Polly was pregnant. Again, I should say. It seems like it was just yesterday that she gave birth to Sheila, our first born, back in 1769. Two years later the baby girl is learning to walk, and Polly and I were pleased to be parents all over again.
My name is Paul. I was 28 years old when Molly, my second child was born. Up until that time I had lived there in Massachusetts just about all my life. Back then I was a fisherman, both by choice and by birth. My folks had settled here in Boston from England when the territory was still wild, but it was a lot better in 1771. At the time, Boston was one of the biggest cities here in the American colonies, and I loved it. My pa was a fisherman and taught me the trade when I was about 9 or 10. There's a peaceful calm I get from being out on the water, hauling in fish. It provided us a great living in those days, especially due to the triangular trade that was a huge part of the economy in this part of the country. We provided the maritime goods (fish and whale oil mostly, although I had dabbled in some handling of grains in some farmland as well) that went to the old country, which shipped back manufactured goods. My cousin Betsy told me that parts of Africa and certain countries in the West Indies were in on the trade as well, and contributed rum and sugar, and slaves. But fishing was also great recreation for me. One of the acceptable forms of Puritan recreation has always been fishing (Daniels, 1991, p. 15).
I got serious with the fishing as part of the industry about five years prior to Molly's birth, when Polly and I first got married. We got married right there at the church on the corner of Grove and Chestnut. Everybody in the family, and most of our Puritan friends throughout the city, were there that day. Religion was really important in this town, and people sure took it seriously, especially after the Great Awakening a couple decades ago (Lambert, 1992, p. 185). Polly and I, however, knew we had nothing to worry about. I knew our souls were okay. We first met in church, where she was singing in the choir and I would come in to help with the Sunday school programs on the weekends. I first learned to read by attending Sunday school, and I think it's important to give back to others who might need that skill as well. After I finished with my letters, I could have gone on to Harvard -- it sure was close enough. But I prefer the peace and relative solitude of the ocean and fishing. I would hate to be cooped up in an office all day, working hard on a newspaper or some other desk job.
But my involvement in the Puritan church back there in Boston always meant a lot to me, even before I met my wife there. In a lot of ways, the Puritan church served as the social and political center of Boston in those days. My ma's brother was the pastor for a long time before his knees got bad and it was too hard for him to walk. But the values of the Puritan religion played an important part in my life, and helped to keep the town organized and relatively calm, at least a lot more so than in some other cities I had visited or heard about (Brauer, 1954, p. 103). And being their first born child -- I have a baby sister and two younger brothers -- I all but grew up in the church. I truly believe that I learned a lot of good values that have helped to make me the man I am today. Plus, in those times, the church had a huge influence on how people acted and were governed. The concepts of religious freedom that came to typify later times, were not too present in the Puritan community I grew up in. People had to pretty much adhere to the government and the rules of the church or leave.
And leave I eventually did, although many times since I've asked myself why. I know the real answer, that I had to figure out a way to make a better living for Polly, Molly, Sheila, and my little boy, Dan, who was born a year after Molly. Still, when I relocated all of us to Pennsylvania in 1762 in order to get my own land to farm on, I really did not know what I was getting into. Polly was all for it, since she heard about the success of Eliza Lucas Pinckney with her farming efforts (Coon, 1976, p. 67). The thing is my family had been around in Boston almost since the town was first founded. We had a great reputation there and a position of authority both in the church and in the surrounding community. Everyone knew us and we knew everyone else. Plus, the Puritan rules there were so clear that the morality of right and wrong was very rigid and dependable. Here in Philadelphia, however, there is so much diversity. It certainly takes some getting used to. We really do not have any family other than just us five, and I'm able to work my own land and make a pretty decent living with wheat as my predominant cash crop. But there are so many different types of people!
That is partly because Philadelphia is so big; there were more than 15,000 people here when we first moved. But as far as different nationalities go, it's a lot more than just Puritans from England, we've got Scottish, Germans, Irish, and a lot of Dutch people living here. In fact, there appears to be more Germans than Englishmen in this city at times (No author, 1995). In terms of religions there is a little bit of everybody here. The neighbors from the farm next door are Anabaptists, while most of the churches in this neighborhood are Quakers. Methodists, Jewish people, Presbyterians, and Catholics can all be found within a relatively small radius here in Philadelphia.
The good news, however, is that pretty much most everyone gets along. We even went to some of our neighbors' churches, just so as not to be rude and make them think we disregarded their invitations. But we would go on to spend the next several years of our lives here, in relative peace -- until the last couple of years, when it seems as is some of my former countrymen in England have been stirring up trouble. It is real easy to get used to this comfortable life her on the farm, with all this land and my wife and children close at hand. But I'm not too sure about the future. There have been a lot of legal issues relating to taxation, and some people are saying that a war with England is unavoidable. In 1768, there was that Massachusetts Circular Letter to the Colonial Legislatures that was complaining about the taxes levied against the colonies, and against Massachusetts, in particular (Governors of Massachusetts, 1768). Although I had already left the state at that time, one of my brothers told me all about it. Samuel, my sister's husband who managed to secure a position in the leadership of that town, even suggested that the English Crown is planning to take a more active role in the governing of that colony.
Plus, there's the question of slavery that I've been thinking about. I went to visit my cousin Betsy down south, and she showed me how some of the really big plantation owners were able to make a lot of money by using slave labor. I had read about this concept, and something does not sit right with me that these people, these Africans, are actually owned by the plantation workers. I understand they make good money with that cotton (No author, 2012), but something does not seem right about owning another human being. I just use indentured servants. I am not too sure how much that issue of slavery will affect this country. I have even heard of people giving slaves to one another for wedding gifts (Judgments and Decrees, 1773). It appears that there was more civility given towards native Americans, particularly by the Puritans who settled my homeland in Massachusetts (Thomas, 1975, p. 3)
Yet the political situation going on, particularly in Philadelphia, troubles me as well. I saw in a newspaper article the other day that the British government sent a Dr. Berkenhout as a spy here. When the officials found out, they put him in jail. I am a simple man of fishing and farming in the fields, spies and espionage does not interest me, and makes me really wonder what this country is coming to. Whatever it…