Archive for the ‘Research Papers’ Category

The Middle Ages: The Church Years

Friday, December 16th, 2005

“The Middle Ages” is a term used to describe the post-Roman, pre-Industrial centuries on the European continent. The scope of this period is so broad that it should not be so flippantly lumped together. Still, temporal divisions are not easily discerned. I will attempt to partition by centuries, but events rarely fit so neatly into time blocks. It is also possible to divide by emperors, kings or popes, but this would create fairly short periods with a narrow view. It is important to know how the narrow views fit into the big picture. The Middle Ages have only a few over-arching concepts that remained continuous, the church being the enduring characteristic addressed in this essay. The presence of the Christian Church was constant throughout the Middle Ages, but practice, policy, location and leadership within the church were not in stone. Monasticism, popular religion and education were all dynamic attributes in the church. Imperial and monarchal dynasties shifted, even papacies were subject to change, but the institution of the church persisted.
Christianity found its way to the European continent when Saint Peter traveled to Rome and became the first bishop there. It was not an instant success, to say the least, and for the next three centuries, Christians would sustain persecution throughout the Roman territories. In 313, Roman Emperor Constantine declared toleration of Christianity with the Edict of Milan, and he made himself head of the church, even though he was a secular leader and only baptized on his deathbed. As early as 325, doctrinal discord was forming in the Roman church. The followers of Arius believed that the Son was not omnipotent like the Father. Constantine condemned this theory at the Council of Nicea and solidified the interpretation of the Trinity. Theodosius I made Christianity the state religion, and the Christians switched positions with the pagans, who became the persecuted party. Throughout the fourth century, the secular authority of Rome waned; Constantine had moved his government to Constantinople, and Roman imperial authority shifted to the east. Nevertheless, Rome continued to present itself as caput mundi, maintaining an image of strength and unity. Rome shifted its traditional imperial symbols to Christian imagery; Peter and Paul replaced Romulus and Remus as the fathers of Rome.
In the eastern Byzantine Empire, the emperor remained head of the church. But the barbarian threats in the western empire weakened the centralized government. In 410, Alaric and Sixty-six years later, Odoacer deposed and replaced the last emperor in Rome, Romulus Augustus. Roman influence was still embedded in its territories, though, as supported in the Gallic Chronicles of 452. Even though the chronicles are written by a Gaul, the point of view is very pro-Roman and pro-Catholic, and the content emphasizes both the weakening of imperial bonds as well as the widespread influence of the church:
At this time the pitiable condition of the state was quite evident, for there was no province without a barbarian settler, and the unspeakable heresy of the Arians, which had permeated the barbarian nations, spread over the whole world and laid claim to the name Catholic.1
Missionary efforts and conversion claimed the faith of many and inspired the destruction of pagan altars and temples. Barbarians and Roman citizens alike converted to orthodox Catholic Christianity from pagan religions as well as heretical Christian derivatives:
Augustine, while at first teaching rhetoric at Milan, gave up the classroom and converted to the true faith, for previously he was a Manichee.2
Thus far, the fourth and fifth centuries had been characterized by the decline of the authority of secular Rome and the increasing influence of the Catholic Church. The sixth and seventh centuries, on the other hand, saw the rise of monasticism and gradual conversion of barbarian kings. Earlier adherents to eremitic monasticism, such as St. Anthony, often fled to the dessert to escape persecution. By the sixth century, the idea of a religious life grew in appeal, but not a life as a solitary hermit. Monastic communities were formed, the most significant of which was Monte Cassino, the first monastery established by Benedict of Norcia. St. Benedict wrote a series of guidelines for basically every aspect of ascetic monastic life, from the recitation of prayer to manual labor:
Let each one sleep in a separate bed… If possible let all sleep in one place; but if the number does not allow this, let them take their rest by tens or twenties with the seniors who have charge of them. A candle shall be kept burning in the room until morning… and thus be always ready to rise without delay when the signal is given and hasten to be before one another at the Work of God, yet with all gravity and decorum.3
Monasteries and convents became home to both devout Christians as well as oblates, children offered into monastic life by their parents.
Christianity was slowly permeating the barbarian nobility. Oftentimes, conquering barbarian kings took for their wives Christian princesses. These new queens became “peace weavers”, and began lineages of Christian kings. And when a king converted, it was common for his subjects to convert as well. Gregory of Tours, historian and bishop of Tours, chronicled biblical texts, the life of his ancestor St. Martin and the lives of several Frankish kings. The following excerpt illustrates the conversion of the Merovingian king, Clovis:
[King Clovis] was delighted when he saw Clotild and made her his wife. The first child Clotild bore for Clovis was a son. She wanted to have her baby baptized… Queen Clotild continued to pray that her husband might recognize the true God… Finally war broke out… [Clovis] raised his eyes to heaven… and was moved to tears. ‘If you will give me victory over my enemies… then I will believe in you and I will be baptized in your name’… [A]ll those present shouted in unison: ‘We will give up worshipping our mortals gods, pious King’… [King Clovis] was baptized… more than three thousand of his army were baptized at the same time.4
The decline of the Merovingian dynasty brought the rise of the Carolingians. The Carolingian kings of the eighth and ninth centuries were successful expansionists. In addition, they also formed formal relationships with the church. King Pepin (the Short) was sanctioned by the pope as King of the Franks, the first example of ecclesiastical endorsement of royal legitimacy.
Charlemagne took his relationship with the church one step further. On Christmas Day, 800, in Rome, Pope Leo III crowned him emperor. Charlemagne supported administrative and religious reform, and he issued his Capitularies as a definite set of laws and obligations pertaining to both church and state:
1.14. If, indeed, for these mortal crimes secretly committed anyone shall have fled of his own accord to a priest, and after confession shall have wished to do penance, let him be freed by the testimony of the priest from death.
1.19. Likewise, it has been pleasing to insert in these decrees that all infants shall be baptized within a year…
1.1 It was pleasing to all that the churches of Christ, which are now being built in Saxony and consecrated by God, should not have less, but greater and more illustrious honor, than the temples of the idols had had.5
The endowments and patronage of the Carolingian dynasty bestowed more land on the church than any other time. But the second half of the ninth century was riddled with Viking attacks that shook up people all over the continent. During the tenth century, the Ottonian dynasty in Germany continued Charlemagne’s endeavor for a Holy Roman Empire6, and Otto I was crowned emperor by the pope in 962.
Charters for land and property were popular bargaining chips for gaining and maintaining loyalty amongst the nobility, but in 910, Duke William of Aquitaine raised the bar of piety when he endowed the prosperous town of Cluny to its abbey. Cluny became the epitome of a successful monastery, and it became so popular that it had to establish other monasteries under its name.
But generosity towards the church and clergy was not universal. In order to curb the flagrant abuses by the lords on the clergy and laity, a council of bishops imposed limitations of violence called the “Peace and Truce of God.”
In the eleventh century, the papacy, as well as the church itself, experienced significant reform. Until this time, the papacy wielded little political power, and emperors often held sway over papal elections. Pope Leo IX established the College of Cardinals as an elective body for selecting popes, wrangling some power from the secular sector. Pope Gregory VII’s efforts to reform the clergy and remove the church from secular control brought about many changes. Gregorian Reform stressed papal primacy, the notion that the pope was of the highest authority under God. This claim derives from the Petrine Principle of the pope being a titular descendent of Saint Peter. Gregory also established canon law and issued dictates that declared all clergy under the jurisdiction of only the church, as well as claimed jurisdiction over all baptized in relation to marriage, inheritance and more. Innocent II also wielded papal authority with his letters, policies and interdicts:
[W]e grant your petition, and give all monasteries, churches, and clergy of your diocese permission to refuse to pay any tithes which may be demanded of them be layment…7
Let all churches be closed; let no one be admitted to them, except to baptize infants…let them not permit the dead to be interred…Let them forbid their parishioners to enter churches…Extreme unction, which is a holy sacrament, may not be given.8
The power and privilege of the clergy did not discourage religiosity of the laity, but it did, however, inspire a movement of popular religion and anti-clerical sentiment.
Pilgrimages were an opportunity for a layperson to demonstrate their devotion to God. The popularity of the lives of saints inspired many to travel to visit relics. The Crusades, in essence, were an armed pilgrimage, a way for those whose life it is to fight to contribute to the kingdom of God. They provided the violent aristocracy with an outlet so that the peasants were not as threatened as they were pre-“Truce of God”. Crusaders fought to reclaim cities, such as Antioch and Jerusalem, in the name of Christendom.
Popular religious movements also increased in the twelfth century. This evangelical awakening was characterized by criticism of the clergy and devotion to poverty:
From his personal property he made restitution to those whom he had treated unjustly; a great part of it he gave to his little daughters, who, without their mother’s knowledge he placed in the convent of Font Evrard; but the greatest of his money he spent on the poor.9
Certain groups, such as the Waldensians and Albigensians, were deemed heretical for their blatant declaration of corruption within the church. The Dominicans and Franciscans, however, adhered to accepted doctrine and did not criticize the institutional church.
The fourteenth century was wracked with turmoil, though the church maintained its presence. People all over Europe were more concerned with surviving famine, plague, popular revolt and war. Simultaneously, the church was suffering from a papal schism that divided the continent. Living in such chaos motivated commoners toward personal reflection, piety and mysticism. Popular preachers, such as John Wycliff and Jean Hus, advocated reform.
It is easy, but misguided, to identify the Middle Ages as a Christian era. While this is true to an extent, without further inspection, one may ignore the dynamic nature of the Catholic Church from its inception to the Protestant Reformation. The Middle Ages can also be identified by other characteristics, such as urbanization, commercialization and education, development of nations, or barbarian and Roman integration. There were too many developments during the Middle Ages to effectively group these centuries together, even when examining through the context of a constant like the church.

