Rise of William de Hertburne
Letters to Evan Part 2, Ideas of Americanism
Devlin Bronte Rachele
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
In the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe” it is pointed out that the answer isn’t as important as the question. Trick to understanding the question is to have a good understanding of the situation.
In an attempt to help you understand what exactly our Founding Fathers and Mothers were hoping to achieve I thought that it was important to give you a good idea of the situation of the time. In order to do this I thought it was important to give you a run down of the events leading up to the creation of our U.S. Constitution. While trying to figure out how to explain the events leading up to the creation of the United States of America I kept running into a wall. There is so much information to convey to give the reader a good sense of what it was like to be one of our Founding Fathers or Mothers. I decided to take a break and visit a friend to try to clear my mind. We were sitting out by her pool just talking. It was a hot day. She asked if I would like a drink to which I agreed to an iced tea. She returned a couple minutes later with my drink. I looked over to see her sit and remove the celery stalk from her Bloody Mary. Watching her take a bite of the stalk I realized I had a starting point.
I thought of Mary Tudor’s (1516-1558) times and how she had come to be known as ‘Bloody” and I realized how to start this whole tale. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t really begin with Mary either. When you really study history you find that nothing really has a clear start or stop point. Sure, you can give an exact date, place, and possibly time of day that a first shot was fired, stone was thrown, speech was made, vote was cast, the die was cast, and so on but the actual impetus for the action could be ancient stretching over many generations, many other events, and over thousands of miles of territory. You will also find as with all social sciences nothing is isolated. There are actually many connections. Start and stop points are used mostly by people who are trying to simplify the lesson, cater it to the audience, or even control your opinion. But now I did have an idea of a place to start the story to give you an idea of what the world was like when our nation was formed. Again, this is not an absolute and there are so many more connecting and overlapping stories but hopefully this will give you a very good idea of what it was like.
When Charlemagne (742-814) was crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor in Rome on Christmas Day in 800 he had gained control of a huge section of Europe. To help him rule an empire which included present day France, Germany, most of Italy, and sections of other current nations and a multitude of different cultures he divided his realm into eighty counties and appointed counts. These counts acted as a direct representative for the Emperor in his capital city of Aachen. These counts further divided their appointed counties into smaller units and appointed lesser nobles to help them rule. So on down the chain even lesser nobles were appointed to the various positions required to run the area.
It was a fairly straight forward arrangement. In return for their position the lesser nobles were expected to give their loyalty and service to the lord who had given them their position as well as the Emperor. Subordinates were expected to pay tribute or taxes in the form of fidelity, money, supplies, labor, service, and military aid to their superior. Exact amounts were usually set when the appointment was made but were subject to change as needed. In return for their tribute and loyalty the subordinates could count on getting direction, aid, and protection from their respective lord. Along with this a subordinate who proved their ability and loyalty could count on keeping their position and even be able to pass it on to their heir with the blessing of their lord.
Another factor of this hierarchy was the church. During this time the Pope and his clergy had a lot of influence over the majority of Europe. Remember, the Pope had crowned Charlemagne supporting his claim to be the Emperor. Charlemagne had not appointed the Pope. Charlemagne and his entire realm were expected to believe in and worship Jesus and his father in heaven. Along with this the church could expect to be supported and receive aid from Charlemagne as well as all other nobles of Christendom. In return the Church would back the rights of the nobles to rule especially in sermons in which the clergy taught that God had anointed these rulers. Also in return for the noble support and protection of the church and the church’s interests the church would help the nobility to gain access to heaven for quite often nobles had to commit sins in order to maintain their domain.
At the very bottom producing all the food, products, and services for this entire social structure were the common or average person who made up the vast majority of the population. They were mostly uneducated even Charlemagne did not know how to read when he ascended his throne but he did make it his goal to learn. Most did not live to see fifty years of age but during this time neither did the aristocracy. Most were field hands and some were skilled craftsmen and artisans. Their occupation was basically decided by what their parents had done with the blessing of the local authority. This population would receive direction, order, support, shelter (usually a one room cottage), lands for their fields and herds, and protection from the local authority. From the church they would receive guidance and salvation. In return for all of this artisans would create for their lord, church, and for trade while craftsmen were expected to produce tools and equipment for the lord, the church, the community, and for trade. Field hands were expected to dedicate a portion of their work week tending to the lord’s and the church’s fields and herds. Everyone was expected to be loyal to and provide service to the local authority without question and most never did question. Horrific examples were made of those few who did question or challenge the authority.
