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Adam Smith Reflection

adam smith

The following is a reflection on the work of Adam Smith for an economics course, which ended up being more of a defense of private property to my professor.

Adam Smith is one of the foundational thinkers, not just of modern economics, but of modern thought in general. His work surrounded the issue of wealth, why it is valuable, how it is produced, how it can be increased, and how it ought to be distributed. Wealth, in this sense, is measured mostly by the growth of economies. For Smith, economics is essentially the science and study of increasing the wellbeing of humanity. Though he is often held up by the most conservative economists as a proponent of free markets and trade in a simple sense, Smith’s political economy is actually substantially more complex and egalitarian than many contemporary readings of him would suggest.
The two main causes of wealth, according to Smith, are trade and the division of labor. The division of labor is prior to trade, with trade having a kind of multiplying effect on the wealth produced by the division of labor in the form of accelerated growth. Whereas conservatives like Gregory Mankiw tend to focus on the role of trade in the production of wealth, Smith’s political economy is especially interested in the place of the division of labor in the creation of the wealth of the community. All wealth, according to Smith’s analysis, is created by the division of labor. (Sackrey, 31) The division of labor creates wealth by making it possible to produce goods which could otherwise never be produced. Individuals, in isolation from others, are incapable of producing most of the goods used by society, therefore they have gone about dividing labor to allow the production of a wider and better array of goods. Because the most useful and valuable goods couldn’t be produced in isolation, much of the value available to society is created via the division of labor, and wealth is thus a product of that labor.
Smith’s understanding of wealth is important because it places the laborer in the position of value-creation, and it recognizes the interdependent nature of members of a community. This runs in direct contradistinction to many economists and thinkers who tend to place trade, and by extension capital, above labor in terms of its importance as a mechanism of value-creation. These more conservative attitudes about value have the possibility of being used to roll back the causes of labor and the gains of egalitarians in the political sphere by serving as an economic and philosophical defense of the status quo. That Adam Smith himself stands on the opposite side of the aisle on this issue shows that the entire subject of economics has the potential to provide a critical stance for the analysis of growth, wealth, and their relationship to societal good.
Gregory Mankiw provides a specific example of a conservative view of wealth as a product of trade. “Trade can make everyone better off,” says Mankiw, a position based on the assumption that it is the trade and use of goods produced by the division of labor, and not the division itself, which produces wealth. This is the basic premise of our current system of wealth, and it can easily be seen as a defense of the capitalist mode of production, a system under which property is privately owned by individuals. Because it is trade, and not simply the division of labor, which creates wealth, and private property is an essential component of trade, the promotion of the current property system becomes possible on the basis of its promotion of trade. Economists like Mankiw would suggest that the current system, or even one which has more extreme laissez-faire elements, is the best system for creating wealth. (Mankiw, Chapter 2) The argument would further run that a society with large amounts of wealth will see that wealth reaching all of its members by way of investment.
The difference between these views lies in certain premises underlying their respective arguments. It essentially comes down to a difference about the origin and cause of wealth, that is they disagree about whether wealth comes from the division of labor or from trade. This difference makes for some important broader philosophical differences as well. If, for example, wealth comes from the division of labor, then wealth could never exist without a community. This logic could be used to argue that all wealth, once created, becomes the wealth of the community, never produced or owned in isolation from others. The alternative, trade-focused philosophy would tend to suggest that wealth is created by those who trade and use goods most effectively, therefore that wealth becomes the property of those individuals. The social and economic implications of each of these positions are vastly different from one another, the former being a system of totally collectively owned wealth, and the latter being a system of private wealth akin to our present one.
Adam Smith’s actual position, in relation to these two, appears to be a moderate position lying between them. Smith, living in the period of the decline of mercantilism, is most interested in critiquing that older system. (Sackrey, 35) He advocates a less heavily regulated, less monopolistic system, because he sees those mechanisms as being too heavily influenced by the old mercantile interests to be beneficial to society. This part of his political economy is of most interest to conservatives. Smith’s concern for the working class, however, especially their relationship to the wealthiest members of society, seems to suggest a much more critical understanding of freedom of trade, exchange, and property. (Sackrey, 35) Smith recognizes that there is a certain level of inequality inherent in the system which must be dealt with. Economics, and political economy by extension, serve to answer the question of how these inequalities might be dealt with, and how dealing with them will affect the broader system and its ability to produce wealth in the future.
If Smith is right, and all wealth is due to our shared division of labor, I don’t think it necessarily follows that all wealth must be collective wealth. Clearly Smith, who saw one of the functions of government to be the protection of one individual against another, recognized some kind of private right of property, at least in one’s person. Additionally, the argument that all wealth is collective because it is produced collectively fails to recognize the actual nature of the relationship between labor, capital, and the division of labor in practice. A just accounting of the ownership of wealth must consider who invested the various factors of production allowing that wealth to be produced, and how much each individual actually invested.
The argument that all collectively produced wealth is collectively owned ignores the fact that the labor of individuals, being the property of individuals, can be sold. If it is assumed that man owns himself and the product of his labor, then it is understood that anything he produces independent of anyone else is his alone. If one owns something, it is usually understood that he has the right to exchange that thing with others at will. This means that the labor of the individual, by way of the product of that labor, can be sold. Supposing one man has enough goods to temporarily buy the labor of ten men, he can buy that labor and its product from the men and make it his to use as he pleases. If the man then organizes the ten other men on the basis of the division of labor, knowing that he can multiply the output of the labor he has purchased, then the resulting wealth and goods are in one sense “collectively produced,” but they are justly the property of the single man since he has purchased the labor and product used to produce them. The product of the division of labor in this case is great wealth, but being the property of the single man through a fair and voluntary exchange, it still is not collective wealth.
The investment of capital, too, presents a problem with the collective ownership of wealth. If three men invest some goods they’ve produced, capital, in building a house, but they invest unequally, a fair accounting of the ownership of that house depends on how much each invested. If one man invests 60% of the necessary capital, but the others invest only 20% apiece, it seems just that the house ought to be 60% the property of the first man, and only 40% the property of the other two. The idea that capital, and the thus the portion of the new wealth which it comprises, ceases to be the property of its original owner after it is contributed to the division of labor seems to result in a kind of injustice. In a just world, these men do not equally own the house they built together, and the wealth they produce is not collective.
Adam Smith’s political economy is an important commentary on the way contemporary economists think about wealth, but it also has certain things to say about the justice of inequality. Smith’s ideas run both in line with, and in opposition to, conservative and capitalist economics, which means that he is an essential source of controversy on the issue of the justice of any economic system. It is important to consider that his views, taken to their extreme, may not be completely consistent with justice, but that taken moderately they are important for criticizing and deconstructing the most harmful parts of the present system.

