free ebooks

A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

And these were sternly punished

up the measure of its diversions. But the summer smiled upon those steadfast, earnest, rigorous citizens, and in the wild and bitter winters each household would gather about the cheerful fire in the great chimney which in some of those cottages formed the major part of the building, and find content and peace in quiet talk and in tales of the past, of the French and Indian wars, and of their ancestors, long ago, in old England. Those same great fires that were the joy of winter were also one of its troubles. Once lit, with all the difficulty attendant upon flint and steel and burnt rag, they had to be kept alight from morning till night and from night till morning. If a fire went out it was a woful business to start it again with the reluctant tinder-box. There was, indeed, another way, an easier way, of going round to a neighbor and borrowing a shovelful of hot embers wherewith to kindle the blackened hearth. But in villages built for the most part of wood this might well be regarded as a dangerous process. So the law did regard it, and to start a fire in this lazy, lounging fashion was penalized as sternly as any breach of the Sabbath or of public decorum, and these were sternly punished. Drunkenness was grimly frowned down. Only decent, God-fearing men were allowed to keep taverns, and the names of persons who had earned the reputation of intemperance were posted up in those taverns as a warning to the host that he should sell such men no liquor. In Connecticut tobacco was forbidden to any one under twenty years of age, unless on the express order of a physician. Those who were over twenty were only allowed to smoke once a day, and then not within ten miles of any dwelling.


[Sidenote: 1765--American colonial customs]

In spite of their democratic simplicity, even the New England colonists had their distinctions of rank as clearly marked as among the people of old England. The gentry dressed in one fashion; the working classes dressed in another. The family rank of students determined their places in the lists of Harvard College and Yale College. In Boston, the chief New England town, life was naturally more elaborate and more luxurious than in the country places. Ladies wore fine clothes and sought to be modish in the London manner; gentlemen made a brave show in gayly colored silks and rich laces, gold-headed canes and costly snuff-boxes. Even in Boston, however, life was simpler, quieter, and sweeter than it was across the Atlantic; there was Puritanism in its atmosphere--Puritanism and the serenity of learning, of scholarship, of study.

There was much more wealth in the province of New York; there was much more display in the southern colonies. New York was as famous for its Dutch cleanliness and its Dutch comfort as for its Dutch windmills that twirled their sails against the sky in all directions. There was store of plate and fine linen in New York cupboards. There were good things to eat and drink in New York households. Down South the gentlefolk lived as gentlefolk lived in England, with perhaps a more lavish ostentation, a more liberal hospitality. They loved horses and dogs, horse-racing and fox-hunting, dancing, music, high living, all things that added to the enjoyment of life. Their servants were their own black slaves. The great city of the South was Charleston, the third of the colonial cities. The fourth and last was Philadelphia, the "faire greene country town" of Penn's love, the last in our order, but the first in size and splendor, with its flagged sidewalks that had made it famous throughout the American continent as if it had been one of the seven wonders of the world, with its stately houses of brick and stone, its avenues of trees, its fruitful orchards and sweet-smelling gardens. The people of Philadelphia had every right to be proud of their city.

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us