A special class was made of Jews during this time. They did not see money as a necessary evil like most Christians were being taught (which is a great idea because Christian subjects wouldn’t want it and would willingly pay their taxes without regret) but instead saw it as a tool. This led to many Jews being appointed to handle the business affairs of the local authorities. Nobles were also highly depended on Jewish vassals to conduct trade with the Muslim world which had a virtual monopoly on the spice trade and could provide luxury items such as silk.
Though the system seemed to be rigid it wasn’t. It was possible to change job and move up the social ladder. A person who was able to demonstrate ability which was recognized by the right person could become an apprentice to an artisan or craftsman. With the right circumstances they could even become a noble. (Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) as well as others did marry lower noble partners to gain access to courts to seek sponsorship for their dreams.) Lower nobles could be elevated for their ability and service. Some were rewarded with dukedoms which encompassed several counties. They could enter the clergy, learn to read, and move up the ladder in that career path all the way to pope. They could even travel either for trade or pilgrimages. All of this was done, of course, with the blessings of the local authority.
Life wasn’t all work either. Planting and harvest was the busiest times for the majority. Field hands and supporters (craftsmen supplying tools and equipment such as hoes and plows) could work from well before sun up to sundown. For the majority of the year the weekly work load could amount to just a couple of hours in the field, tending the herds, or working on other projects; the rest of their time was spent taking care of their own chores, helping one another, visiting friends and family, attending church services, and going to the local market, fairs, festivals, other community celebrations, or just taking some personal time to relax.
This was the Feudal System—you support my rule and I will take care of you. With slight variations this was the system which had dominated the majority of the world since before recorded history; since the time of Gilgamesh (sometime before the great flood). Basically it was a hierarchy of powerful people ruling the working classes and living off of their labor in return for the leadership, guidance, support, order, and protection of the ruling class. This social interaction between the different classes was also the basis of what would be called the ‘Social Contract’. Biggest difference between different realms would be dependent on the knowledge, maturity, and paranoia of the nobles. Less knowledgeable, less mature, and more paranoid the tighter they tended to hold the reins of their realm.
Life could be hard. Just imagine having to do everything by hand and from scratch. Life could be short. However, many enjoyed this simple and stable existence and they clung to it. Throughout their life all they had to do was their job. In return they would receive direction, leadership, and stability from their noble and from their church they would receive salvation and a promised eternity in heaven. Their entire life had been planned out for them. It was a life spent with the familiar faces of their families and community. They had a lot of time to celebrate and blow off steam. It was the same simple and fairly stable existence their great grandparents had known. To many it could seem like an idyllic life.
However, these were not idyllic times. Just seven years prior to Charlemagne’s elevation to Holy Roman Emperor the Vikings had made their first recorded raid in Christian Europe on a monastery on Lindisfarne, an island just off the coast of northeastern England. Along with the Vikings there were many other groups in the Balkans, the Baltic, and other eastern areas in what is now known as the Russian Federation with whom to contend. It was only sixty-eight years prior to Charlemagne’s coronation when his grandfather, Charles Martel (c. 688-741,) had helped to defeat a Muslim (the Umayyad Caliphate in particular) invasion launched from Spain at the Battle of Tours in 732. Unfortunately, threats were not just originating externally.
Kings as well as emperors owed their reign to the support of their vassals or appointed representatives. Many of these rulers enjoyed long healthy reigns as long as they remembered this. Unfortunately, this understanding usually only lasted a couple of generations. A king who had to climb to the throne made no mistakes of what it took to get there. A young prince growing up knowing nothing but the opulence of the court may not understand the true relationship of a ruler and their subordinates. There were also many cases of rulers becoming alarmed of the growing popularity of one of their lesser such as when Flavius Belisarius (c. 500-c. 565) was blinded and made a pauper by his emperor, Justinian I (c. 482-565). There is a long list of spoiled princes who found out the danger of stepping on the wrong toes and were quickly and violently replaced. Five English kings’ and five French kings’ and countless others’ lives were consumed as the House of Plantagenet contested their vassal status with the House of Valois as they fought one another for the French throne in what would become known as the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453.) Barons forced John Lackland (1166-1216) to sign the Magna Carta (1215) at Runnymede demanding that John recognize their “Social Contract” and it was re-signed by subsequent kings of England.