N. Gregory. Mankiw. Principles of Microeconomics. South Melbourne, Cengage Learning Australia, 2008. Print.

Sackrey, Charles, Geoffrey Schneider, Janet Knoedler, and Hans Jensen. Introduction to Political Economy 8th ed. Dollars and Sense, 2016. Print.


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Laozi was an important Chinese philosophical and religious figure from between the 6th and 4th centuries B.C. His greatest work was the Tao Te Ching, the main text of the Taoist philosophy, but his life has become shrouded in myths and legends that have obscured his story to the point that even his existence is doubted by some scholars. Despite Laozi’s enigmatic nature, the Tao Te Ching is the cornerstone of a complex spectrum of philosophical and religious movements. Along with the later author Zhuangzi, Laozi serves as the primary thinker behind Taoism as a movement of both thought and practice.

Born Li Er around the village of Quren (modern day Henan Province) in China, Laozi was an important official in the court of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty (1046 B.C.- 256 B.C.) He served as a shi or court scholar, and he worked as an archivist for the Emperor. His position as an archivist and imperial official would have given him access to many of the classics of Chinese thought up to that point, and he would have become a skilled and knowledgeable scholar by the end of his career. Having a broad understanding of other currents of thought would certainly have contributed to his eventual recognition as one of the greatest sages of Chinese history.

The life of Laozi comes to us primarily in the form of legends and parables of his life, as well as through the teachings of the Tao Te Ching. Most of the stories suggest that he never established a school in which to teach his philosophy, but he still managed to gather a large following of disciples and students willing to listen to his work. Among the most famous of those said to have interacted with him was Confucius, yet another great Chinese thinker, whom he criticized for his pride and ambition. The connection between the two thinkers is tenuous at best, and it is unlikely that they ever really met.

One of the central legends of Laozi’s life was the story of his departure for the west. In this tale, Laozi becomes fed up with the degeneracy of court life and the collapsing Zhou Dynasty, and he decides to leave China for the west. Coming to the Xiangu pass (the main overland exit from China at the time) the legendary guardian of Xiangu, Yinxi asked Laozi to write a book of his teachings. He is said to have written a 5,000 character volume of his teachings on the Tao (the way) and the Te (virtue) after which he left, never to be seen again. This story of the writing of the Tao Te Ching is interesting because of how mythical the life of Laozi had become by the time this tale was written.

The primary idea behind Taoism is known as wu-we or non-action. The idea is that by reducing the amount of impact people have on surrounding events, they can more fully allow the Tao, or the way things are, to unfold. By behaving effortlessly, without thinking and planning everything to be done, beings are able to become more effectively in harmony with the Tao. Because of the importance of non-action and lack of control over other beings, rituals and hierarchical religious practices were seen as unnecessary, leaning more to individualistic philosophical systems than religions.

The concept of yin and yang is also important to a Taoist understanding of the world. When something is recognized, it is only in light of that thing’s opposite. Good exists because of evil, light exists because of dark. The taijitu, popularly called a yin/yang symbol, represents the monism of Taoism, while also reflecting the idea of opposites as part of a whole.

As Taoism developed, the more philosophical branch became less and less important, only remaining popular amongst the upper classes, and a more mythical religious Taoism developed. This strain of the tradition centered less on the philosophical ideas of the Tao Te Ching and blended with Chinese folk religion to incorporate alchemy, exorcism, divination, traditional medicine, and obtaining immortality. Where rituals were seen as unnecessary in early Taoism, they became essential to religious Taoism. Individualism gave way to a more traditional, clerical religion.

In religious Taoism Laozi was identified with divinity, and he became an important deity for many Taoists. The ideas in the Tao Te Ching became divinely written scripture in this understanding. Today religious Taoism is an important part of Chinese culture, and priests wearing distinctive vestments can be seen performing rituals in large Taoist temples both in mainland China and Taiwan. Laozi’s life and work have been shrouded in 2500 years of myth and religious experience, but his words can still offer quite a lot to the modern world.

Works Cited
Kaltenmark, Max. “Laozi (Chinese Daoist Philosopher).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 02 Aug. 2014. <;.
“Laozi.” Princeton University. Web. 02 Aug. 2014. <;.

