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Expression in Early America Sharon Block Dept of History, UCI

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Presentation on theme: "Expression in Early America Sharon Block Dept of History, UCI"— Presentation transcript:

1 Expression in Early America Sharon Block Dept of History, UCI

2 Expression in Colonial America Speech v. print v. manuscript Where do we find voices preserved? Who can understand? What is Expression?

3 Workshop Outline Speaking across, between, among cultural divides Laws and Courts: Dividing society with speech Differing expressions in colonial American public and private records

4 Morning Activity! Convey the information on your piece of paper to your partner. You may not use any culturally-specific references (e.g.: sign of the cross for religion; “ok” sign with your fingers).

5 Cross-Cultural Communication Do expressions translate across cultures? “You are our Father” “You are white” Process of Naming – William Bull=Orrickh Wa Wawgah One that lays fast hold of the Chain of Friendship, One who is an Assistant in the Public Council

6 Native American Speech What is speech? – Wampum – Treaty agreements – Whose version counts? Importance of Speaking – Trained speakers, ritual – Mnemonic devices

7 British speech English Speech Leveling of Dialect “There is a greater difference in dialect between one county and another in Britain than there is between one state and another in America.” – John Witherspoon, 1781

8 African speakers Many slaves “spoke a mixed dialect between the Guinea and English.” – John Smyth, Tour of the United States, 1700s “better English is spoken by the common people, and even by the Negroes in Virginia than by the lower orders in any county of England.” – Benjamin Latrobe, 1796 Destruction of African Vocabularies

9 African Influence: Whose language is it? African influences on English – Wolof : yam, banana – OK: Mande=o ke; Wolof =waw kay – Okra, hullaballoo, buckaroo, ubuntu, etc. 93 Bantu place names in South Carolina: – Alcolu (Alakana): hope for; long for – Ashepoo (Ashipe): let him kill – Attakulla (Atuakuile): let him speak on our behalf – Booshopee (Bushipi): murder; killing

10 II. Who Speaks? Institutional Restrictions on speech – Laws – Courts Cultural practices shaping speech – Gender conventions

11 Puritan Regulation of Speech Respect parents “If any Child or Children above sixteen years old, and of competent understanding, shall curse or smite their natural Fathers or Mothers, he or they shall be put to Death” Prophaneness “whosoever shall prophanely swear or curse by the Name of God… shall be set in the stocks…” -- The Book of General Laws …of New-Plimouth (1685)

12 Racism of Expression Legal restrictions “And whereas, the having of slaves taught to write, or suffering them to be employed in writing, may be attended with great inconveniences; Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every person and persons whatsoever, who shall hereinafter teach or cause any slave or slaves to be taught, to write…shall, for every such offense, forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds current money.” -- South Carolina Statutes, 18 th century

13 Courtroom Racism No testimony against whites “the Evidence of Indian, Negro or Mulatto Slaves shall be Admitted and allowed on Tryals of such Slaves in all causes Criminal.” -- Laws of NJ, 1714 No believable testimony “many cruelties may be committed on slaves, because no white person may be present to give evidence” “Any negro or mulatto, bond or free, shall be a good witness… for or against negroes or mulattoes, bond or free… and in no other cases whatsoever.” --antebellum Virginia Laws

14 Gendering of Speech at Court Women cannot testify against husbands “But, in trials of any sort, they are not allowed to be evidence for, or against, each other, …principally because of the union of person: …if against each other, they would contradict another maxim, "nemo tenetur seipsum accusare" [no one is bound to accuse himself]. -- Commentaries on the Laws of England, Blackstone, 1770s

15 III. Private and Public Voices Whose voice gets preserved? – Historic influences – Modern influences How do historical voices vary in texts? – Public expression – Private expression

16 Public v. Private Voices We say a Virgin should in silence sit, Nor should Maids in all comp’ny shew their Wit; But marriage, tho a woman’s ne’er so young, Always gives License to a female Tongue; They covet wedlock with the same Intent, As men strive to serve in Parliament, Not thr’ the Hopes of being made more Rich, But to enjoy the Priviledge of Speech. --American Almanack (1733)

17 Deposition of Jennet Blare, 1731

18 Speech into Print Who can print? What is printed? Where is it printed? Public v. private voices

19 Case Study of Marriage "Sam's Wife provok'd him once; he broke her Crown, The Surgeon's Bill amounted to Five Pound; This Blow (she brags) has cost my Husband dear, He'll never strike more. Sam chanc'd to over-hear. Therefore before his Wife the Bill he pays, And to the Surgeon in her Hearing says: Doctor, you charge Five Pound, here e'en take Ten; My Wife may chance to want your help again. -- Poor Richard’s Almanac (1736)

20 Colonial Woman on Marriage “I was married to Asa Bailey, just after having entered my 22 nd year of my age….I met with sore disappointment – I soon found that [Asa] was naturally of a hard, uneven, rash temper, and was capable of being very unreasonable.” – Abigail Bailey, April 15, 1767

21 Two Diarists Martha Ballard, midwife Kept diary for 27 years, 10, 000 entries v. husband’s diary Willliam Byrd Virginia Planter [Handout]

22 Slander What makes words hurtful/funny?

23 Slander What were colonial insults? “thieving buggers and stupid sluts” “damn’d Whore” “common strumpet” “Old Cheating Rogue,” “a Thief and had stolen a beehive” What can we learn about colonial beliefs?

24 Freedom of Expression What is expression? Who has access to which forms of expression? How do we account for structural impacts on expression in writing/teaching history? How do different expressions reflect colonial beliefs?


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