of the family, and I've discovered that nearly all of them came not from New York, as I'd assumed, but from Massachusetts and Connecticut.  Most of them had left England by the mid-1600's, so I've been reading up on the Puritans and Pilgrims. One of the things I've found out is that they were appalled by unnatural sex.  By that phrase they meant everything except intercourse between a husband and wife.  Masturbation was condemned everywhere in New England and made a capital crime in the colony of New Haven.  Following the Bible, adultery and sodomy were capital crimes.

And so was bestiality, sex with animals and fowls.  In Albion's Seed:  Four British Folkways in America (Oxford Univ. Press, 1989), David Hackett Fisher relates the case of George Spencer, a servant with only one eye in New Haven.  Spencer had been anything but a model servant, and when a sow gave birth to a piglet with only one eye, Spencer was accused of bestiality.  Under great pressure, Fisher relates, Spencer confessed, then recanted, confessed a second time, and then recanted again.

Two witnesses were required to convict him of bestiality, but the magistrates, determined to find him guilty, got around that inconvenient technicality.  The one-eyed piglet was admitted as one witness, and Spencer's confession was admitted as the other one, even though he'd recanted it.  Although Fischer is silent on this point, New England courts treating cases of bestiality followed the Biblical injunction of Leviticus: "And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast" (20:15), So both George Spencer and the sow would have been executed.

Fortunately for John Lawrence at his trial in 1677, the Court of Assistants in Cambridge was not willing to circumvent the required two witnesses for bestiality.  In Sex in Middlesex:  Popular Mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649-1699, (Univ. of Mass. Press, 1986), Roger Thompson relates that John Lawrence was seen by Thomas Michelson between seven and eight in the morning "standing on a tree that lay along on the ground having his face towards his mares tail and his hand clasped about her Buttock."  After awhile, he deposed, Lawrence "turned the mares tayle on one side and then he again clasped his hands about her Buttocks as before and wrought with his body against hers."  But a second person near the scene, one Isaac Amsden, deposed that he was too far away to witness the act, so the case was dismissed.

Another notable case was that of Thomas Granger, a sixteen or seventeen year-old servant in Duxbury, one of the Pilgrim settlements in Massachusetts. William Bradford found it horrible to mention his case in his history, Of Plymouth Plantation, but he believed that the truth of history required it.  Granger was first seen copulating with a mare ("I forbear particulars," Bradford comments primly), and when he was examined on that topic, he confessed to buggery not only with the mare "at sundry times" but with "a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves, and a turkey" (Bk. II, Chapter 32).

Although Granger at first denied this charge, he eventually confessed to the entire court and was condemned to death.  But there was some difficulty in following Leviticus.  One sheep looked much like another, with the result Granger had to identify each one he'd had sex with: "whereas some of the sheep could not so well be known by his description of them, others with them were brought before him and he declared which were they and which were not."  On 8 September 1642, the executions took place: "first the mare and then the cow and the rest of the lesser cattle were killed before his face," and then Granger himself was executed.

Remarkable as these cases are, they seem far from typical.  Roger Thompson points out in Sex in Middlesex that only two men were executed for bestiality in Massachusetts in the seventeenth century. (The one-eyed George Spencer lived in Connecticut.)  Thompson's meticulous study of town and court records led him to believe that most people in that county were as law abiding about sexuality as they were about other matters.  Not all inhabitants were members of the church, and not all church members were godly, but bestiality was not common.  In part, the occurrences we know about may have been the few ones in which the act was observed (as it was not in the case of George Spencer), and more perhaps may have taken place in private.  But many members of these communities believed that God was watching them--"God can see you in the dark" was a common warning--and might well punish all of them for the sins of the few.  So were they taught, and so they believed--at least for the greater part of the seventeenth century.  They were called to be communities of their brothers' keepers for the greater glory of God, and in that watchful context what they termed "abominations in the eyes of the Lord" accordingly would have been rare.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Why the Puritan John Winthrop Gave Up Hunting


John Winthrop (1587/88-1649), who was to become the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1629, belonged to the socio-economic class in England that could count hunting among its privileges.  Nevertheless, he gave it up.  In 1611, when he was  twenty-three,  Winthrop carefully enumerated his reasons:

"Finding by much examination that ordinary shooting in a gun, etc:  could not stand with a good conscience with myself, as first, for that it is simply prohibited by the law of the land, upon this ground amongst others, that it spoils more of the creatures than it gets:  2 it procures offence unto many:  3 it wastes great store of time:  4 it toils a man's body overmuch:  5 it endangers a man's life, etc.:  6 it brings no profit all things considered:  7 it hazards more of a man's estate by the penalty of it, than a man would willingly part with:  8 it brings a man of worth and godliness into some contempt:  --lastly for mine own part I have been crossed in using it, for when I have gone about it not without some wounds of conscience, and have taken much pains and hazarded my health, I have gotten very little but most commonly nothing at all towards my cost and labour."

Many today would probably agree with reasons 1-8, but to my ear the final reason is the most telling. It's the only reason that is personal rather than impersonal.  Here, and here alone, I'd suggest, for just a moment we can hear the human voice of John Winthrop, a hunter who has returned home too many times empty-handed.  Despite enduring "some wounds of conscience," despite undergoing many pains and exhausting himself, he typically was unsuccessful.  That lack of success--his being crossed, thwarted in his pursuit of game, and almost certainly missing what he shot at--appears to be what motivated his inventory.  Reasons 1-8, then, serve less as reasons to change his behavior than as rationalizations.

