the Rivers Run West Chapter 1 page 9
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Life in New Jersey in the 17th and 18th century

Not much is known of Joseph's life [born about 1674 -1700], but the book Generations tells us,

He would have been born into the Enlightenment Generation. As such he would have experienced a crisis in his youth, but an awakening in his midlife. Growing up in the midst of war and rebellion, his generation learned to split the universe into two halves. On one side lurked the a gallery of "bogeymen" dark forests filled with Indians, armies and infant hungry devils. On the other side lay the safety of the family, protected by the smothering embrace of midlife Cavilers like his grandfather and the confident energy of the rising-adult Glorious Generation of his father Daniel.

He experienced the Salem witch trials, the acceleration of slave imports into the south, the French and Indian wars, Queen Ann's war with Spain. The peak of the great awakening, including the founding of separatist churches and town based charities, his generation ran the first bar and clerical associations, managed the first electoral machines, included the first significant number of doctors and scientists with European credentials. His generation brought to America the Queen Ann style of dainty china, walnut cabinets, parquet floors and what was termed comfortable furniture. They also adopted the new English fad, tea drinking.

Michael Zuckerman in his essay, A Different Thermidor "pointed out that;

" even the effluent seventeenth and early eighteenth century colonists had very little furniture for congenial conversion, or the utensils for gracious dining, or musical instruments or games for entertaining. Colonists, except for the elite, lived in crudely built dwellings of but a room or two, in which a single chamber served as eating, sleeping, sitting, and cooking space, and often as a work place as well.

Few families had the leisure to spend much time to together on meals, so implements such as knifes and forks, glassware, ordinary china, teapots and tea cups were almost unknown. In early America, most settlers were satisfied if they had enough food.

Poorer folk sometimes even managed without a bed, cooking pots, and chests, chairs, tables, bedsteads, sheets, or chamber pots. Middle class families had such comforts more frequently but not universally. Even the elite lived in houses that were small and poorly furnished by English standards with furniture not much different from those of their more modest neighbors.

By the middle of the eighteenth century, people had more time for themselves, and men and women began to demand better living conditions. They began to spend significant amounts of money on furniture and other commodities that could make their lives more comfortable and sociable. Naturally, the change appeared earlier among the rich, but it spread swiftly. By 1750, large numbers of people were purchasing such items as eating utensils, glassware, china, and mahogany furniture.

The habits of the whole population were drawn toward the rising tide of extravagance. James Habersham lamented, "The large strides which people of all ranks are making to throw off the pleasing path of virtue and goodness and to substitute in their room luxury and dissipation portend the worst of consequences.

By 1750, the rage for articles of amenity and indulgence sparked an extraordinary boom in imports. Large debts and delinquent payments and were common in the decades before the Revolution. Great southern planters and smaller southern growers were dependent on debt and a burgeoning array of country stores whose owners and operators allowed them to buy extensively on the security of the tobacco in their fields. Their consumption and debt was easily exceeded by that of the New England and Middle colonists, who expanded their exports and international services after 1750, but not nearly as much as they increased their imports; however the full implication of the consumer revolution did not emerge immediately. Most conservative Republicans in early America could not conceive of society predicated on competitive self-seeking people; there was certainly no moral sanction for such activity."

There was also a movement, called Deism, away from strict Puritan Christianity. Many of the founding fathers were deists, including Jefferson, Madison and Paine. Deism was an 18th century rationalist philosophy that came out of the positive influence of the "European Enlightenment" and the secular works of Voltaire and Rousseau. It was the forerunner of what is now called secular humanism. In this philosophy "God" is understood to be the principle of organization and intelligence of the universe.

When the word God was used in the Constitution, it meant "cosmic law," not the Judo-Christian God of the bible. In fact the First Amendment was constructed to allow such people as the deists "freedom of religion" and "freedom from religion"

Both the constitution and the Bill of Rights were an attempt by our founding fathers to save America from becoming one more "God-centered" tyranny ruled by "holy men" with a terrible blood lust, like many of the European and Asian nations of that day and before.

The secular humanism of the founding fathers is a major influence behind our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It is also believed the founding fathers were aware of "the Great Law of Peace of the Longhouse People", also known as the Iroquois Confederation or League of Six Nations and were impressed with its sanity and practical wisdom. They incorporated some of its spirit into the U.S. Constitution, which today is thought of as the "American way."

In spite of political rhetoric today, the "American way" as it is generally accepted today, is not the way of the early Puritans, who were trying to live out the mandate of the old Testament on American soil. It was not derived primarily from the bible or European rationalism. It also included an expression of the original American Indian pagan spirit and earth-oriented Indian consciousness of America.

The Republicans of those days were unable to envision an alternative to the imperatives of restraint and regulation because they could not see how the release of an individual from deference to the demands and expectations of his neighbors could result in anything but chaos. They could only imagine that the gains of the greedy would only occur at the expense of the less fortunate and of public welfare.

Hardly anyone had yet embraced today's faith that personal freedom would inspire unparalleled productivity, or that the legitimization of private privilege and rights would be compatible with social harmony.

To the very eve of independence America's leaders remained convinced that self interest could only breed anarchy. They believed the republic could survive solely as a homogeneous body and they believed in the public good as a unifying entity to which the separate cares of separate citizens had steadily to be sacrificed.

The ordinary colonists felt the force of extravagance and selfishness all around them. Most men still believed in public virtue. Americans were both attached to their new standard of living and fearful of its consequences. It is likely Moses Tichenor felt these same pressures and confusion of beliefs.


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