1 Chronica Gallica A. CCCCLII
2 Chronica Gallica A. CCCCLII
The Manichees had a dualist philosophy derived from Zoroastrianism and later resurrected by the Cathars.
3 The Rule of St. Benedict. Translated from the Latin by Leonard J. Doyle, secular oblate of Saint John’s Abbey, (c) Copyright 1948, 2001 by the Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.
4 Gregory of Tours. History of the Franks. II.28 – 11.31
5 Charlmagne. Capitularies.
6 Neither holy nor Roman
7 Pope Innocent III. On Church Independence/Tithes: Letter to a bishop, 1198
8 Pope Innocent III. Interdict of France, 1200
9 Conversion of Peter Waldo. C. 1218

The Dynamic Field of Art History

Wednesday, December 14th, 2005

Art history is “a dynamic and evolving field” as new discoveries are made and old interpretations are reconsidered. Current events, such as conflicts in the Middle East, affect the study and preservation of historical art, and past events, such as looting during World War II, are still being set right. Ancient art continues to draw a crowd. Exhibits, such as Pompeii: Stories from an Eruption and Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs at the Field Museum in Chicago, educate and inspire new and renewed interest in art that is a portal to man’s past.
The market for antiquities also remains dynamic. Individual collectors and museums sell and acquire pieces to expand and refine their collections, such as the second-century classical marble portrait acquired by the Milwaukee Art Museum. Fine art sales can have the their problems, though. The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles has had its share of troubles with recent acquisitions. Authorities in Italy accused the Getty- as well as other museums including 20 suspicious objects at the Metropolitan Museum of Art1- of purchasing works stolen or illegally excavated from Italy. The Getty is not the only museum under fire, but Italy demands that 42 objects in the Getty’s collection be returned. The Getty has already returned objects that were previously under debate, including a Trojan War kylix and a youth head.
Stolen works are not the only objects that are questioned. The Getty acquired a kouros statue in 1983, but it was accompanied by forged provenance. A dispute has arisen as to whether the piece itself is also a forgery. The kouros is in remarkable condition considering its supposed age of 2500 years. It also combines characteristics of more than one style. The status of this piece has not been determined, but it does raise the point that forgery of art and provenance remain an issue in art history today. Christie’s had a similar problem when they sold a portrait of Roman Emperor Trajan, listed as an antiquity. Evidence shows, though, that the portrait was stolen and that it was a 17th century reproduction.
War also has a profound effect on art history. Currently, a military base has been built around the ruins of Babylon and the Ziggurat of Ur in Iraq. Looting is epidemic at the closed National Museum in Baghdad, and it is too dangerous for art historians and archaeologists to return to work. Past wars also have damaged art that may have survived in better condition. The Parthenon remained reasonably in tact for 2100 years until it was used as a powder magazine and subsequently blown up during a battle between the Turks and Venetians in 1673. As recent as 2001, art museums formed a plan to identify and return works of art that had been confiscated by the Nazis during WWII. Art historians still remain vigilant in their resolve to preserve historic art. Italian experts are now helping rebuild the Iran National Museum2.
New excavations and discoveries continue to be made. Recently, 76 Roman statues were uncovered at Cyrene in Libya. Just this week, archaeologists reportedly discovered the oldest known Mayan painting3, dating from 100 B.C.E. Aside from new discoveries, new interpretations of previously discovered objects also shed new light onto ancient art. A bronze statue of Zeus was originally thought to be Poseidon because it had been discovered in the sea off the coast of Greece. A bronze statue of the pagan Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius survived destruction by early Christians when it was mistaken for a likeness of Constantine. In many ways, art history is a changing and growing field.

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Monday, December 5th, 2005

Eleanor of Aquitaine was a remarkable woman, particularly considering the extent of her power and influence during the twelfth century, a time up to which women were seen only as saints, temptresses or baby-producing devices. She was queen of both France and England, in addition to governing her own inherited territories of Aquitaine and Poitou. She embraced the lifestyle of courtly love and repeatedly conflicted with her religious or war-mongering husbands and sons. The ideal of courtly love, born of Eleanor’s family in southern France, held women in higher esteem than in earlier times and other places, and so she garnered unprecedented power and adoration among her subjects, as well as animosity from both the English and French nobility who felt threatened by her. Eleanor, along with several of her children, was a fervent patron of the arts and enjoyed the lavish aesthetic that nobility could afford. For nearly 65 years, she wielded her administrative prowess, traveling throughout the continent to govern first hand and enjoy the adventure and liberty unknown to most women.