I mentioned earlier that with the right blessings your estate could transfer without problems to your designated heir. Often the wishes of recently dead rulers were not honored. You need to realize that though you were the duke, count, baron, earl, or whatever of a certain area that area was in fact the property of the king or emperor. When William the Bastard (1028-1087) attempted to claim the ducal seat of his father, Robert the Magnificent (1000-1035), he was challenged by several counts who felt that William was not fit. William the Bastard was as his name implies illegitimate and these counts either did not want to follow a bastard or saw this as an opportunity to claim the dukedom of Normandy for themselves. William would overcome with the assistance of the King of France. William would then go on to fight Harold Godwinson (c. 1022-1066) at the Battle of Hastings (14 October 1066) for the English throne of Edgar Aetheling (c. 1051-1126) which Harold supposedly had promised on the bones of a saint to William in return for William’s assistance to Harold years earlier in Normandy while Edward the Confessor (c.1003-05-1066) was the king. Harold had been elected to be king by the Witangamot which is old English for meeting of wise men and a forerunner of Parliament. William the Bastard would be forever known from the results of that battle as William the Conqueror and he would be the great ancestor of every English and British monarch since his reign. He would also spend the majority of his life in conflict either protecting what he claimed as his or trying to increase his control as did the majority of nobles during this time. As I have said, relationships are far more complicated with many overlapping events influencing all. This is why historians prefer to focus on one period, event, or person.
This was the reality of Europe as well as the vast majority of the world. There were a lot of marauding bands, ambitious warriors, unfulfilled ‘Social Contracts,’ egos, and so much more which resulted in a time of almost constant conflict. Not all battles were large and not all conflicts lasted longer than just one battle but the toll on European society was immense as nobles attempted to climb the social ladder, gain territory, or stand up for themselves.
Some were just looking to gain territory to thank supporters or to leave to other heirs. It was common to have as many children as possible with the hopes one would live to adulthood and inherit the realm. In many cases more than one lived to adulthood and land was needed for them to rule and it didn’t matter from whom they took it. In order to have them support the rule of your primary heir it was a good idea to have land for the heir’s siblings to rule (Ottoman Turks solved the problems of sibling rivalry years later by having all the new sultan’s brothers strangled). It was also a good idea to surround your territory with family member’s territories. During the 19th Century romantics wove tales of chastity belts to keep wives faithful while the husband was off fighting in the Crusades. Truth is, there was far more to fear from a neighbor invading and attacking your lands while you were out conducting your attacks. Terry Jones (1942-Present) of Monty Python fame once described Medieval Society as a community centered on a church with a local thug ruling it. Whatever the motivation for the attacks, the result was that villages were destroyed and had to be rebuilt while harvests were burned or seized and people starved. Something had to be done especially as the Muslim World was passing Europeans in the world of science and technology and became an ever increasing threat.
Following the death of Charlemagne in 814 his empire was divided among his three heirs and they weren’t particularly happy with their inheritance. At the same time many nobles saw this as an opportunity to either takeover their neighbors’ domains and increase their own realms. In response a horrified clergy attempted to create the Peace or Truce of God making it a grave error for warring nobles to attack or rob from noncombatants such as peasants and members of the clergy. They even attempted to limit the days of the week in which you were able to conduct military actions with the hopes that it would curtail this seemingly endless violence. It did have some affect but Europeans would not learn or understand Chivalry until they came into contact with An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub (1137-1193) or simply as his buddies knew him, Saladin.