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The Development of the A.M.E. Zion Church and its Importance in the Middletown Connecticut Beman Triangle Community

ame zion

Throughout the experience of African Americans in United States History, religion has played an essential role in the growth and development of communities, as well as the fight for equal rights and the spread of education. This is equally true in the Middletown, Connecticut African American community, centered around the neighborhood known as the Beman triangle. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church has consistently served as the center of community life and the “backbone” of the Beman Triangle neighborhood of Middletown since the arrival of the Church in the first half of the 19th century. The Church’s role in the fight against slavery and in favor of free blacks was integral to the success of the African American community of Middletown.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded by James Varick between 1796 and 1821 after several independent African American Methodist communities in New York congregated under Varick as General Superintendent of the Church. The Church was founded as a response to the exclusion of African Americans from leadership and worship in the Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City. Founded alongside the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Philadelphia; during this period the churches were at the forefront of African American opposition to oppression and mistreatment in many northern communities, the Beman Triangle community of Middletown among them. (Sernett 1999, 156)

The A.M.E. Zion Church provided a spiritual and social outlet through Christian religious practice, but it also provided the struggling northern black population with guidance and help toward success. Advocacy for the abolition of slavery and opposition to the oppression of their fellow African Americans were the cornerstones of the A.M.E. Zion church. By separating themselves from the older Methodist groups, African Americans were able to redirect their religious expression to focus on the problems facing free and slave populations of blacks during the 19th century. (Pinn 2009, 67-68)

Methodism, out of which the A.M.E. Zion church was born, was developed by theologian John Wesley and his colleagues in Great Britain during the mid-18th century as part of a religious revival within the Church of England. Wesley and his followers were early pioneers of abolitionism and the inclusion of all people in the Church. Itinerant ministers trained by Wesley himself served as the primary vehicle for the rapid spread of Methodism during its infancy, many of them traveling to the United States and preaching to the poor, both white and black.

The Methodist message was based in revivalism, advocating social and church reform. This helped to spread the movement into areas, like the free African American community, where a widespread demand for change was building. Upon the arrival of Methodism in America, it spread rapidly among the black population, appealing to African Americans primarily through its focus on the poor and oppressed. This popularity, as well as the accessibility of Methodist itinerant ministers and church revivals, allowed the Church to flourish among black population in America. (

The evangelical revivalism of the Second Great Awakening in the mid 1700’s was essential to the conversion of many free African Americans to Methodism. Where enslaved people were forced to maintain “invisible institutions” in place of an organized church, free blacks were drawn to the evangelical faith of the Methodists which often resembled traditional African religious practice in its strongly participatory nature.

It was during the rapid spread of Methodism during the beginning of the 19th century that the A.M.E. Zion Church spread to Middletown, Connecticut. Between 1823 and 1828, a local group began to congregate in the home of a man named Asa Jeffrey as Methodists in order to practice their faith. It was the eventual establishment of what is today the Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church that brought together the African Methodist population of Middletown. They had been meeting there for several years leading up to the arrival of the first pastor, James Anderson and the formation of the congregation by the founding trustees Asa Jeffrey, John Hamilton, Joseph Gilbert, Ebenezer DeForest, and George W. Jeffrey. In addition to fulfilling an essential need for social and religious expression within the community, the new church provided political and social assistance to its people. (

The story of the Beman Triangle often centers on its namesake Beman family, whose religious and social importance within the community allowed them to fight for equality during a period of gross inequality for African Americans in the United States. Jehiel Beman, a shoemaker, was the first of the Beman family to settle in Middletown; serving as an early pastor of the A.M.E. Zion church there. Jehiel was essential to the formation and growth of the Middletown African American community, actively working on behalf of his neighbors and in favor of the abolition of slavery. His work was an essential part of the movements for abolitionism, temperance, and wider availability of education in Connecticut. (

Beman’s work within the abolitionist movement, especially his involvement of the church with the underground railroad, gave the A.M.E. Zion Church its nickname: “Freedom Church.” This kind of work would come to characterize the behavior of the A.M.E. Zion Church in Connecticut and the rest of the country. (Cunningham, Warner 2002, 11) The political involvement of the church was one of the most valuable roles it played, both in Middletown and the rest of the nation. The Beman family helped to promote the idea that the church, and the community as a whole, should participate in the growth and assistance of the African American community, free and enslaved. The A.M.E. Zion Church often helped to set up “stations” for the underground railroad in order to help lead escaped slaves to safety. (Pinn, 69) The Beman triangle would have been just one of many locations where the Church helped in the underground railroad. The political advocacy and activism of the A.M.E. Zion Church in Middletown continued during the 1950’s and 60’s when, working with the NAACP, the Church and its members participated in a march in support of civil rights. (

Jehiel Beman’s son, Leverett, was behind the creation of of the African American community at the Beman Triangle in Middletown. His idea of quality housing and a close community for the middle-class black population in Middletown led to the development of just such a community around the Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church. The church was essential in the formation of this community because of the fact that they provided a system for social and economic improvement for local African Americans so well laid out by Jehiel Beman and other pastors in the years leading up to the formation of the community. (Harris 2013, 113)

The Beman family’s importance in African American education and religious life was perhaps as important as their political and social ideas. When, In 1831, schoolteacher Prudence Crandall opened her school to African-American girls, Jehiel Beman worked to recruit students for the school. As a result of the violent protests against it, the Connecticut Assembly enacted a law in 1833 prohibiting out-of-state black people from being educated in Connecticut. ( The Beman family’s emphasis on education continued with Amos Beman, an educated member of the Beman Triangle community who followed in his father Jehiel’s footsteps as a pastor, this time within the Congregational Church. The power of the church as a force for education and social justice for Middletown African Americans was in part due to Amos Beman’s place as a highly educated black man; initially by a student-tutor from Wesleyan University, and then at the Oneida Institute in New York. Amos Beman was an avid abolitionist and advocate of African American education, and his message was heavily reflective of that of his father, Jehiel. (Harris 2013, 111-112)

Advocacy for African American education in Middletown continued into the 20th century as well, with the Rev. William Davage, pastor of the Cross Street Church, founding the Greater Middletown Negro Youth Scholarship Fund, a program designed to help black high school students go to college. Beginning in 1965, the program helped approximately 50 black students to get an education over a period of 25 years. Pressure from this program contributed to Wesleyan University beginning recruitment of African American students that year. (

Throughout its history, the A.M.E. Zion Church acted in the many social, political, and religious roles it served in Middletown. These essential activities of the church were important factors in its growth and expansion, as well as the success of many African American individuals and organizations during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Beman Triangle community, centered on the Cross Street Church, was an important expression of the experience of the broader free-black population in the United States in that they suffered through the discrimination and exclusion from much of mainstream society so common to 19th century African Americans. The role of the church in the African American experience during this period is well illustrated in Middletown by the Cross Street Church’s role providing advocacy, political support, education, and religious expression for the Beman Triangle citizens, as well as Middletown’s black population as a whole.