Theosophical Society

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

Research paper for Western Civ II

In an era searching for its identity, spiritualism provided a fantastic alternative to traditional religion and science. From trends toward the occult in the nineteenth century sprang the Theosophical Society, developed by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, based upon a combination of ancient religions. Blavatsky traveled the world studying religions of all types in search of a “body of truth.” Olcott was a Spiritualist convert who evolved to a Buddhist activist and hero. Overshadowed by showmanship and spectacle, theosophy was dismissed as an occult fad rather than a coherent philosophy. This essay examines the founders of the Theosophical Society and explores the society itself, including its fundamentals, attractions and criticisms.

Hagia Sophia

Monday, November 28th, 2005

Research paper for History of Western Art I

If a building can be metaphor for Christianity itself, Hagia Sophia is the Trinity, existing as a church, a mosque and a museum. The cathedral, also called The Church of the Holy Wisdom, was resurrected twice after being destroyed and burned. After the completion of its definitive form in 562, Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral for the next 1000 years and remains the fourth largest today. Attributed to Emperor Justinian I, this architectural marvel is also known for its beautiful mosaics and is the first building to use pendentives to support its large dome. It is located in Istanbul, named Constantinople at the time of the cathedral’s construction.

“Goodbye, Lenin!”

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

Research paper for West Civ II

How would you feel if you woke up one day and everything you knew and loved had been torn down? This is the question from which Alex attempts to protect his mother in the film Goodbye, Lenin! Living on the east side of the Berlin Wall, Alex’s mother (Mother) became a fervent nationalist and communist activist when her husband left and crossed to West Germany. Her children and her country were the center of her life. She married the fatherland, like a nun weds the Lord. Mother’s life was entirely nation-centric.