This brings us to Alexios I Komnenos (1048-1118) who sent a letter asking for help with a Turkish invasion to Odo of Chantillon (c. 1035-1099) or Pope Urban II. Urban saw this as an opportunity to possibly ending or greatly reducing the violence in Europe. He had hoped that with the threat of a common enemy he would be able to unite Europe. On 27 November 1095 outside the cathedral in Clermont Urban reportedly declared, “Deus Vult!” over and over at the end of an arousing speech calling for a united European force to face the Turks and liberate the Holy Lands. It was immediately accepted by the audience and became a driving force for years to come. Many saw this as an opportunity especially those who had not been born first and did not have a great chance of gaining their father’s realm. While some saw this as an opportunity to attack and rob Jews leading to the original Holocaust though it wouldn’t be called that until the pogrom and expulsion of Jews from England following the coronation of Richard the Lionhearted (1157-1199) which happened in 1189 when it was believed that the Jewish leaders were trying to influence the new king. Groups of German knights invaded the Baltic States looking to carve out domains for themselves under the cover of crusading and converting pagan populations. It would eventually end with Alexios I Komnenos’ capital city of Constantinople being sacked during the Fourth Crusade on 12 April 1204 which was personally led by Enrico Dandolo (1107-1205), the then current Doge of Venice. Dandolo would be buried a year later in Hagia Sophia.
While the Crusaders were learning about Chivalry from Saladin during the 12th Century an obscure William de Hertburne (c. 1150) decided to start leasing a parcel of land from the Bishop of Durham. It is located in Northeast England not far from Lindisfarne in an area which was then known as Wessyngtonland. A name which came from the original Old English, Hwaessingatun, is believed to have been derived from the name of the original inhabitants or the wheat fields in the area. William de Hertburne like many of his time was named after the area from where he came. This is what the ‘de’ in his name means: ‘from’ or ‘of’ a place. It would help to identify him from the numerous other Williams in England at the time. Shortly after taking possession of this parcel William would change his name to William de Wessyngton. William would be prosperous and life was good. Life seemed as if it would go on as it had before but because of several events such as the Crusades Europe was on the cusp of great changes.
When the year 1000 approached many Europeans started to panic. Heaven and the Bible had become very real to most and they believed what the church said without hesitation. It was believed since the calendar was based on the birth of Jesus and because of lessons of a thousand years of peace that the year 1000 would bring with it Jesus’ second coming and with him Judgment Day. In many places all work stopped as people braced for this event of all events. Others sold all their worldly possessions and gave it to the church as an offering while others partied like it was Judgment Day with reports of wild bacchanalian orgies even occurring in the Vatican. Crime rose as rapes, robberies, and murders were reported to increase, but this could have been because of better record keeping as well. On a sadder note some individuals and entire families were not able to handle the stress and resorted to suicide.
When the year arrived and the sun rose again and again without incident people started to question the knowledge and authority of the church. As I have mentioned the church had done an excellent job of making the kingdom of heaven a very real place in the minds of the people. Nobles as well as the lowest peasant had looked to the church with awe. They listened reverently to the word of the church leaders fearing to fail to do so would result in losing that opportunity to enter God’s everlasting, loving embrace. If the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, said something they did their best to follow it believing that the Pope was God’s direct representative. When the Church’s prediction failed to materialize people started to have their suspicions and ask questions about the ability of their religious leaders.
Until this time most Europeans had existed in isolation from the rest of the world. They had the world interpreted for them by their nobility and church leaders. They lived an incredibly stable life, except for the occasional raid, in an ignorant bliss. Life was very slow to change. Chances are your life would have been little different from that of your great, great, grandparents and it would have closely resembled that of your great, great grandchildren. However, this mistake by the church in the prediction of the Second Coming not only shook confidence in the ability of church leaders but did give some ambitious nobles the idea that they could reign without church authority interfering. Another reason for Urban II’s call for the First Crusade was an attempt to bring people back into the fold of the church’s authority. However, the crusades would add to this problem.
When the crusaders came into contact with the Muslim world it was like nothing they had seen before. While fighting one another in Europe they would just run into other Europeans with very similar existences. For most Europeans the biggest difference in territories was the wealth in resources and productivity of the region. In the Muslim world Europeans not only came into contact with different products or commodities but advances in various sciences. People of the Middle East were far more advance in that most had achieved some level of literacy. They were far more advance in medicine, music, art, literature, politics, mental health, math, engineering, chemistry, warfare, and so much more. Crusaders would learn how to build effective stone fortresses and also how to undermine the same. Most of the fortresses made of stone in Europe were built after these lessons. These experiences in what is known as the Crossroads of the World would lead to more seeds of change being planted. By the way, Dandolo’s Venice had been trading with the people of the Middle East for a long time and had leaned much from this trade. They made far more money from the Middle East than from Europe. This is why he would choose to raid Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade instead of invading the Holy Land.