Works Cited
Harris, K.J. 2013 Freedom and Slavery. In African American Connecticut Explored, edited by E. J. Normen, S. K. Close, K. J. Harris and W. M. F. Mitchell, pp. 3-12. Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT.

Sernett, Milton C., 1999 African American Religious History: A Documentary Witness. ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA.

Cunningham, Janice P.; Warner, Elizabeth A. 2002 An African American Neighborhood – Middletown, Connecticut 1847-1930. Cunningham Preservation Assoc., LLC, Middletown, CT.

Hornsby, Alton., 2011 Black America: A State-by-state Historical Encyclopedia. ABC- CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA.

Maffley-Kipp, Laurie F., 2001 “The Church in the Southern Black Community: Introduction.” The Church in the Southern Black Community: Introduction. University of North Carolina, 24 July 2014. <;.

2014 “Cross Street Church” Cross Street AME Zion Church – Struggle, Jubilee, Vision. Wesleyan University, 24 July 2014. <;.

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Puritanism and the Shift from British to American Literature

During the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, the literature of the Puritans made the transition from distinctly English literature, to American literature. It represents the bridge in thinking between the older English style of writing and the newer, more independent American way of writing. The changes in Puritan literary styles reflect a larger change in social and religious thinking in New England. The Puritans shifted the focus of literature through several important shifts in both their teachings and the main cultural focus of the literature of the time. The ever evolving patterns of literary development drove onward as the Puritans attempted to maintain older ways. This resulted in a fascinating transformation from English-style religious and political writings, to almost secular poetry and diaries that speak more to the family and to God.

The Puritan movement rose out of the English reformation, and they built on the ideas of purification within the Church of England. Their arguments followed consistent patterns that surrounded sermon-style recitations of doctrine and held to a traditional Calvinist theology. Much of their literature, even the more secular parts of it, reflect the religious nature of their ideas and purpose as a group. i

Puritans emphasized predestination within their theology. They taught that all events were preordained by God, and that a small elect could be saved from damnation. These ideas contrasted heavily with the mainstream Church of England’s more traditional free-will based theology. The divisions within the Church slowly pulled apart the country along religious lines, leading to the English civil war and execution of Charles II as the most powerful expression of these tensions.ii

Puritanism was a reform movement within the Church of England, and their ideas were widely popular during the late stages of the English reformation. The numbers of Puritans grew for about a decade between the 1640’s and 50’s. They reached their peak of population and power in England during the 1650’s after the English Civil War had swept them into power in place of the monarch. Their resistance to the crown played a major role in the development of Puritanism in England.iii

The reformation in England was the direct result of the creation of the Church of England by Henry VIII. Groups like the Puritans rose out of resistance to the more Monarchical religion which they saw as corrupted and unchristian. Puritans were the main representative of Calvinism in Great Britain during this period. iv

The Puritans largely fell out of favor with the English after the restoration of the Monarchy since they were associated with the Puritan republican dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell. This decrease in public support and acceptance lead to persecution which served as the primary impetus for their movement to the New World. v

The trip to the New World was primarily driven by persecution, but it was also accompanied by internal religious strife within the Calvinist wing of English Christianity. The Puritans and Separatists were closely related groups whose aims in terms of the Church of England differed. The Separatists were not in support of internal reform of the Church of England, they wanted to separate from it completely. The Puritans were primarily in support of reforming the Church from

The Puritans suffered this major division between the Separatists who, are now known as the Pilgrims, and the main body of Puritans who followed the Calvinist Presbyterian model, just prior to the departure for the Americas. Puritans would eventually shift to a primarily Congregational system, though the Presbyterians originally favored the Episcopal polity since it remained part of the Anglican model of religious organization.

English Puritans wrote with a distinctly political bent, they were living in the heat of revolution and dissension that surrounded the English reformation. William Bradford, first governor Plymouth Colony, was also colony historian. His work was formal and factual, reflecting the Puritan and Separatist tendency to avoid fiction. He describes the first impressions of their new home in his history Of Plymouth Plantation.

Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles…they had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies; no houses or much less towns to repair to, to seek for succor…savage barbarians…were readier to fill their sides with arrows than otherwise. vii

His language is stiff and formal, it is clearly not a poetic piece, and it is an example of the primarily non-fictional nature of earlier Puritan literature.

The reserved style of the Puritans was known as Puritan Plain Style literature. This writing was formal, kept to rigid boundaries, generally dealt with religious topics, and was never fictional. It was created in order to avoid offending God by making flashy or upsetting literature. It was designed with religious ideas in mind, and it affectedPuritan and New England literature for many years.viii

Contracts and agreements were very important to colonial culture in general, the Puritans being no exception. Covenants such as the Salem Covenant of 1629 and its extended form from 1636 would have been the extent of creativity in much of the written work of the Puritans.

We Covenant with the Lord and one with another; and doe bynd our selves in the presence of God, to walke together in all his waies, according as he is pleased to reveale himselfe unto us in his Blessed word of truth.ix

The work of a small number of comparatively forward thinking people allowed for the change to more poetic or creative forms expression, still maintaining Puritan Plain Style.

American Puritan writers became distinct from their predecessors first in this important way. They focused more on family life and reflection upon God and upon their values; the atmosphere of political resistance and theological argumentation in which their movement was born was not as present in the new world. Historians and politicians such as Bradford would continue to write histories and non-fiction works, but poetry and diaries opened the door to significantly more creative works of literature. Writers such as Bradstreet shifted to more everyday themes in their work.