The Boston Campaign

Sunday, November 6th, 2005

Research paper for American Military History

The American Revolution was born in Boston, Massachusetts. In the decade prior to the war for American independence, tensions arose between the colonies and the mother country. After the Seven Years War, British colonial policies inspired dissent- particularly in the New England colonies- which eventually led to the siege of Boston. The battles at Lexington and Concord, Breed’s Hill and Dorchester Heights were among the earliest conflicts of the war, preceding even the issuance of the Declaration of Independence.
In 1763, Britain began to tighten its control over its American colonies. Just after the Seven Years War, the British government issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 as an appeasement to the indigenous inhabitants of North America and the newly-surrendered French colonies. Disallowing the exploitation of American Indian land west of the Appalachian Mountains, the Proclamation Line fostered resentment among the colonists, who sought to expand west. The Royal Proclamation granted citizens of territories acquired during the Seven Years War rights equal to those of native-born British citizens, rights for which the original colonists had been struggling at length. The Proclamation also established admiralty courts, over which presided naval officers. Cases were often tried as far away as Nova Scotia, and there were no trials by jury.
In the aftermath of the Seven Years War, Britain afforded considerable attention to its North American holdings, much to the chagrin of the reasonably self-sufficient colonists; they had grown accustomed to benign neglect, having been generally left to their own devices for over a century. Parliament passed the Currency Act of 1764, which prohibited the issue of paper money by the colonies. This act forced colonial dependency on Britain as it tightened its control. The Quartering Act of 1765 required that the colonists support the thousands of British troops that remained in America after the Seven Years War- “…hereby required to billet and quarter the officers and soldiers, in his Majesty’s service, in the barracks provided by the colonies…to furnish such noncommission officers or soldiers with candles, vinegar, and salt, and with small beer or cyder, not exceeding five pints, or half a pint of rum mixed with a quart of water, for each man per diem, gratis, and allow to such noncommission officers or soldiers the use of fire, and the necessary utensils for dressing and eating their meat …1” The government argued that the soldiers were stationed in America for the protection of the colonists, and so the colonists should foot the bill.
Post-war Britain found itself in debt and sought ways to improve its financial situation. To this end, Parliament issued the Sugar Act of 1764 which taxed the import of molasses and sugar, hindering the production of rum. Many colonists resorted to smuggling and boycotting goods in protest. The colonists claimed “no taxation without representation,” but the government argued that Parliament represents all people under the rule of the crown, even if no member of Parliament was elected by the colonies. In 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which taxed all legal documents and printed materials. This act was met with fervent resistance, and the colonists formed the Stamp Act Congress to issued petition to the king. Colonists of both upper and lower classes quickly took action and boycotted British goods. When the boycotts began to hurt trade, the government repealed the Stamp Act. To reassert its authority over the colonists, Parliament issued the Declaratory Act of 1766, which claimed Britain’s rights to tax and legislate in its colonies- “AN ACT for the better securing the dependency of his Majesty’s dominions in America upon the crown and parliament of Great Britain.2”
In an attempt to tax without provocation, Parliament issued a series of taxes on imports, rather than a direct tax. Proposed in 1767 by Charles Townshend, chancellor of the Exchequer, the Revenue Acts were intended to raise funds for administration in the colonies- “…a revenue should be raised, in your Majesty’s dominions in America, for making a more certain and adequate provision for defraying the charge of the administration of justice, and the support of civil government, in such provinces as it shall be found necessary; and towards further defraying the expenses of defending, protecting and securing the said dominions…3” The colonists revived the boycott of British goods. Some went as far as to issue formal non-importation agreements, as in the case of Boston- “…The merchants and traders in the town of Boston having taken into consideration the deplorable situation of the trade… and the large sums collected by the officers of the customs for duties on goods imported; the heavy taxes levied to discharge the debts contracted by the government in the late war; the embarrassments and restrictions laid on trade by several late acts of parliament… we will not purchase of any factor, or others, any kind of goods imported from Great Britain, from January 1769, to January 1770…4” Parliament repealed the Townshend Acts, reinforcing to the colonists that the boycott was an effective weapon. In a feeble effort to uphold its authority, Parliament retained the tea tax.
Dissention spread from the town meeting to the street, especially in such hotbed cities as Boston. “Boston’s fifteen thousand or so residents were clearly the worst malcontents on the North American continent.5” British troops arrived in Boston in October 1768 for the protection of the Commissioners of Customs, and the townspeople received them inhospitably. A chain of minor altercations ensued between soldiers stationed in Boston and the members of the town, chiefly insults and brawls. Enmity arose between the longshoremen of Boston and the crew of the war ship Romney, which was docked in the harbor for several weeks. The captain refused to free the impressed men in his crew, even when offered replacements. When John Hancock’s sloop, the Liberty, was detained by customs, a crowd threatened customs officers, seized a boat and burned it in the Commons.
On March 5, 1770, civilian-military hostility came to a head. A fray broke out between a sentry near the customs house and a group of boys throwing snowballs and ice at him. A crowd started to gather and, at some point, fire bells were rung. The soldiers thought that the civilians were going to raid the customs house and tried to stave them off with bayonets. The crowd began to chant “fire and be damned” and continued to pelt the soldiers. The commanding officer, Captain Thomas Preston, did not order an attack, but one soldier, purportedly having been struck by a club, fired into the crowd, the other soldiers following suit. Five civilians were killed, but colonial propaganda described the event as the “Boston Massacre.” “Moreover, it gave fiery emotional content to a dispute that had until then been economic and theoretic.6”
The Tea Act of 1773 initiated an escalation of Boston-centric adversity. Parliament permitted the British East India Company to sell its surplus of tea to the colonies tax-free, which undercut local merchants in the colonies and effectively gave the British East India Company a tea trade monopoly. Again, colonists resorted to boycott. Many port cities turned the tea ships away, sending them back to Britain. In Boston, the royal administration would not permit the ships to leave, but the colonists would not allow the cargo to be unloaded. On December 16, 1773, a group of men, disguised as Naragansett Indians, secretly boarded three ships and destroyed 342 chests of tea and dumped them into Boston harbor. No other property was damaged, and the protestors swept the decks before leaving.
Despite the decisively peaceful nature of this protest, the Boston Tea Party was perceived as “the boldest stroke which had yet been struck in America.7” Parliament retaliated with a severe string of legislation, called the Punitive or Coercive Acts. The Quartering Act of 1774, similar to that of 1765, applied to the colonies in general. The Quebec Act, though separate from the Punitive Acts, was an affront to the American colonists as it restored to the French in Quebec their traditional private law and granted the freedom to practice the Catholic faith. In securing the loyalty of the Quebec territory, Britain ensured that Canadians radicals would not support the American colonists.
The majority of the acts, popularly called the Intolerable Acts, were targeted directly at Boston. The Administration of Justice Act eliminated the local justice system and imparted jurisdiction on less rebellious British authorities- “…an indifferent trial cannot be had within the said province, in that case, it shall and may be lawful for the governor… to direct, with the advice and consent of the council, that the inquisition, indictment, or appeal, shall be tried in some other of his Majesty’s colonies, or in Great Britain…8” The Massachusetts Government Act abolished elections for administrative and judicial positions and made them royal appointments- “the appointment of the respective governors had been vested in the general courts or assemblies of the said colonies, hash, by repeated experience, been found to be extremely ill adapted to the plan of government established in the province of the Massachuset’s[sic] Bay… Be it therefore enacted… so much of the charter… which relates to the time and manner of electing the assistants or counsellors for the said province, be revoked…9” In response to the Boston Tea Party, The Boston Port Act closed the ports of Boston to all shipping and receiving until duties had been paid to the royal government and the British East India Company had been compensated for its losses.
The First Continental Congress was established from September 5, 1774, to October 26, 1774, in order to draft the Articles of Association, which addressed the grievances of the American colonies and called for a “non importation, non consumption, and non exportation agreement, [if] faithfully adhered to will prove the most speedy, effectual, and peaceable measure…10” The First Continental Congress debated reconciliation with Britain and the creation of a colonial parliament. It also prepared several petitions addressing their concerns to the king, the people of Britain and the Quebecois.
