Current Issue Article Abstracts

Summer 2022, Vol. 20.3

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Diabolical Duos: Witch Spouses in Early New England
Paul B. Moyer

A significant proportion of witchcraft prosecutions in early New England targeted married couples. Although these cases have not received much attention, they open up a window onto witch-hunting in the region and how it compares to that in other parts of the English-speaking world. An examination of New England's witch spouses reveals how witchcraft intersected with demographic change as well as the social and religious outlook of its Puritan inhabitants. During the opening decades of settlement when colonists were few in number and couples' childbearing capabilities were essential to the survival of the New England colonies, spouses who fell short in this regard sometimes fell victim to suspicions of witchcraft. However, as the century advanced and the population expanded, the pressure on couples to produce children shrank while anxieties over family governance grew. Thus, New Englanders increasingly envisioned witch couples as bad parents rather than failed child-bearers. Moreover, the high frequency of accusations against spouses in New England was a product of the important place marriage held in the Puritans' worldview. They viewed it as the foundation of a godly society and, as a result, commonly envisioned witchcraft as a dark alter ego of nuptial relations.


Remembering the Ladies: Eighteenth-Century Female Letter Writers and Patriarchy
Conor William Howard

This article examines how elite, white women in England and New England participated in the construction of masculinity during the long eighteenth century. In their correspondences, elite women frequently expressed their ideas about what an ideal man should be. In letters to their female friends and family members, they offered examples of men whom they thought either embodied their high ideals or who served as ideal counterexamples. In their letters to their sons and younger male relatives, these letter writers were often very direct in offering their opinions and guidance on how to be good men and good patriarchs. None of the letter writers examined in this article overtly challenged the patriarchal social order in which they lived. Rather, these privileged women championed values like attention to the home and Christian morality that enabled their elite, male kin to become successful providers, heads of households, and leaders in their communities. This was no less true in the new United States after 1783 than in England in the 1740s, suggesting a long-lived pattern of elite women's role in ensuring the continuity of patriarchal societies, even if some aspects of the ideal man did change over time.


Praying Soldiers: How Continental Soldiers Experienced Religion during the Revolutionary War, 1775–1783
Roberto Oscar Flores de Apodaca

While enduring the hardships of battle, many Revolutionary War soldiers recorded more about their personal religious lives than perhaps any other single topic. New and extreme circumstances tested the religious preconceptions of those who enlisted in ways that they had rarely encountered in civilian life. Their religion took on new importance for them as soldiers relied on it both as an interpretive lens and as a source of stability amid a chaotic war. This article examines how the exigencies of the Revolutionary War affected the religious lives of Whig soldiers across denominations and colonies. It will argue that ordinary soldiers' religious worldview caused them to interpret the war in ways distinct from that of their ministers and commanding officers, who have often overshadowed them in analyses of the Revolutionary movement. Neither wholly political nor militaristic, the war, for many soldiers, was a formative religious experience.


"Mutation in Dominion" or Revolution? The American Revolution as Seen from Papal Rome
Anna Vincenzi

This article explores the way in which the papacy and public opinion in the Papal States interpreted the American Revolution. It also considers how those interpretations evolved between the beginning of the AngloAmerican crisis and the invasion of the Papal States by the French revolutionary armies in 1798. The article shows that papal officials were not worried that the American Revolution might become the beginning of a broader wave of revolutions—of an "Age of Revolution," as historians call it today. They understood the events in America as little more than a "mutation in dominion" and an opportunity for the Holy See to obtain protections for North American Catholics' freedom of worship. Holy See views of the events in America, however, started to evolve after the outbreak of the French Revolution, which introduced a new notion of "revolution" and turned what had been papal pragmatism and flexibility into firm conservatism. By reconstructing this process, the article undermines traditional views of the eighteenth-century papacy as inherently opposed to all kinds of social and political change and as a naturally counterrevolutionary actor. It also calls into question the notion that the American Revolution marked the beginning of the "Age of Revolution."


A "Supposititious Enumeration": The Role of Population Estimates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention
Robert J. Gough

The delegates to the Federal Convention of 1787 needed to know the population of the United States in order to distribute representation. They faced problems, however, in doing so. They had only fragmentary and often outdated census estimates. Some delegates unhelpfully withheld information from their colleagues about their state's population. The legacy of the Confederation Congress influenced them to be more concerned about the relative rather than the absolute size of states' populations. For whatever reasons, the population estimates of states which circulated among them disagreed among themselves. Furthermore, skepticism about quantification remained strong, and the ability of the delegates to do numerical analysis was limited. Consequently, the population estimates they put in the Constitution were significantly revised by the Census of 1790, but because of ambiguities in the Constitution about apportionment, Congress struggled to reallocate representation. In sum, numbers were malleable agents in shaping Constitutional affairs in transactional ways, not precise yardsticks to resolve conflicts. The gradual introduction of quantification into public affairs in the late-eighteenth century, represented by the creation of the United States census, increased contentiousness rather than resolved differences. These events remind Americans in the twenty-first century that counting the nation's population has always been a difficult and contentious endeavor.