What's fascinating to me is that even after enumerating no less than eight of these arguments, his own frustration explodes at the end, overriding everything he has listed before.  By the time he had his portrait painted, however, his projected self, his public persona, if you will, is much more contained.   He appears to be completely in control.  When a portrait was commissioned in that period, hands were an added expense. Winthrop is quietly showing that he could afford to have both hands painted, and his affluence is further displayed by the lace that edges both his ruff and his cuffs.  This is not a portrait composed to engage its audience.  His hands are not making a gesture outwards:  the upper hand, indeed, is turned inward, held close to his chest.  His youthful frustrations are long gone--and to that degree, he appears less human and much more the austere representative of Puritan authority.


Source:  The Winthrop Papers, 1498-1649, 5 vols. (Boston, 1929-1947), vol. I, p. 165; quoted by Patrick M. Malone, The Skulking Way of War:  Technology and Tactics Among the New England Indians (Lanham, MD:  Madison Books, 1991), p. 54.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Reshaping the Stock on a Marlin Golden 39 A

A few years ago, I purchased a used Marlin 39 A .22 with the idea that it would provide an understudy to my Marlin lever actions in .45-70 and (my favorite) .38-55.  Carbines have their good points, but these two lever guns were rifles, so I wanted the relatively long 24" barrel of the 39 A.  (If you want a carbine, look for the Marlin 39 M, the Mountie model, and be prepared to pay more for it.)

I didn't think to take a photo of my rifle when I acquired it, but (except for the scope) it looked almost exactly like the one illustrated here in an earlier Marlin advertisement:

Following the Marlin 39, introduced in 1921, the 39 A was introduced in 1939.  My Golden model with its gold trigger was manufactured in 1971 (and thus is now a so-called early model, the newer model dating from 1983).  Typically for its time, it had a butt stock and fore end that to my eye called out for reshaping.  The fore end was an exaggerated beavertail; the butt stock had an exaggeratedly long pistol grip.  The curve from the wrist to the nose was slack, and the fluting at the nose of the comb was clunky. Both fore end and butt bulged outwards from the slim receiver, giving the rifle an oddly wasp-waisted look when viewed from above or below.  A minor point was that I didn't like the Marlin icon of a bull's-eye in white and black plastic near the butt's sling swivel.  It could be argued the bull's eye complements the white spacers at the grip cap and buttplate, but they were going to go.  So, too, was the bull's eye.  In addition, I needed a longer length of pull.

The fore end was a reasonably quick fix.  The earlier Marlin 39's had considerably slimmer fore ends, so I removed the fore end and simply planed down its width and depth until they corresponded to the dimensions of the receiver and the fore end cap.  

As for the butt, getting rid of the white spacer and then adding a red rubber recoil pad gave me the length of pull I wanted.  A pad of course is not needed to reduce recoil on a .22 rimfire, but the friction from the rubber pad can keep the rifle from falling down when it's stood upright on a smooth surface.

Slimming down the butt stock was more of a challenge.  I reduced the width of the comb until my eye was looking down the barrel when the rifle came up to my right shoulder (I also followed the same procedure for my left shoulder).  I then tapered the sides of the comb to eliminate the fluting at the nose.  Filling the cavity where the bull's eye had been with a matching piece of wood was straightforward.  I cut back and slimmed down the pistol grip until its diameter felt comfortable and substituted for the rounded black plastic grip cap a flat piece of ebony, attaching it with black epoxy.  Rubber bands made clamping easy:

Sanding and whiskering  were straightforward.  Next came dying the stock to give it more color.  I used a blend of aniline dyes (3 parts Dark Walnut, 1 part Red Mahogany, and 1/2 part Antique Cherry) because they don't have pigment to obscure the grain.  I then added a coat of home-made walnut brew.  Here's the result:

The last steps were adding a coat of alkanet oil.  I let that dry for three days, then steel-wooled the stock to make sure no oil remained on the surface.  After burning off the tiny particles of steel wool, I started applying very thin coats of Tru-Oil, sanding them in until the pores were filled, and rubbing down the last coat of Tru-Oil with auto rubbing compound.

Checkering came next.  The black walnut was rather coarse, so I used 18 LPI, adding a narrow border.  The checkering wraps around the fore end.  The checkering pattern for pistol grip came from the illustrations of the Marlin Fire Arms catalog from June 1897 (available very reasonably from Cornell Publications) and from William S. Brophy's photographs in Marlin Firearms: A History (Stackpole, 1989).  Here is a shot of the checkering in the white, rather a contrast to the butt with its richer colors from the dye, alkanet oil, and coats of Tru-oil:

After completing the checkering, I carefully scraped inadvertent over-runs and then sanded the divots smooth with 400 grit paper.  I dyed the panels as before with my aniline blend and my walnut brew, rubbed in a coat of alkanet oil, and then brushed on a finishing coat of satin spar varnish diluted 50-50 with mineral spirits.  Touching up with Tru-Oil completed the job.

My friend Mike Bennett drilled and tapped its tang for a Marble's tang sight.  This is a tricky job, because it's illegal to deface any part of the serial number on the tang.  He used a shotgun bead drill fixture and a tap guide from Brownell's to line everything up and keep the drill and tap straight.

This is a shot of the receiver, checkered grip, and tang sight:

This 39 A is now considerably trimmer.  Here, again, is where I started:

And here's the outcome:  a sleeker stock with a shortened pistol grip, a slimmer fore end, and checkering.  The Marble's tang sight now complements its resemblance to earlier Marlin 39's.

Word has it that the quality Marlin Firearms has long been known for is becoming a thing of the past. If you've ever thought of owning a 39 A, now might be the time to buy a used one.  Older ones are still reasonably priced, but they're getting more expensive.  If current build quality continues to deteriorate, prices for the older model could jump dramatically.