British General Thomas Gage arrived in Boston in May of 1774 to establish martial law and enforce the new policies issued by Parliament, but many of the colonial Whigs (American Patriots) left Boston proper for the surrounding towns. In an attempt to dissuade armed conflict, Gage orchestrated a seizure of gunpowder from the outlying area. On September 1, 1774, Gage’s troops rowed up Mystic River to Winter Hill in Charlestown and confiscated 250 half-barrels of powder. A contingent of troops proceeded to Cambridge and appropriated two field artillery pieces.
Rumors of vicious attack quickly spread, setting off the “Powder Alarm.” Massachusetts colonists scrambled, believing war to be at hand. In the wake of panic, the Provincial Congress advocated that all militias form minute companies, units ready “at a minute’s notice.” In April of 1775, the British Secretary of State ordered General Gage to disarm the colonists and round up their rebellious leaders. Simultaneously, the objective of the Provincial Congress was “immediately forming an American army at Worcester and taking the Field with undaunted Resolution.11” In the next week, the Congress solidified committees of correspondence, established six artillery companies, and resolved to raise a provincial army.
General Gage was aware of the proceedings of the Provincial Congress through one of his informants, Dr. Benjamin Church, a member of the Congress. Gage had already been planning a raid of the munitions stores in Concord when his orders had arrived. He began preparing his troops- “The grenadiers and light infantry in order to learn grenadiers’ exercise and evolutions are to be off all duties until further notice12”- but he never gave reasons for his commands in order to maintain secrecy. Still, his movements were as transparent to his own soldiers as they were to the colonists, who began to move the munitions in anticipation of a conflict.
By April 18, Boston was charged with gossip. Gage had to issue orders that townspeople were not permitted to leave Boston so that the rumors would not spread any further. But by the time the troops launched across the river, Paul Revere and William Dawes had already formulated their plan to warn the stores at Concord or rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock at Lexington once they knew the timeline and path of the British troops. Dr. Joseph Warren had witnessed a few days earlier Gage’s scouting party tracing both a land route and a water route to Concord. Revere had devised a lantern signal- “one if by land, two if by sea”- to announce the troops’ route.
When Dr. Warren was notified that the troops were on the march, Dawes set off toward Lexington through Cambridge and Revere traveled via Charlestown. The Lexington militia began to muster in anticipation. Dawes and Revere rode to Lexington, warned Hancock and continued toward Concord. On the road, they met Dr. Samuel Prescott of Concord, who offered to accompany them. They were soon set upon by a patrol of British officers. As the officers directed them off the road, Prescott escaped toward Concord.
At 11 p.m., 900 British regulars under the command of Colonel Francis Smith boarded boards to cross the Charles River. By 2 a.m., they had begun their 17-mile march to Concord. Smith became aware that their secrecy had been compromised and sent the light infantry under Major Pitcairn ahead at a quick march. Smith then sent a dispatch back to Boston requesting reinforcements. When Pitcairn arrived at Lexington at sunrise, seventy-five militiamen under Captain John Parker were waiting on the village green. Both Pitcairn and Parker commanded their men to hold- “Let the troops pass by, and don’t molest them, without They begin first13”- but a shot came from an unknown source off the field. The infantry began firing without orders and the militiamen tentatively began to return fire. Eight militiamen were killed and ten wounded, though only one regular was wounded. Colonel Smith and his main force arrived and the infantry rejoined the ranks for the march to Concord.
After much debate, the militiamen of Concord and Lincoln, under Colonel Barrett, surrendered the city without conflict. The regulars destroyed or seized any armaments they found in Concord. When the regulars began burning gun carriages, the militiamen thought they were firing the town and began to advance. From across the Old North Bridge, intermittent shots came from the regulars. When the militia had advanced to fifty yards from the regulars, only separated by the river, they opened fire. In this first volley, the British suffered sixteen casualties, including half of their officers. The regulars fled, and the militia degenerated into chaos over its success. Barrett eventually regained control, as Smith, having heard of the skirmish from town, was advancing toward the bridge. After a lengthy standoff during which no shots were fired, the regulars retreated back to town and had left Concord by noon.
The return march, though, proved a hazardous one. The regulars met militia fire at Miriam’s Corner, Brook’s Hill, Bloody Angle, Hartwell’s Farm, Fiske Hill and Concord Hill before reaching Lexington. Both Smith and Pitcairn sustained injuries, and many regulars had fled. At 2 p.m., on the verge of their surrender at Lexington, the British were joined by reinforcements under Brigadier Lord Hugh Percy. When the artillery opened fire, the full regiment of militia that had been pursuing Smith scattered. From Lexington to Charlestown, the regulars continued to meet resistance, but the militiamen were cautious of the artillery and resorted to guerilla tactics, firing long rifles from a distance beyond the range of the British muskets. Once reaching Menotomy, British regulars began to ransack and burn homes and execute the inhabitants. The militia attacked in formation at Cambridge, and Percy returned artillery fire. At Charlestown, the regulars evaded an ambush and gained the high ground, while the militia retreated to Cambridge. After twenty-one hours and forty miles of fighting, April 19, 1775 drew to a close. But Boston fell under the siege of 10,000 militia commanded by Artemis Ward, until May, when British General William Howe arrived with 4,500 reinforcements.
The Second Continental Congress convened on May 10 and created the Continental Army in time to confront General Howe on the Charlestown peninsula on June 17. The evening before, the troops of Colonel William Prescott began digging a fortification at Breed’s Hill. At 4 a.m., the HMS Lively discovered the fortification and ineffectively opened fire along with the HMS Somerset. It took until 10 a.m. for General Howe to assemble his troops in longboats and another four hours to organize 2,600 British regulars at the northwest corner of the peninsula to face the 1,400 Continentals. The regulars took heavy losses as they advanced on the fence. The defenders sniped from within their fortifications. The ninety-minute battle culminated when British regulars climbed the redoubt. “The close proximity of regulars and colonists ruled out the use of the musket on either side. Prescott, a superb swordsman… cut his way out with a rapier, clearing a way for several of his men…14” The British navy and artillery laid siege to the city, but the Continentals withdrew with minimal casualties. The British sustained over 1000 casualties to the Continentals’ 600, but General Howe was the only member of the commanding field staff not injured or killed. Howe’s forces were too exhausted to pursue the Continentals into Cambridge.
George Washington arrived on July 3 to assume command of the Continental Army and reoccupied the Charlestown peninsula without resistance. On July 8, the Second Continental Congress issued the Olive Branch Petition as its final attempt at reconciliation. The king rejected the petition outright and issued a proclamation naming all acts of rebellion as traitorous and commanding all loyal subjects to bring the traitors to justice- “we do accordingly strictly charge and command all our Officers, as well civil as military, and all others our obedient and loyal subjects, to use their utmost endeavours to withstand and suppress such rebellion, and to disclose and make known all treasons and traitorous conspiracies which they shall know to be against us, our crown and dignity…15”
As winter came and 1775 drew to a close, General Howe decided to withdraw from Boston in the spring, and so he resolved to avoid conflict until then. Concurrently, Colonel Henry Knox, chief artillery officer of the Continental Army, transported on sledges sixty tons of heavy artillery from Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga across the Connecticut River to Boston. The haul included twenty-six iron cannon, thirteen brass cannon, eight brass mortars, six iron mortars and two iron howitzers. Starting on March 2, 1776, and continuing for several days, Washington bombarded Boston from Roxbury as a diversion from his plans to capture and fortify Dorchester Heights. The evening of March 4, General John Thomas occupied Dorchester Heights with 2,000 troops. By cover of night, the Continentals erected two fortifications. Despite General Howe’s shock at the forts- “‘The rebels have done more in one night than my whole army would have done in a month,’ is said to have been General Howe’s remark…16”- he resolved to maintain honor and muster a force of 2,400 men. As both sides itched for a fight, torrential rains and impassable surf delayed conflict for days, while the bombardment continued. By March 17, General Howe ended the occupation of Boston, and his forces withdrew to Halifax, Nova Scotia. General Washington allowed Howe’s army to leave with opposition and took most of the remaining Continental Army to New York.
Boston was the source of much revolt in the period between the Sevens Years War and the war for American independence. Resistance to Parliamentary legislation bred discord in Boston and gave it a reputation for rebellion. Before America had even declared itself an independent nation, New England militiamen had been fighting for more than a year. The siege of Boston played a vital role in American history.
Birnbaum, Louis. Red Dawn at Lexington : “If they mean to have a war, let it begin here!” Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1986.

