“Question Everything”

Early eighteenth century Virginia was once dominated by the First Families of Virginia and the upper gentry, but now during the mid-eighteenth century traditional order is being challenged.  A social conflict arose when such groups such as Baptists and women’s liberation movements started to challenge the ideas of the time.  A revolution was brewing not only against Great Britain but against the social norms of the day.  America as a country today was founded on the ideas of questioning authority and the women’s and Baptists movements were the first forms of this questioning of authority.

The first example of this questioning of authority involves the Baptists.  An evangelical revitalization was taking place in the American Colonies known as The First Great Awakening.  The First Great Awakening led to changes in the way Americans viewed and

sbclogoregistered

Symbol of the Baptists.
Image – http://www.bluemountainbaptistchurch.org/clientimages/49227/sbclogoregistered.jpg

understood God, themselves and the world around them.  “The social conflict was not over the distribution of political power or of economic wealth, but over the ways of men and the ways of God.” (Isaac – 346)  The reason many farmers and their families decided to join this Baptist movement is because the converts were given an opportunity to break free from the confines of the tough life of early to mid-eighteenth century Virginia.  These converts were able to escape the “harsh realities of disease, debt, overindulgence and deprivation, violence and sudden death.” (Isaac – 353)  The Baptists above all believed in equality they addressed each other as “Brother” and Sister”, this idea of equality ultimately eliminated the class society that the gentry and the First Families of Virginia preferred.  “The tight cohesive brotherhood of the Baptists must be understood as an explicit rejection of the formalism of traditional community organization.” (Isaac – 355)  Another radical aspect of the Baptist movement was in direct contrast to the First Families of Virginia and the gentry, “was the inclusion of slaves as “brothers” and “sisters” in their close community.” (Isaac – 361)  The Baptist movement was a revolt against the traditional system but more importantly it set precedence for an effective system of values to be established and maintained within the ranks of the common folk. (Isaac – 358)

Another example of a social change and another questioning of authority movement involve the gentry daughters during the revolutionary era.  Before the Revolutionary War women of the gentry were expected to marry into the other gentry of their class.  Marriage before the war was that of an economic investment rather than an investment of love.  Gentry Fathers would push their daughters to marry into another very wealthy, influential family in order to maintain the upper-class and make sure the family would maintain its prominence.  During the revolutionary era “parents rejected the authoritarian model of child rearing in favor of one that prepared children to make their own informed moral choices.” (Kerrison – 30) This care-free attitude by parents was unheard of during the times of Robert

This treatise written by John Locke, influenced parental changes during the revolution.Image - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6b/LockeEducation1693.jpg

This treatise written by John Locke, influenced parental changes during the revolution.
Image – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6b/LockeEducation1693.jpg

“King” Carter and William Byrd II.  Daughters for the first time ever “relied on their own judgment to choose their husband; consequently, love and sexual attraction began to figure more prominently than parental preferences in the selection of a spouse.  The example above clearly shows how social movements are becoming more prominent and social norms are being questioned.

Early eighteenth century Virginia was dominated by the First Families of Virginia and the upper class gentry and their traditional class system style of order.  In the mid-eighteenth century The First Great Awakening came along and then the Baptists led an evangelical revolt against the gentry and the First Families of Virginia.  Finally, traditional gentry’s parental practices were questioned by the revolutionary era daughters who used their own judgment to make moral choices.  America as a country today was founded on the ideas of questioning authority and the women’s and Baptists movements were the first forms of this questioning of authority.

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