This eventually sparked even more thoughts outside the box in Europe. Things long forgotten by Europeans since the fall of Rome in 476 were now being rediscovered. Reality was that the Roman Empire still existed at this time as the Byzantine Empire and the knowledge of the Ancients had been available to the Muslim world and the Muslim Scholars had been able to continue to build on it. Now invading crusaders were becoming exposed to this knowledge and to different philosophies as well. A people who had been lost in an ignorant bliss steeped in belief and superstition started to question and ask why ever more than ever. The difference between knowledge and wisdom is found in asking why.
When Yersinia pestis first appeared in Kaffa it had already left millions dead in China and other parts of Asia. Now in the 14th Century it was set to unleash its fury on Europe. It is hard to say how many died from the Black Death. Best estimates give us a range from 20 to just over 60%. Some people were murdered because they had contracted the disease and survived. It seems that it was believed these survivors had made a deal with the devil. For the most part the common person bore the brunt of the punishment while nobles and high ranking clergy sought refuge away from population centers. One bright spot was when pogroms were arranged to take it out on the Jewish people Casimir the Great (1310-1370) gave Jews refuge and rights. After the disease had run its course this hierarchy would return to find that the disease had not killed evenly. Some came home to a realm that was reduced to a ghost town, while others found only half their population still intact while other nobles found their towns such as Krakow virtually unscathed.
Two big results arose in the wake of this crisis. First the cost of labor spiked. With the extra income now in the hands of the bulk of the surviving population the economy had changed from that of the feudal manor which existed for the lord of the manor to obtain what the noble needed to more of a consumer market. People saw opportunities and were able to take advantage and a business class emerged. Many nobles found that they had no one to do the work. In a few cases the only one left to do the work were the nobles. They needed labor to make repairs, equipment, tend the fields and herds. They had nothing to tax for tribute or protection. Serfdom was enacted in many parts of Europe tying the labor to the land. This led to people fighting for their rights and the freedom they had briefly tasted resulting in many peasant revolts. With the death of millions in which the church and hierarchy could offer no solutions (the Muslim world actually had a cure but they were heathens and Europeans did not listen), the enforcement of serfdom along with its repression, and the rise of the business class specializing in consumer goods, the average person and lesser nobles questioning of the authority went into overdrive.
One day a doctor of theology in the University of Wittenberg started to ask why. Now others had been asking questions and challenging authority before Martin Luther (1483-1546) and most such as Jan Hus (c. 1369-1415) had been tortured and murdered by the church of the King of Peace. Others saved their lives but lost their property by recanting whatever they had said. Some heretics such as Nestorius (386-450) founded their own sects. In fact the Great Schism which had led to the division of the church into the Eastern Orthodox and Catholicism was because one group had questioned and did not agree with the other. Unlike the many before Martin, Martin had chosen to do it very publicly, in a different manner, and his timing was perfect as well.
As mentioned many had not only started questioning the authority of the church in Rome but were actually looking for ways to get from under the thumb of Roman Rule. Martin had challenged the church in a very smart way as well. Instead of just charging the church of misdeeds he simply asked why about everything the church was doing. Martin was just asking questions and certain German princes who desired to get from under the Church’s authority saw this as a great opportunity so they supported Luther and offered him protection from the murderous hand of the Inquisition. Seeing this, the current Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (1500-1558), had little choice as he needed the help of these princes in his current conflict with a Muslim threat in his eastern provinces. He too offered his protection to Luther and a chance for Luther to defend his actions. Luther’s ideas were able to develop and spread.
This leads us to a nephew of Richard III (1452-1485) who decided to challenge his uncle’s claim to the throne and would defeat Richard at Bosworth Field. Henry Tudor (1457-1509) took the throne with high hopes his eldest son, Arthur (1486-1502) would inherit the realm from him. He had arranged a marriage to cement an alliance with Spain for his son. However, as you can see from their years Arthur contracted and died from an unknown ailment. To keep the alliance alive with Spain Arthur’s younger brother, Henry (1491-1547), who had not expected to become king was suddenly thrust into the spotlight and was married to Arthur’s widow, Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536).