Boston Massacre Historical Society. (November 1, 2005).

Boston Tea Party Historical Society. (November 1, 2005).

French, Allen. The Day of Concord and Lexington, the Nineteenth of April, 1775. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1925.

French, Allen. General Gage’s Informers; New material upon Lexington & Concord, Benjamin Thompson as loyalist & the treachery of Benjamin Church, Jr.: a study. York: Greenwood Press, 1968 [c1932].

French, Allen. The Siege of Boston. New York: Macmillan, 1911. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co., 1969.

Frothingham, Richard. History of the Siege of Boston and of the Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970.

Independence Hall Association. (November 1, 2005).

Ketchum, Richard M. Decisive Day; the Battle for Bunker Hill. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974.

Martyn, Charles. The Life of Artemas Ward, the first commander-in-chief of the American Revolution. New York: A. Ward, 1921.

Tourtellot, Arthur Bernon. William Diamond’s Drum; the beginning of the War of the American Revolution. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1959.
1 Independence Hall Association.
2 Independence Hall Association.
3 Independence Hall Association.
4 Independence Hall Association.
5 Boston Massacre Historical Society.
6 Tourtellot, Arthur Bernon. William Diamond’s Drum. Doubleday: Garden City, NY, 1959. pp. 66.
7 Boston Tea Party Historical Society.
8 Independence Hall Association.
9 Independence Hall Association.
10 Independence Hall Association.
11 Martyn, Charles. The Life of Artemis Ward. Artemis Ward: New York, 1921. pp. 85.
12 Tourtellot. pp. 89.
13 French, Allen. The Day at Concord and Lexington. Little Brown and Company: Boston, 1925. pp. 99.
14 Birnbaum, Louis. Red Dawn at Lexington. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston, 1986. pp. 249.
15 Independence Hall Association.
16 Frothingham, Richard. History of the Siege of Boston. Da Capo Press: New York, 1970. pp. 298.

