The Little People’s View

  History is written by the educated people of society, however in colonial America times white men are often the only ones educated enough to write down the history that happens in day to day business. History is often interpreted from the point of view of these men and is rarely seen through the eyes of women and African Americans. It rarely shows how actions of other’s affect them and how they affect the colonial society around them during the Revolutionary War period.

        During the colonial America time period, fathers would often not teach their daughters to read and write as they would their sons. This would have been because a woman’s duties were seen to be domestic and not in business or government. Young women would learn this skill with their mothers, on their own, or not at all.  With this skill not as widely used by women there are less sources of times of the Revolution period.

        However, one of the most famous sources written by a young lady during the colonial revolution were the letters written between Elizabeth Jaquelin Ambler Brent Carrington, then known as Betsy Ambler, to her friend Mildred Smith. These letters showed the effects of living in a French occupied town during the Revolutionary War and these letters were to be made into a novel later in Betsy’s life. This was a new type of literature that was becoming popular by the end of the revolution. In By the Book Catherine Kerrison states, “This literature of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries prescribed modesty, meekness, compassion, affability, “courtesie”, piety, and devotion to feminine virtues (30).” However by the mid-eighteenth century literature was becoming more daring. In the letters that Betsy Ambler writes to her friend they write about another young girl by the name of Rachel Warrington.  They tell the story of this young lady by writing about her to and from each other. When the French occupied Yorktown Rachel had succumbed to the charms of the guest. This affected young Rachel in a very unfavorable way, she conceived an unwanted pregnancy, leading to an illegitimate son, cost Ms. Warrington her reputation, and ruined her chances of a marriage (Kerrison, 28).

        In 1774 women begin to assume more responsibility in their own marriages. This could be because young women began to disregard traditional advice and trusted in novels that addressed the world around them. This new literature is given the name conduct-fiction and could have also taken the form of serials and short stories.

        In colonial Williamsburg women had little voice in political matters, however they did have voice in the streets. They made

Storming the Governor's Palace. Taken by Paige Hildebrand

Storming the Governor’s Palace. Taken by Paige Hildebrand

comments during the storming of the governor’s palace and they prepared themselves for revolution. The voice of women did change in the past 150 years since women first arrived in Jamestown. Upper women were not just expected to stand there and look pretty, but were also expected to manage the household and were beginning to become more individualized as seen in Kerrison’s article.

        Much was the same for the African Americans of this time period. As they were not white free landholding males over the age of 21, they could not vote, nor hold office. As seen in colonial Williamsburg the slave population had mixed feelings about the revolution. One reason could have been because they saw this as a way to become free from their masters. A negative reason could have been they saw this as a way to ensure their servitude if the Americans lost, forever.

IMG_0808        Tensions were running high between the white and black populations on the eve of the revolution. This was because the whites thought that the blacks were also on the eve of a revolution and were going to rise up against them. If this were to have happened, the revolutionary war as we now know it would have turned out very differently. There may have been a civil war going on within another civil war and there would have been more casualties than what had already had happened.

        If the slaves would have revolted the Revolutionary War may not have even happened. The southern states would have been at war with the African slaves and the founding fathers, some who were from the south, would have not been able to push the revolutionary movement to the point where it needed to be. If the slaves had revolted leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry would have been too busy fighting their own slaves to fight the British. In fact the British may have been fighting with the colonist instead of against them. If this would have happened them the United States of America would either be a much younger country or would still be a colony of Great Britain.

The reality of the United States, however, was that African Americans were still considered property. They were not allowed to marry without permission from both masters. This was shown in colonial Williamsburg with the story of Johnny and Dolly. In order to live their lives together they were forced to have their broom jumping ceremony in secret so that the white masters would not find out and stop it. After they were married both were forced to flee from the city to escape a lashing, and perhaps an even worse punishment from the master’s. One of the punishments could have been sent away to a plantation so that the young couple could not be together.

Until the revolution, women and African Americans did not have much say in who they married, much less political matters. Most did not even know how to write with proper grammar and knew how to spell correctly. White men were the slight percentage that were educated enough to tell the story. Historians often comment that history is told through the eyes of rich white men who win wars and not through the experiences of the large percentage of people who were not rich, white, male, or winners.

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