Henry was unhappy with the marriage. He was very much in love with Catherine but she had not bore him a male heir and the clock on her ability to do this was running out. Instead they had a daughter, Mary (1516-1558). Henry like his father wanted their line to be established and rule for years to come. But these were treacherous times as before. A male heir would be better than a female one in Henry’s mind. He also felt that he had been denied a son because he had committed taboo by marrying his brother’s widow which is forbidden in the Bible. So, Henry wanted a divorce and to marry a young woman by the name of Anne Boleyn (c. 1501-07?-1536). However, the Church which had close ties with the Spanish Court (the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, was Spanish and Catherine was his aunt) refused to give an annulment. Henry finally decided to take matters into his own hands while fortifying his island nation and raising an army. He created his own church and as the head of that church granted his own annulment. This marriage with Anne also failed to deliver a prince but instead gave him the princess Elizabeth (1533-1603). Anne Boleyn who had fallen in popularity was charged with treason and executed. This also had a side effect in that a divorce as with Catharine had upset quite a few subjects and had possibly shrouded the marriage to Anne in bad luck resulting in no son being a widower Henry could remarry with the blessings of everyone. Henry went on to marry Jane Seymour (1508-1537) and did finally get the heir he desired, Edward VI (1537-1553). Unfortunately, as you can see from the dates, Edward did not rule for long.
This left a mess for his sister, Mary, who assumed the throne after his sudden death. As mentioned all of Europe had been awoken by the failure of Judgment Day, the Black Death, and the Crusades and many were questioning. Richard III’s and Henry VII’s fight for the throne had come at the end of the War of the Roses (1455-1487). This three decade long conflict had come from the lack of an heir and various family members struggled to claim the realm as their own. Henry VII had hopefully put an end to it as did Henry the VIII with his male heir. But now a woman was in charge. Not only was this a problem for Mary but the nation had been torn apart by Henry’s feud with the Church in Rome. Mary, a devout Catholic, saw it as her mission to bring her nation back to the church. However, she would die suddenly and her sister Elizabeth would be crowned. Elizabeth would support her father’s Church of England and lead her nation to a golden age.
But how did Mary I get the unfortunate accolade of “Bloody?” How does this all lead to the start of the American Revolution? Well, a lot of it was politics. Again, England was healing from the upheaval of the War of the Roses. There were people who did not believe that Elizabeth was the rightful heir. There were many who believed England needed to fix its relationship with Rome. At the time of Mary’s reign the vast majority of English were Catholic and welcomed a return to Rome. Mary did enjoy the role of granting forgiveness to those who truthfully repented. However, she did have 284 persons burned. Most of these were individuals who had been very vocal in their criticism of the Queen and her backing of Rome. Actually, these were the type of people who Elizabeth and their father, Henry, would have executed without hesitation. Henry had ordered the execution of at least 37,000 people during his reign and Elizabeth had killed at least 600. Mary was called Bloody because Elizabeth needed to make herself look better than her sister and the Protestants needed a villain to justify their actions. Elizabeth did have a lot of enemies. Ugo Boncampagni (1502-1585) who was better known as Pope Gregory XIII, better known for church reform and his work with the calendar, stated that it would not be considered to be a sin to assassinate Elizabeth. He also encouraged Philip of Spain (1527-1598) to remove Elizabeth. Philip in the ongoing theme of a close relationship between England and Spain had been married to Mary.
After a long fairly successful reign you would think that Elizabeth would have had this all cleaned up but no. She had died without an heir and named her cousin’s son, James Stuart (1566-1625) as her successor and he was Protestant. He authorized the King James translation of the Bible from Latin to English. There had been several attempts against his life as Catholics tried to take advantage of Elizabeth’s demise. His son, Charles (1600-1649), in an attempt to control English Reformation tried to bring uniformity to all the sects in England. Puritans in Parliament thought he would try to bring England back to the Catholic Church because Charles had put restrictions on non conformist while relaxed restrictions on Catholics. Eventually Charles actions and inability to work with Parliament would spark the English Civil War (1642-1651) with Parliamentary Forces. Charles would lose this conflict along with his head.
Archbishop of Canterbury had appointed a young scholar, Lawrence (1602-1653), as Proctor at Oxford and was using this young descendant of William de Wessyngton as a spy to rid the university of Puritan clergy. When Charles I lost the Civil War the victorious Puritans would use trumped up charges of drinking to demote Lawrence to a small, out of the way, impoverished church.