The Book of Hours

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

Research paper for History of Western Art 1

The Book of Hours is part of the collection at the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, acquired in 1985. This particular manuscript dates to the second half of the fifteenth century in France and fits the formula for illumination of that period. Also, being a book of hours, it had a very specific purpose when it was created, in addition to being a fine volume of medieval art.
Manuscript illumination was the painting of small illustrations in a volume of text. Illuminations are historically important painted works because many of them have been preserved inside closed books in libraries instead of in the open where they may be subject to damage. They varied greatly in subject matter, from the nativity to medieval farming techniques, which offers great insight into medieval daily life. Illuminated manuscripts were originally produced in monasteries ‘for the Greater Glory of God’ and included religious texts and commissions from kings. During the thirteenth century, the style of illuminations shifted from an abstract and idealized form to an attempt at realism; the Book of Hours came from this later time period. At this same time, manuscript illumination was expanding beyond the monasteries, and guilds of illuminators were formed, taking commissions for personal use. The most prolific period of manuscript illumination was from 1000 to 1500, at which time the printing press was invented and the art of handwriting books faded.
Considering the date of this work, the Book of Hours was most likely commissioned by a member of the aristocracy, someone who could afford to pay for the months of labor required. During this period, the Dukes of Burgundy were patrons and collectors of illuminated works, and they inherited the territory of Flanders, from which came the renowned Flemish illuminators of the fifteenth century. The date and location of origin of the Book of Hours places it during this surge of Flemish illumination.
A book of hours was a personal prayer book designed for the laity and modeled from the extensive religious duties of the clergy. It provided a canon of daily devotion for secular folk. On a less devout note, a book of hours was also a status symbol, and the lavishness of the work illustrated the wealth of its owner. There were more books of hours than any other type of manuscript because of their popularity. A book of hours usually started with a calendar; important days were often indicated in red ink, hence the phrase “red-letter day.” The contents were most often the same, since the books were intended to lead people through their daily prayers in a uniform manner. The contents contained a calendar, prayers of the Virgin, hours of the Virgin, hours of the Cross and Holy Spirit, penitential psalms, suffrages of the saints, office of the dead and litany. The subjects of the miniatures often followed the same pattern, with a specific scene designated to a specific type of prayer. For example, an illustration of the Annunciation usually accompanied the prayers of Matins.
The Book of Hours is a delicate work of 160 leaves (pages) of vellum- finely prepared sheepskin. The leaves date to 1460-1480 C.E., and there are 33 miniatures- small paintings of an illuminated manuscript- within the book right now, though there should be 34. The miniatures are painted with tempera and gilded in gold leaf- a thin sheet of gold. The blocks of text are written in black ink on twelve ruled lines, with the occasional use of red ink or gold. For instances in which a line of text does not reach the full length of the line, the artist filled the remained space with decorative motifs. Even though this work comes from the France, the text is written in Latin, which is appropriate for sacred works. The miniatures and blocks of text are off-center, shifted toward the top and binding edge of the page. Throughout the text, the artist used larger ornate monograms to accentuate the beginning of new passages. Empty space, particularly around the miniatures, is filled with elaborate scroll designs of flora and fauna themes accented in gold leaf. Unlike the earlier style of illumination, which often had a blank or abstract background, the miniatures in the Book of Hours, as in other later manuscripts, has detailed landscapes in the background with gothic architecture.
The Book of Hours is bound in red morocco- goatskin leather tanned in sumac- and has triple fillets- narrow strips- in gold and floral stamping on the spine. The binding dates to the eighteenth or nineteenth century, quite some time after the illuminations of the leaves. The red leather cover is stamped on the spine with the word “Heures”, which means “hours” in French. It is also stamped with the date “1416”, but that appears to be an inaccurate assessment made when it was bound in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. Measuring 4-5/8″ tall, 3-1/8″ wide and 1-1/2″ thick, the small size of the Book of Hours was designed for ease of daily personal use. The Book of Hours has sustained some damage, including three to six missing pages, tears, water damage, and a few flaked, smudged and retouched miniatures.
The Book of Hours begins with a title page that appears to have been added during the binding, which reads: “Horae in laudem beatissime virginis Mariae ad usum Romanum ad longum sine require f. acquix. 1416.” This is a common inscription and translates to: “Hours in praise of the blessed virgin Mary…” The original text begins with the months of the year, listing the saint’s days within each month, and the calendar pages are ornamented with zodiac symbols and decorative border. The Book of Hours also includes excerpts from the four gospels, accompanied by miniatures of St. John, St. Luke and St. Mark; the miniature of St. Matthew is missing. There are sixteen miniatures of other saints and fourteen miniatures of Biblical scenes, coordinating with the common structure of books of hours.
The Book of Hours is a fine example of both form and function. The delicate paintings highlight the sacred texts used in the daily prayer of the aristocrat that commissioned it. The nature of the illuminated manuscript aids in the preservation of this painstaking medieval art.

Bober, Harry. technical analysis of manuscript. Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee.
Book of Hours (Horae B.V.M.). Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee.
Harthan, John. The Book of Hours. New York: Thomas Y Crowell Company, 1977.
Mitchell, Sabrina. Medieval Manuscript Painting. New York: The Viking Press, 1964.

Etta Palm D’Aelders

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Research paper for West Civilzation II

The Enlightenment of the 18th Century inspired activism across much of Western Europe. Popular causes included the rights of political opportunity, rights of religious freedom and rights of liberty. The rights of women were addressed as an afterthought, it seems, but this topic of debate soon became rather vogue in salons and clubs. One of the more influential feminists of the revolutionary era was Etta Palm d’Aelders.
Born in 1743 at Groningen, The Netherlands, Etta Lubina (Johanna or Derista) Aelders was raised by her mother since age six, following her father’s death. Etta’s mother ran the family’s paper mill and pawn shop, a matter of much dispute to the family. Her mother also provided her with a good education. Perhaps, this early example of an independent female role model had a significant impact on Etta’s future endeavors.
In 1762, Etta married Christian Ferdinand Lodewijk Palm, a Frenchman, but they were soon divorced; some sources say that her husband disappeared while on a trip. Etta Palm moved to Paris in 1773 and, as the Baroness d’Aelders, circulated within the intellectual salon held by Madame Condorcet. Opening her own salon in 1778, she patronized philosophes in France for the next 14 years. As revolutionary movements swelled, causes began to solidify and intellectual thought gave way to political and social action. Etta, along with other supporters, joined the Cercle Social and campaigned for women’s rights.
While a salon provided a venue for various subjects of debate, clubs acted as interest groups for particular causesi, and the Confédération des Amis de la Vérité considered itself a federation of all existing clubsii. Etta joined the Confédération, which was the first club to admit women, and in 1791, she founded the female branch of the club called the Amies de la Vérité. Having achieved prominence as a fervent speaker and feminist activist, she also translated into Dutch the works of Mirabeau and Condorcet.
Etta moved within circles that provided opportunities to gather diplomatic and political information pertinent to France, Prussia and the Netherlands. She was arrested for espionage in 1791 but was soon released. In 1792, Etta traveled to the Netherlands to establish a revolutionary embassy, and later that year, she settled in The Hague. In response to the Batavian Revolution, she was imprisoned from 1795 to 1798 and is thought to have died in 1799, shortly after her release.
In an environment propelled by the ambition of liberty, the tentative nature of feminism was an anomaly, and the tendency for revolutionaries not to endorse, or to go as far as to oppose, women’s rights is shocking by today’s standards. Like most of the feminist activists of the time, Etta Palm d’Aelders fought for a change in morals and customs that would foster a more egalitarian atmosphereiii rather than establishing definite political rights equal to men, and yet she still met resistance, even from many members of the Confédération and Cercle Social.
The Confédération des Amies de la Vérité announced its platform of women’s issues and welfare efforts, stressing primogeniture as a key issue. Until this point, a mother had no rights or protection upon the death of her husband, but soon the National Assembly passed a law against primogeniture, which allowed both sons and daughters to inherit the estates of their parents equally. The Amies proposed a comprehensive divorce bill that allowed for wife-initiated divorce; this bill is related to another concern of Etta’s, that of protection from wife beating. Her first speech to the Confédération broached this very subject, arguing that the inherent physical weakness of women required laws that protected them against their stronger fathers and husbands.iv
Last, and often times least, the Amies lobbied for political equality for women, to make them citoyennes. The Declaration of the Rights of Woman states, “Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rightsv.” Condorcet emphasizes these rights by asking of enlightened philosophers and administrators, “Have they not all violated the principle of equality of rights by quietly depriving half of mankind of the right to participate in the formation of laws, by excluding women from the rights of citizenshipvi?” Though matrimonial and inheritance reforms were achieved during the revolution, political equality was a long way in coming.
Women’s welfare remained an important cause to Etta Palm. She worked to establish free clinics to aid pregnant or destitute women, help them find work and provide education to their children. She maintained in a speech to the Confédération that aid should not be limited to “physical and momentary needs” but that education and honest jobs are the remedy to indiginityvii. Her speeches ruffled many feathers, and Etta was considered quite radical in her political views. One example of her radical ideas, mentioned only briefly in some sources, was her concept of a female militia- “representatives…have just applauded the intrepid courage of the Amazons…and have permitted them to raise a corps for the defense of the nationviii.”
Etta Palm d’Aelders was a radical feminist and active member of organizations determined to bring women’s issues into the public eye. She inspired both women and men alike into action with her speeches and letters, which include the Discourse on the Injustice of the Laws in Favor of Men, at the Expense of Women and a Discourse to the Friends of Truth. Her efforts influenced legislation concerning marital and inheritance rights and paved the way for social welfare.
i Kates, pp. 92
ii Kates, pp. 93
iii Hunt, pp. 27
iv Kates, pp. 122
v Hunt, pp.125
vi Hunt, pp. 119
viii Hunt, pp. 122