The more social and familial nature of New England Puritan literature is illustrated well in the works of Anne Bradstreet. Her poem “To My Dear and Loving Husband.” Bradstreet describes the love she has for her husband, saying that “[her] love is such that Rivers cannot quench.”x She is dealing with subjects that would rarely have been touched upon in the political writings of men like Bradford.

Though the power of the Monarchy in religion and over their lives had been a driving factor of the Puritan exodus from England, as they settled into the life in New England, distance and disinterest widened the gap between the Puritans and their former oppressors. People like Bradstreet wrote diaries which formed the basis for a new, very different kind of literature.

Puritan Ministers and writers would develop more consistent forms of argumentation and preaching as their sermons and teaching changed form.xi The Presbyterian Episcopal model was largely abandoned without connections to the wider church, and Congregational ministers played an invaluable role in the growth of further literature.

Men like Jonathan Edwards, a much later Puritan minister, served to stir up the religious fervor of the Puritans and New England Congregationalists through sermons. His sermon “Sinners in the Hands of and Angry God” was an important changing point in Puritan literature in that it introduced a much more aggressive and persuasive form of writing and speaking.

There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands. — He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it.xii

This excerpt from the sermon shows the new, much darker tone taken by Puritan ministers during the 18th century. This further shift away from the somber, factual works of the English Puritans drove the First Great Awakening and stirred many New England Puritans back to their faith.
This later Puritan work would again take up the fiery style of the earlier writers as religious fervor became more important in New England during the 18th century. The early part of the 1700’s was a period of absolutism for the Puritans which had been characteristic of New England Puritans from the beginning. Dealing in moral and metaphysical absolutes was another clear shift away from earlier English Puritan works.xiii

The descendents of the Puritans would also rekindle their older, more political spirit during the Revolutionary War. People such as John Adams and other major players in the Enlightenment and Revolution in New England were descended from Puritan families. These men were profoundly influenced by the culture of New England and its focus on the Congregational Church and on traditional values. In his letters to his wife Abigail, John Adams uses the style of post-Puritan writing.

Had a Declaration of Independency been made seven Months ago, it would have been attended with many great and glorious Effects . . . . We might before this Hour, have formed Alliances with foreign States. — We should have mastered Quebec and been in Possession of Canada.xiv

Adams clearly has no specific religious motivation in his writing, but the return to writing of a more political nature among the genetic descendants of the Puritans shows an interesting contrast between purely English writing and purely American writing with the Puritans as the bridge between them.

Despite many social changes in later decades and centuries that would again alter New England, in their time the early American Puritans became distinct in the apolitical, and often less factual, nature of their poetry and writings. They maintained plain-style, but they also worked outside of the traditional confines of official documents, histories, theological texts, and sermons.

These changes developed the way that people interacted at a religious and social level because they fundamentally altered the way that people wrote and described the world around them. People’s conception of things of the changes that coming to the new world had on the literary character of the Puritans. Diary and sermon centered literature like that of the Puritans changes depending entirely upon the way that people think individually. The lack of fiction means that what is written down is clear and means exactly what it says.xv

Bradstreet and others would write what they were moved to write, and they would change the face of the English literary heritage by changing it into a newer form of literature and writing. This was essential to the development of American culture as we know it today. Without the major breaks with English style literature shown during the Puritan era, we would almost certainly see literature in a much less inspired and creative way.

One of the most important aspects of Puritan literature was that New England, being populated by middle-class families of farmers, had access to a much larger literary heritage than the other colonies prior to the revolution. New Englanders, especially those in Massachusetts, had a much higher standard of living than those in Virginia or other colonies. This allowed the time and energy needed to be devoted to literary endeavors.

Puritans are so prominent during the crossover period between British and American literature because they produced far more in terms of creative literature than those in the south. When the changes toward creativity and poetry were developing in the north, southerners were forced to write almost exclusively for technical or political reasons. The literary culture of the Puritans took much longer to take root in the non-Puritan colonies.xvi

The economic and social advantages New England had over the poorer, less accessible south allowed the Puritans to bring more than just English government and technology to the New World, but also to bring the culture. They introduced English literature where others couldn’t, despite their colony being founded significantly later.xvii

Because of a combination of their preexisting literary traditions, such as plain style, and their economic advantages, the Puritans were able to pioneer a new way of writing within a Calvinist perspective. They also transitioned between British and American literature by changing older literary styles. They put together literary works based on new and creative writing ideas, rather than purely political or theological subjects. They caused shift to a newer way of looking at poetry and literature in America, and the growth of Puritan literature from the rigid rules of plain style, to the beautiful poetry of Bradstreet, all the way to the enlightenment writings of Puritan descendents such as John Adams. This form of literature is exceedingly valuable within American literature, and it is part of the foundations of our national literary tradition.


i. A. F. Scott Pearson, Thomas Cartwright and Elizabethan Puritanism (Gloucester, MA: P. Smith, 1966) 359

ii. Puritanism and Predestination, Divining America. (Accessed April 20, 2014)

iii. John Tulloch, English Puritanism and Its Leaders (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood, 1861) 182

iv. BC News. (Accessed April 28, 2014)

v. Puritanism and Predestination, Divining America. (Accessed April 30, 2014)

vi. James P. Stobaugh, American Literature-Student: Cultural Influences of Early to Contemporary Voices (Google Books: Self Published, 2012) 23

vii. William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation (Plymouth Colony: Bradford, 1630-1651) 78

viii. PAL: American Puritanism: A Brief Introduction (Accessed April 27, 2014)

ix. The Salem Covenant (MA: Salem, 1629)

x. Anne Bradstreet, “To My Dear and Loving Husband” (MassachusettsBay Colony: Bradstreet, 1678)

xi. Eugene Edmond White, Puritan Rhetoric (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1972) 160

xii. Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (Northampton MA: Edwards, 1741)

xiii. Eugene Edmond White, Puritan Rhetoric (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1972) 33

xiv. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams. (Accessed May 1, 2014)

xv. American Literature from Puritanism to Romanticism.–Puritanism%20to%20Romanticism.htm (Accessed May 1, 2014)

xvi. Jamestown and Plymouth: Compare and Contrast. (Accessed May1, 2014)

xvii. Jamestown and Plymouth: Compare and Contrast. (Accessed May1, 2014)