In the power vacuum created by the beheading of Charles I stepped Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) who had distinguished himself in Parliament as well as the battlefield. He would develop the New Model Army which would become the model for all future professional standing armies. He would also murder far more people than Bloody Mary especially during events like the Siege of Drogheda (1649). He would become the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth a position his son, Richard (1626-1712) was unable or didn’t really want allowing for Charles’ son, Charles II (1630-1685), who had sought refuge on the continent to reclaim his father’s throne. On 30 January 1661 Charles would have Oliver Cromwell warts and all exhumed and executed by beheading. Cromwell’s body would hang in chains and then be disposed of by being thrown into a pit.
Charles II would go through a fairly turbulent reign but manage to hold everything together long enough for his brother, James II (1633-1701), who was a Catholic king. Trouble would rise again as James supported one religion at the expense of another and instead of another civil war there was a Glorious Revolution (1688-1689) in which very few died. James was deposed and in his place William of Orange (1650-1702) and James’ daughter, Mary (1662-1694) were invited to rule. They were followed by James’ other daughter, Anne (1665-1714), who would be known as the first ruler of Great Britain.
You would hope that after all of this things would settle down. But there were people who felt that when Anne died that Stuarts were still the rightful heirs and rose up to fight the Hanoverians who succeeded Anne. This resulted in a series of clashes known as the Jacobite Rebellion (from the Latin for James) from 1688 until it was finally and brutally crushed in 1745.
Since the time of Bloody Mary many people had fled Great Britain and other religious hotspots in Europe to find refuge in the colonies from the insanity of Reformation. William Penn (1644-1718) used the influence of his father, Admiral Penn (1621-1670) and money owed to his father by the king to found a colony which he named after his father with the idea of religious freedom. Cecil Calvert (1605-1675), the 2nd Baron of Baltimore, would help to establish Maryland as a haven for Catholics. Josiah Franklin (1657-1747) decided to move with other Puritans to the colony of Massachusetts where he would raise several children including a son, Benjamin (1706-1790). Many others not only sought safety from what was going on in Europe but also saw opportunity as well in the Americas. Lawrence the descendant of William de Wessyngton who had backed the wrong pony during the upheaval created by Charles I would have a son John (1631-1677). John would apprenticeship in business and become a tobacco importer. Later in 1657 John would relocate to Virginia where he would grow tobacco, become a soldier, and serve in the colony’s politics. By the way his family name had been changed several generations earlier to Washington.
Much of this awakening of the European mind, this questioning, this upheaval had occurred within the living memory or actually had been witnessed by the great grandparents, grandparents, and parents of our Founding Fathers and Mothers as well as having been witnessed and experienced by our Founding Parents. At the same time they had enjoyed three thousand miles of Open Ocean insulating them from what was going on in Europe. Other than an occasional raid or clash with the natives things were pretty calm and commerce was growing. Colonists had come to enjoy a certain measure of freedom from the courts of Europe. However, by the middle of the 18th Century things were about to change.
Our Founding Parents were for the most part extremely well educated for their times and were even better educated than a lot of people in this country today. They were extremely well read. Thomas Jefferson’s personal library would be used to create what would become the Library of Congress, established 1800, and to resolve Jefferson’s debt. They had been well informed of the thoughts of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). They had read and studied Plato (died 347?). They were well informed of the Republic of Rome and well versed in many other aspects of European History. They had read John Locke (1632-1704) and David Hume (1711-1776). They were quite familiar with what had happened to Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). They knew that Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543) published his great work, “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” post mortem to escape the murderous wrath of the Church. Our Founding Parents understood that the Church would go after anyone who threatened the Church’s control. They understood the importance of control for the rulers of Europe. They saw how these rulers would go to amazing lengths to maintain that control so they could live in luxury off of it. They had even experienced this attempt to control with what would be called the Intolerable Acts of 1774 which were in direct response to the Boston Tea Party of 1773. They had a very good understanding of the world of governments. They had been taught by the lessons of all of these great thinkers and so many more. In 1776 they would be introduced to yet another, Adam Smith (1723-1790) and his recently published work, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.” Armed with this education and experiences our Founding Parents realized that things could be a lot better.
Sincerely Your Friend,