“FRIENDS Of the VERITA of Etta Palm d’ Aelders.” Uno secolo rivoluzionario. (22 Sept, 2005, translated by Google).

Hunt, Lynn, ed. The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History. Boston: Bedford, 1996.

Kates, Gary. The Cercle Social, the Girondins, and the French Revolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.

McMillan, James F. Biographies: Women’s Suffrage. (22 Sept, 2005).

“Palm, Etta (Lubina Johanna), née Aelders.” (22 Sept, 2005).

Vega, Judith. “On Justice, Virtue and Men.” History OF European Ideas, Vol.10, Nr.3, 1989, 333-351.
Marc de Villiers, Histoire club of the Femmes et the Légions of d’Amazones (Paris 1910), 14 41. (22 Sept, 2005, translated by Google).

Women Writers. The Reception of their Works. (22 Sept, 2005).

The Scarlett Letter

Thursday, September 15th, 2005

Research paper for Intro to American History

Like many authors in the first half of the 19th century, Nathaniel Hawthorne rejected the conservative socio-religious notions of early New England in favor of the more moderate, if not more individualistic, ideals of transcendental philosophy. Hawthorne’s conflict lied in his heritage versus the artistic era in which he lived, which imparted a great range of perspective and depth of allegory to his novel The Scarlet Letter.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804. Hawthorne’s New England Puritan lineage began with Major William Hathorne, who came to Boston in 1630 with John Winthrop on the expedition to found the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Perhaps a less laudable root of the family tree was Justice John Hathorne, the son of William, who was one of the judges that presided over the Salem witch trials in 1692. Speculation has been made that Hawthorne added the “w” to his last name in order to dissociate himself from John Hathorne.
Hawthorne’s moderate views contrasted the rigid Puritan thinking in The Scarlet Letter, but he deftly evoked contemporary views in his Puritan characters. Professor J. Golden Taylor reports that, “[Hawthorne] almost always made his story transcend the activities of Puritan time and place and yield insights in keeping with his own more democratic, optimistic and pragmatic 19th century.”1 Hawthorne valued the transcendental concepts of self-reliance and the individual moral self2, as exhibited in Hester Prynne, who lived in accordance to her own nature. He also espoused the balance of intellect, emotion and morals; this struggle for balance was exemplified in both Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingsworth. Hawthorne illustrated the transcendental principle of compensation in all of the main characters in The Scarlet Letter.
Though they were secret adversaries, Dimmesdale and Chillingsworth exhibited many parallels in person and situation. Both men were well-regarded intellectuals; in a colony of homogeneity, the minister and the physician were singular individuals. The patriarchal Puritan convention did not view the traces of individuality in these respected men as negatively as in Hester. But the men also had the means by which to hide their secrets; Hester’s pregnancy advertised her indiscretion. Despite the regard in which they were held, Dimmesdale and Chillingsworth were both susceptible to sin. The balance of intellect, emotion and morals proved to be difficult for both of them.
Arthur Dimmesdale epitomized the solemn holiness of a Puritan minister, but he was not incapable of sin. In a fit of passion, Arthur forgot religious doctrine and social mores; the extent of his piety and reflection left him vulnerable to the emotions he had denied himself. Roger Chillingsworth was a career scholar who spent the majority of his life in research, but academia and age did not guarantee him the ardent foundation upon which to build a family nor the judgment to pursue a compatible mate rather than a trophy- “I,- a man of thought,- the bookworm of great libraries,- a man already in decay, having given my best years to feed the hungry dream of knowledge,- what had I to do with youth and beauty like thine own!”3 When his marriage went awry, Roger was consumed with revenge; years of study did not prepare him to deal with his dire sense of betrayal in a humane manner.
Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingsworth differed in as many ways as they are the same. They were both intellectuals; the difference lied in the focus of each man’s contemplation. The minister ruminated hypotheses of faith, whereas the physician made devotions of a scientific nature. The most apparent correlation between the men was their intimate connections with Hester Prynne, but the nature of their relationships were in opposition, passion versus propriety. His sanctity notwithstanding, Arthur fell victim, as it were, to romantic love. Roger, on the other hand, made his claim to Hester on the grounds of his contract with her. A less obvious bond between the men was their hatred. Roger Chillingsworth was blatant in regards to his hatred, if not to the other characters then to the reader. His hatred was external and targeted at the minister, the man who wronged him. Arthur Dimmesdale, “subtle but remorseful hypocrite that he was,”4 was consumed with self-hatred- “[B]y the constitution of his nature, he loved the truth, and loathed the lie, as few men ever did. Therefore, above all things else, he loathed his miserable self!”5
Hawthorne related to his heroine, Hester Prynne, in that she was out of her element in the severe Separatist Puritan community; Hawthorne considered his hometown of Salem to be an “abominable city”. Social uniformity prevailed, and individuality was perceived as a threat. Hester did not find her station until after she was expelled from the village. Her artistic tendencies inspired her toward specialty embroidery and tailoring, normally an excess to her neighbors but a creative outlet and vocational niche for Hester. Frederick Newberry states that the “second- and third-generation Puritans (lacking the aesthetic memory of their Elizabethan forebears) succeed… in wiping out nascent proclivities toward art.””6 Hawthorne found himself in the aftermath of this cultural sterilization and manifested his discontent in Hester Prynne. She possessed a passionate heart and was squelched, shamed and hidden for it.
Hester Prynne embodied paradox throughout the novel. From the moment she pinned the “A” to her bodice, she attempted to recede from notice. She hid her lovely hair in a cap and dressed in drab grey. In sharp contrast, Hester presented her daughter Pearl in the public bedecked in extravagant attire. Hester clung to her daughter, almost desperately, as the only thing she had in life. Her emotional distance from Pearl presented a glaring contradiction; Hester often treated her daughter as her sin given form- “She is my happiness!- she is my torture none the less! Pearl keeps me in life! Pearl punishes me too!”7
The Puritan colonists treated Hester paradoxically as well. When first she was sentenced, Hester was met with outrage- “‘At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead’… ‘What do we talk of marks and brands, whether on the bodice of her gown, or the flesh or her forehead?.. This woman has brought shame upon us all and ought to die.'”8 The harshness expressed towards Hester, the cold expressions in the market and wounding words on the roads, faded over time, more so to the villagers than to Hester herself- “The letter was a symbol of her calling…They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength… [S]ociety was inclined to show its former victim a more benign countenance than she cared to be favored with, or, perchance, than she deserved.”9 Hester became a landmark in the village; the sinner, through her good works and penance, became an institution- “Do you see that woman with the embroidered badge?.. It is our Hester,- the town’s own Hester, who is so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick, so comfortable to the afflicted!”10
Taylor compares Hawthorne to his literary contemporaries, stating that “[He] was much nearer Emerson’s moral concern to convey truth than he was to Poe’s primary purpose to create beauty.”11 Whether this comparison is accurate or not, it does illustrate the importance of truth to Hawthorne. The little girl Pearl was a great seeker of truth throughout The Scarlet Letter. She asked about the symbol on her mother’s bodice but received no answer. She inquired as to why the minister always clutched his chest but was discouraged from such lines of questioning. Pearl tried to bring the secret of her parents into the open, exposing the truth that pained them both to conceal- “Minister… wilt thou stand here with my mother and me, to-morrow noontide?”12 Her mere existence was proof of her parents’ indiscretion. “Thou wast not bold!- thou wast not true!- thou wouldst not promise to take my hand, and mother’s hand, to-morrow noontide!”13 Pearl was truth given human form and remained troubled until Hester and Arthur professed their secrets.
In addition to representing truth, Pearl was an allegory for a great deal of conflict, often acting out externally the inner conflicts of her mother. Pearl acted aggressively toward members of the community, particularly the children, her peers. As though a speaker for the thoughts behind Hester’s down-turned eyes and hushed lips, Pearl fiercely charged toward the children- “[A]fter frowning, stamping her foot, and shaking her little hand with a variety of threatening gestures, suddenly made a rush at the knot of her enemies, and put them all to flight. She resembled, in her fierce pursuit of them, an infant pestilence,- the scarlet fever, or some half-fledged angel of judgement.”14
Pearl behaved in an inconsistent and unpredictable manner; she could switch from kind to cruel with a slight change of her expression. She may have embraced her mother lovingly one moment, and the next, pulled away and poked the letter on Hester’s bodice, laughing. Pearl, more than anything, acted as a reminder to Hester of her shame, and Hester often treated Pearl as the scarlet letter personified, and dressed her such- “[I]n a crimson velvet tunic… abundantly embroidered with fantasies and flourishes of gold-thread… But it was a remarkable attribute of this garb, and, indeed, of the child’s whole appearance, that it irresistibly and inevitably reminded the beholder of the token which Hester Prynne was doomed to wear upon her bosom.”15
Hawthorne touched upon the transcendental notion of compensation, the belief that all actions have a reward or punishment. Though Hawthorne believed this theory to be flawed, he demonstrated it rather adeptly in The Scarlet Letter. Pearl was an innocent that was affected by the secrets and sins of her parents. Their revelations made better her troubled childhood, and Pearl’s early experiences strengthened her character for the rest of her life. Hester suffered for seven years as a pariah for her sin, but she ultimately got to see her daughter, the legacy of her forbidden love, grow up to be an extraordinary woman that loves her mother dearly. Arthur allowed the guilt of his sin to consume him, but he confessed the truth on his deathbed and passed unburdened. Roger began as an innocent who suffered betrayal, but he ultimately embraced his hatred and falls to sin. “All his strength and energy- all his vital and intellectual force- seemed at once to desert him; insomuch that he positively withered up, shrivelled away, and almost vanished from mortal sight.”16 He lost all that made him an admirable man, and, in a last ditch effort to redeem himself before death, he acted charitably by leaving all his worldly possessions to Pearl.
The nature of sin was the subject of much debate for 19th century transcendentalists. Hawthorne reevaluated the notion of sin in The Scarlet Letter, straying from the Puritan position and imparting 19th century values. He diminished Hester’s sin of adultery by placing the blame also with Arthur and Roger and inspiring sympathy in the reader toward Hester by placing the entirety of the punishment upon her, despite the part the men played in her infidelity. He magnified Arthur’s sin of hypocrisy, a sin that is a gross disservice to one’s individual moral self. Hawthorne stressed the severity of Roger’s sin most of all. The optimism of transcendental ideals left no room for his misanthropic hatred.17
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s literary experiments surveyed human frailties to which any of us may succumb and presented possible outcomes. Through his characters, he advocated principles such as self-reliance, compensation, and balance of intellect, emotion and morals and sheds perspective on the highly disputed subject of sin. He drew on the ideology of the 19th century transcendentalism for his novel The Scarlet Letter in order form a bridge between the contemporary reader and the more strict and self-righteous Puritan dogma of the characters.

Gelpi, Donald L. Varieties of Transcendental Experience: A Study In Constructive Postmodernism. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2000.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Bantam Dell, 2003.

Lewis, Jone Johnson. Transcendentalists. (September 7, 2005).

Newberry, Frederick. Hawthorne’s Divided Loyalties: England and America In His Works. Cranberry, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1941.

North Shore Community College. Hawthorne in Salem. (September 7, 2005).

Reuben, Paul P. “Chapter 3: Nineteenth Century to 1865 – Nathaniel Hawthorne.” PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. (August 30, 2005).

Taylor, J. Golden. Hawthorne’s Ambivalence Toward Puritanism. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1965.

Ward & Trent, et al. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907-21; New York:, 2000. (September 7, 2005).
1 Taylor p. 20
2 Gelpi, p. 97
3 Hawthorne p. 69
4 Hawthorne p. 131
5 Hawthorne p. 131
6 Newberry p. 21
7 Hawthorne p. 103
8 Hawthorne p. 49
9 Hawthorne p. 147
10 Hawthorne p. 147
11 Taylor p. 10
12 Hawthorne 139
13 Hawthorne p. 142
14 Hawthorne p. 93
15 Hawthorne p. 93
16 Hawthorne p. 232
17 Taylor p. 21