Works Cited

“American Literature from Puritanism to Romanticism.” American Literature from Puritanism to Romanticism. Northland College, n.d. Web. 1 May 2014. <–Puritanism%2520to%2520Romanticism.htm>.
BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <;.
Bradstreet, Anne. “To My Dear and Loving Husband.” To My Dear and Loving Husband. Virginia Commonwelath University, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2014. <;.
Edwards, Jonathan. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Web. 30 Apr. 2014. <;.
“Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams.” Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams. Massachusetts Historical Society, n.d. Web. 1 May 2014. <;.
“Literature.” Colonial America, 1607-1783:. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2014. <;.
“PAL: American Puritanism: A Brief Introduction.” PAL: American Puritanism: A Brief Introduction. California State University Stanislaus, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2014. <;.
“PAL:Edward Taylor (1642?-1729).” PAL:Edward Taylor (1642?-1729). N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014. <;.
Pearson, A. F. Scott. Thomas Cartwright and Elizabethan Puritanism, 1535-1603. Gloucester, MA: P. Smith, 1966. Print.
“Puritanism and Predestination, Divining America, TeacherServe®, National Humanities Center.” Puritanism and Predestination, Divining America, TeacherServe®, National Humanities Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <;.
“The Salem Covenant.” Letter. 1629. MS. Salem, MA.
Stobaugh, James P. American Literature-Student: Cultural Influences of Early to Contemporary Voices. N.p.: Google, n.d. Print.
Tulloch, John. English Puritanism and Its Leaders: Cromwell, Milton, Baxter, Bunyan. Edinburgh: W. Blackwood, 1861. Print.
United States. National Park Service. “Jamestown and Plymouth: Compare and Contrast.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, 16 Apr. 2014. Web. 01 May 2014. <;.
White, Eugene Edmond. Puritan Rhetoric: The Issue of Emotion in Religion. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1972. Print.
“William Bradford.” N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014. <;.

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Teresa of Avila


     Saint Teresa of Avila is an individual who is quite inspiring to me for her dedication to her ideals, especially to the idea that poverty among the religious Christians was essential. Teresa’s life, like those of most saintly figures in history, was a fascinating and complex epic of ideas and attitudes within the Catholic Church, and Europe as a whole. From her early days being educated in the Augustinian tradition, to her founding of the Discalced Carmelites alongside St. John of the Cross, and her expansion of Christian Mysticism; St. Teresa epitomizes the nature of Christian belief during the Renaissance.

      Teresa of Avila was born Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada in 1515 to minor Spanish nobles of Jewish descent. Her life spanned the period during which the Protestant Reformation was at its height, and she was a major player in the Catholic “Counter-Reformation” through her works in Christian mysticism and meditation. Teresa was very religious from a young age, even attempting to go to Moorish Africa as a child in order to die a martyr. The death of her mother when Teresa was only 14 years old spurred her to a devotion to her faith far deeper than the norm, even for the time. Teresa also struggled personally to reconcile what she saw as “vanity” and “immodesty” in her lifestyle with her faith, most likely owing this way of thinking to the strict religious devotion of her father after the death of her mother.

      After her mother died, Teresa was sent to a convent of Augustinian nuns to be educated, quite a common practice of the time among the nobility who wished to see their daughters educated. While living with the Augustinians, Teresa became very sick, possibly with a severe case of malaria, enduring her suffering only with the help of mystic spiritual texts about meditation such as “Tercer abecedario espiritual,” and “Tractatus de oratione et meditatione” by the Franciscan mystics Francisco de Osuna and Saint Peter of Alcantara. These writings, among others, almost certainly guided her later work in similar areas of mysticism and spirituality. Teresa experienced religious ecstasy, despite her pain, through the use of the spiritual methods and teachings of these earlier mystics, and she believed she had reached a perfect union with God through a series of steps. She also though that the nature of sin had become clear to her through her ecstasies.

      Teresa worked with matters of spiritual growth throughout her life, writing several books about her experiences, the most famous being “The Interior Castle” which was inspired by one of her many mystical visions. Her writings dealt with the ascent of the soul through four stages of development: mental prayer, prayer of quiet, devotion of union, and ecstasy of union. These are the states she claimed to have passed through during her illness as a girl. Through this ascent, Teresa claimed to gain a keener understanding of sin and the relation of people to God. She established several important techniques for teaching this, namely the idea of spiritual growth as “watering a garden.”

      Perhaps more important than her religious experience, St. Teresa’s reforms in the Church formed the basis for the return of many orders to poverty during a period in which monetary gain had become more important than spiritual advancement for the religious orders, and they established further, lasting reforms within the church. In 1535, Teresa entered a monastery of Carmelites at Avila, and she found that the nuns had been ignoring their duties of monasticism, instead paying attention to a stream of wealthy visitors and important supporters. Teresa’s work at reforming the Carmelite order began here where she resolved to found a reformed convent of Carmelites where the Order’s rule was kept in full.

      Teresa emphasized a much stricter form of religious life which revolved around the original vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but added more severe rules such as ceremonial flagellation and discalceation, or removal of the shoes. Her first convent was founded in 1562, originally being received poorly for it’s extreme nature. She struggled with secular and religious leaders to sow the seeds of a reformed order. With the help of several powerful patrons, by 1563 she had moved to an even stricter convent and established the rules of absolute poverty and flagellation with the Papal sanction. It was in 1567 that Teresa received the right from the Carmelite general to establish new male monasteries in her new tradition and extend her rule to both men and women. With the help of SS. John of the Cross and Anthony of Jesus, Teresa established houses of the Discalced Carmelite Brethren.

      In 1576, the larger Carmelite order began a campaign of persecution against the Discalced Carmelites with the help of the Inquisition. She needed to enlist the help of the King of Spain, Phillip II, in order to the deflect the accusations made by the larger and more corrupt order of Carmelites. The order eventually survived, and it still exists today. St. Teresa died in 1582, and she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1662. For her work in the areas of Christian Mysticism and meditation, Pope Paul VI named her a Doctor of the Church in 1970. She was the first woman to be given that title.

Works Cited

“CONTENTS.” HISTORY . N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <;.

“DEVOTIONS & PRAYERS.” : Infant of Prague. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <;.

Rose, Jo. “Saint Teresa of Avila.” The Book of Saints. Bath, UK: Parragon, 2012. 168-69. Print.

“St. Teresa of Avila – Doctor of the Church.” – Saints & Angels. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2014. <;.

“St. Teresa of Avila.” CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Teresa of Jesus (Teresa of Avila). N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2014. <;.

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Cyril and Methodius


      Saints Cyril and Methodius are called the “Apostles to the Slavs” for their roles in the conversion of the Slavic peoples to Christianity. These brothers were from Thessalonika, Greece; which was then within the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire. They were born Constantine and Michael, respectively, into an important administrative family, both eventually becoming clergymen. The brothers were both trained as scholars, theologians, and linguists, and they held significant academic and administrative positions within the empire prior to being sent north into Central and Eastern Europe to convert the Slavs.

      After being ordained around 850, Cyril was summoned to Constantinople where he was made a professor of philosophy at the Patriarchal School. Cyril was chosen to work in the court of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mutawakkil because of his competence in Arabic and Hebrew and his grasp of theology. He discussed the doctrine of the Trinity with Muslim scholars and theologians in an attempt to improve relations between the Caliphate and the Byzantine Empire. This was part of the greater interfaith dialogue of which Cyril and his brother Methodius was a part. He involved himself in the communication between Christians, Muslims, and Jews; though he was particularly anti-Jewish in his writings.

      In 860, the brothers were sent by the Emperor Michael III to the Khaganate of the Khazars, in what is today the Ukraine. The work began in Taurica, modern Crimea, where Cyril had learned the language of the Khazars. Their mission was an attempt to prevent the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism, possibly contributing to Cyril’s later anti-Jewish sentiments. Though they failed at this task, they continued on similar work of conversion and teaching for most of the remainder of their lives.

      Cyril continued his work as a professor at the university for a few years, and Methodius worked as an imperial administrator and political figure, as well as being abbot of a monastery. In 862, the brothers were again summoned by the Emperor to go on a foreign mission. This time, Prince Rastislav of Moravia had requested that the Emperor and Patriarch Photius send missionaries to evangelize his Slavic people.

      Rastislav had gained his domain with the help of the Frankish king Louis the German, and as a way of asserting his independence from the Franks, he expelled the Roman missionaries from his lands. By requesting assistance from the eastern church and the Emperor, Rastislav was repositioning his allegiances to the east rather than to the Pope and the German Franks. Cyril and Methodius were dispatched as a way of extending Byzantine influence north into Slavic lands. In Moravia, the brothers worked to train assistants and translate the Bible and other religious texts into Old Church Slavonic, the first literary language of the Slavic group.

      In order to properly write in the Slavic language, Cyril and Methodius were forced to shift away from the Greek alphabet, which failed to fully communicate the intricacies of Slavic phonetics. For this purpose they invented the Glagolitic alphabet which drew from the Greek, Hebrew, Samaritan, and even Coptic alphabets with which Cyril was familiar from his studies and travels. The influence of Hebrew and Samaritan from his time in the Khazar Khaganate is evident throughout. Church Slavonic, though antiquated, is still used in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic liturgies of the Slavs today. The modern Cyrillic alphabet, which is currently used across Eurasia, was developed by disciples of Cyril and Methodius after their deaths and named in Cyril’s honor.

      Along with their translations of the Bible, the brothers formulated the first Slavic civil law and Slavic liturgy. It is uncertain whether the liturgy was more Roman or Greek in style, but it is clear that there was influence from both Churches over their methods. The brothers were called to Rome in 867 by Pope Nicholas I where the German Archbishop of Salzburg disputed the use of the Slavic liturgy in Moravia, where he wished to see the Latin liturgy of the German missionaries used. The brothers, however, were well received in Rome, in part due to the presence of a relic of Saint Clement among their party of disciples. The brothers were widely respected, even in the west, and Pope Adrian II eventually allowed the continued use of the Slavic liturgy in Moravia.

      Cyril died in Rome in February 869, just fifty days after entering the Monastic life and taking the name Cyril, up until then still being called Constantine; thought Cyril may actually be a name given to him only after his death. Because of the respect he had garnered among both Eastern and Western leaders and clergy, his body was treated with the utmost respect and he received a funeral almost as large as if the Pope himself had died. He is buried in the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome.

      Methodius continued his work among the Slavs, this time in the province of Pannonia in the Balkans, due to the fact that Rastislav had been condemned at an imperial diet in 870. This brought him into conflict with the Archbishop of Salzburg who had traditionally claimed authority of Pannonia. Pope Adrian II again overruled the Archbishop of Salzburg and elevated Methodius to the position of Archbishop, granting him jurisdiction over Moravia and Pannonia.

      Methodius was eventually called to trial in Regensburg for his actions against the Germans, and he was imprisoned there for two years, despite his support from the Pope. Roman authority eventually saw him freed, though his jurisdiction over Pannonia was restricted by German nobles and the rights of the Slavic liturgy were canceled in Moravia. By this time, however, Prince Sviatopulk of Moravia had taken control there and expelled the German clergy, continuing the efforts of Cyril and Methodius in his realm, independent of German influence.

      Methodius died in 885, and the disciples of Cyril and Methodius were expelled from Moravia by Germans that same year. Conflict over Methodius’ ecclesiastical seat would continue to broil, only being exacerbated by the unfolding of the controversies which would lead to the Great East-West Schism in 1054. The brothers’ disciples fled to the Bulgarian Empire where they were allowed to establish theological schools. There they would eventually formulate the Cyrillic script used today which would replace Glagolitic as the script of choice for Orthodox Slavs. The influence of these saints on learning in Eastern Europe cannot be understated. They gave the people there the gift of a quality written language, one which has been used as far west as the Balkans and as far East as Siberia for over 1000 years.

Works Cited

“Cyril and Methodius.” – OrthodoxWiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2014. <;.

“Equal to Apostles.” Equal to Apostles. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2014. <;.

“Saints Cyril and Methodius (Christian Theologians).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2014. <;.

“Slavorum Apostoli, 2 June 1985, John Paul II.” Slavorum Apostoli, 2 June 1985, John Paul II. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2014. <;.

“Sts. Cyril and Methodius.” CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA:. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2014. <;.

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Charles Manson and Transcendentalism

     In studying the transcendentalists as part of my American Literature class, I have been tasked with discussing a “modern transcendentalist.” Though the philosophy of transcendentalism may seem to be limited in its scope in the modern world, it still holds sway among certain individuals, despite the fact that they may not even know of the transcendentalist movement. Figures such as Chris McCandless of Into the Wild stand out as examples of good people emulating the transcendentalists. Though the intent of the original transcendentalists was to create positive changes, one person stands out as a great example of how applying a semi-transcendentalist lifestyle to the modern world can have a negative outcome: Charles Manson.

      In old age, Charles Manson espouses a philosophy of environmentalism, anti-authoritarianism, and rejection of society as a whole. The ideas he and his remaining cultists preach developed out of the hippie movement and the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco in 1967. He was already a disturbed individual when he arrived in San Francisco, and his mental status blended well with the darker underbelly of the atmosphere of social upheaval, peace demonstrations, and free-love there. The ideals of the hippie movement and the “Summer of Love” are very closely related to the transcendental philosophy, and they mirror many of Thoreau’s ideas on civil disobedience and resistance to established social conventions. These ideas were integral to Manson’s final crusade of insanity before being put in prison one final time.

      One could say that the hippie movement was the 20th century iteration of the transcendentalist movement, and in the same way that certain individuals such as Thoreau, Emerson, and Fuller championed the transcendentalists, major figures symbolized the hippies. Charles Manson is the pinnacle of the anti-cultural aspect of the late hippie of movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Whereas early hippies and other counter cultural groups had been supporters of the creation of new ways of being a society, the changes undergone after the introduction of harder drugs into the movements in the late ’60s gave them a distinctly anti-society bent that would develop into a heavier sound in music, as well as adding a more cult-like nature to the groups. Cocaine is a hell of drug.

      Manson used the atmosphere in which he found himself to carry out the spread of his “philosophy” which is something like a distorted, dark version of transcendentalism. They were (and are) environmentally conscious, they see society as the root of people’s problems, and they advocate peace. After he drew people into belief in his ideas, he used that power to act out on his mental problems through violent acts in direct contradiction to the ideas he preached. This doesn’t, however, remove him from consideration as a modern transcendentalist since he and his “family” continue to insist that no one was killed, and that they are peaceful dissidents in favor of the ideal of free-love. Manson considers himself a political prisoner after all that he did.

      As many people probably know, Charles Manson, a convicted murderer, founded and leads a group called Air, Trees, Water, Animals, or ATWA. They are an environmentalist group, and they advocate living in balance of nature, and in awe of the natural order. They desire a world without engineering of the environment by people in order to build up a society which Manson and his cultists feel is the root of evil. Manson’s ideas could even be considered “radical” transcendentalism in that they bring ideas that echo Thoreau and Emerson to an extreme. They believe so fervently in peace and nature that they will kill to protect them. For a time they were racists, and they believed that a race war would place them as the white leaders of the world after black people killed all the other whites (helter-skelter), but surrounding that period are their more pleasant-looking, nonviolent, hippie-inspired moments.

      Transcendentalism was a cultural movement with the intent to break down many of the barriers society had put in place to achieving the state of existence which they saw as perfect; that being the absolute freedom of the individual. Individualism, along with a deep love of nature and civil disobedience, was one of the defining traits of the original movement. The hippie movement as a whole built on this, and they emphasized individual creativity and freedom. Though in reality he brainwashed his followers to think the way he does, Manson’s written (and ranted) ideas promote the same individualistic ideas as the hippies and the transcendentalists before them.

      Though it would be a terrible thing to suggest that someone as deranged as Charles Manson should be supported, or his actions condoned, the parallels between the ideas he has expressed and the ideas of the transcendentalists are quite striking when the two are compared. The connection between the hippies and the transcendentalists is quite often cited by people studying these movements, and so it seems that to ignore the impact that transcendental thought had on Charles Manson would be to ignore an important figure in the development of counter-cultural philosophy and the negative aspects of it. No matter how nice and friendly a philosophy seems, it may be far more dangerous than its leaders are letting on. In the same way, some of the “scarier” groups that we face in the modern day may actually just be minding their own business. Perhaps the old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” could be put to good use in taking a neutral stance to ideas, no matter what their PR looks like.

Works Cited

“Charles Manson and the Manson Family.” — Murder! — Crime Library on N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2013. <;.

“Charles Manson’s Basic Philosophy as given at This 1986 Parole Hearing | The Manson “Family” Blog.” The Manson Family Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2013. <;.

“Youth: The Hippies.” N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2013. <,9171,899555-1,00.html&gt;.

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