Holidays and History

Years ago, I wrote a short article for a local on-line newspaper, entitled “Governor Andros, Christmas and New Year’s Day.” The piece tried to provide some historical context for our holidays, and Williamsburg, where I live, is steeped in early history.

I’m not sure who read my first piece or why, but it has always bothered me that I published it without doing proper research.  I have since done quite a lot of reading about the period and have published four historical novels that rest on the facts that I’ve discovered.  While my novels don’t mention religion in history and holidays, Gov. Andros is an important character in my first, The Wealth of Jamestown.

Cover, The Wealth of Jamestown

This being New Year’s Day, I’ve decided, finally, to correct the record. Thus, this piece is a long time New Year’s resolution for me.

I never questioned the history related in my first piece. I comfortably simply repeated what historians claimed. Now, after much work, I realize that historians of the eighteenth century and earlier served the people who paid and employed them.  They arranged the facts to project the elite’s agenda. The story  about history and holidays first related about Gov. Andros, repeating these historians, was incorrect.

The Truth about Edmund Andros

My first article described Governor Andros as follows:

“Edmund Andros (1637-1714) served, at various times, as royal governor of New York, New Jersey, New England and Virginia. He descended from the feudal aristocracy, was a strong royalist with powerful connections at the king’s court in London, and one of the most reviled and despised of colonial royal governors.”

 

Sir Edmund Andros. Rhode Island State House collection.

 

Born in 1637, Edmunds Andros came from the island of Guernsey. His father, of low-level nobility, served as Bailiff of Guernsey and Marshall of Ceremonies to King Charles I. The king’s Marshall of Ceremonies, a military figure who appeared in full dress uniform, organized the ceremonial greetings for visitors to the royal court. As a result, Edmund, the eldest son, received his education in London at court along with the other children of the royal household.

The Andros family, as royalists, supported the Church of England in the English civil wars of the seventeenth century. They suffered much, as forces loyal to Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell besieged Castle Cornet where the Andros family lived on Guernsey for nine years.

The Andros Family and Oliver Cromwell

The Andros family, though not actively religious, supported the king and the king’s religion. Most importantly, they upheld the old order, with the emphasis on feudal honor and duty among respected military leaders. They opposed Cromwell not on the basis of religion, but because he radically opposed the old order.  Cromwell  replaced the king and appointed himself as Lord Protector.  He was anti-bishop, anti-Pope and anti-King. Cromwell and his rump parliament beheaded King Charles I in 1649.

Oliver Cromwell

 

In 1649-50 the Andros family escaped Cromwell’s siege. They sailed from Guernsey to Jersey and from there to Holland. In Holland, Edmund’s mother joined the court of the Queen of Bohemia, the  sister to the deposed and beheaded King Charles. Edmund’s father became part of a court in exile and his uncle served as captain of the exiled Horse Guards.

As a teenager, Edmund befriended William of Orange who lived in Holland, as well as Mary, daughter of Charles I, who William later married. William and Mary became monarchs of England after the removal of King James II by the parliament in 1689.

Edmund Andros, Colonial Magistrate

When Charles II returned to power in 1660, Edmund Andros came back to England as a member of the Royal Militia. Over the next twenty years he built a distinguished military career. Though not a university graduate, he had strong diplomatic skills and could speak several European languages, including French, German, Dutch and Danish. He conducted a number of diplomatic missions as a skilled negotiator.

In 1674, Andros’ father died, and Edmund became Bailiff of Guernsey. By then he’d married, but had no children. He became a dedicated colonial governor and administrator in Barbados, New York, and New England.  King James II knighted Andros for his work in achieving a treaty with the Indians while Andros served as governor of New York (1674 to 1681).

In 1681 colonists in New York charged Andros with financial irregularities and favoritism and he was recalled to London to stand trial.  Once home in London he didn’t stand trial and instead returned to North America with a promotion: Governor of the Dominion of New England, a territory stretching from Massachusetts to New Jersey. At the time, if he was despised by anyone, it was by Puritans loyal to the beliefs of Oliver Cromwell. In London, Edmund Andros was highly respected and honored.

History and Holidays: Governor Andros and Christmas

In 1582 Pope Gregory decreed January 1 as New Year’s Day, but the British Empire (which included the American colonies) did not accept the new calendar until 1752. So, Christmas in the British colonies remained a stand-alone holiday, though it lasted for twelve days, from December 25 through January 6.  New Year’s Day came two months later in March.

The British pursued many disputes with the Pope and Catholic monarchs of Spain and France, including not accepting the Gregorian calendar. Kings sat as heads of state and heads of religion, completely intertwining politics and religion. Royal governors took strong positions on religious issues like holiday celebrations. History and holidays form part of the backdrop to European religious warfare of the time.

The Puritans of New England disapproved of the celebration of Christmas, and banned it from Boston from 1659-1681.  Andros. as governor of New England in 1686, revoked the ban and also revoked the ban on festivities on Saturday nights.

Puritans detested Andros for these acts. In addition, he limited individual colonial legislatures to one meeting a year, and used his powers to overturn certain colonial laws and customs. After all, he was Governor of New England. not simply of the historical individual colonies. Connecticut despised him so intensely that his name is still excluded from the state’s list of colonial governors.

Overthrow of James II

In April 1689 the parliament overthrew King James II  and Andros attempted to escape New England dressed as a woman.  He was caught when someone spotted his boots beneath his dress. Once again, he was sent back to London for trial. On arrival in London, he was immediately released again, and later returned to the colonies as Governor of Virginia (1692-1698).

Andros had been a good Anglican all his life. He’d built and supported Anglican churches throughout New England, New York and the Jerseys. By the time he got to Virginia, Andros had terrible memories of dealings with the Puritans in Massachusetts.

Andros, like many others of his generation, remembered the horrors and bloodshed over differences in religion during the time of Oliver Cromwell. Andros wanted to keep religion out of politics as much as possible. For him, the defense and economic strength of the colony overrode all other issues.

After six years of peace and strong economic development Andros retired as Governor of Virginia in 1698 . He’d never used his position as governor to amass property as many other colonial governors had before him. He retired reasonably well off, but not wealthy.

Conclusions about Governor Andros

My first article stated:

“The tale of Governor Andros leaves us with a few thoughts on the New Year.  He certainly had many opportunities to succeed, but failed every time.  Was he repeatedly sent back from London to       the colonies, every time without trial, because his supporters wanted him out of London?  Did he receive the first “golden parachute” on North American soil?”

Andros died in 1714 at the age of seventy-six. Toward the end of his life, he saw the end of the war of the Spanish Succession, with the conclusion of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Over the course of that war some 400,000 people were killed in Europe.

Sir Edmund Andros, in his lifetime, had seen peace only in Virginia. He lived to see the Act of Union in 1707, which brought Scotland into the United Kingdom. He’d lived an honorable life and was recognized in death for his accomplishments.

 Andros as a Model Chief Executive

Andros was buried with honors with a marching retinue of sixty-six men each carrying a white branch light. They were followed by twenty men on horseback, and six mourning coaches, each pulled by six horses. He was buried at St. Anne’s Church in Soho, a building destroyed by the Nazi blitz of London in World War II.

Historians wonder where George Washington got the idea that he could refuse being a king and instead serve out a legally set term of office.  During Washington’s lifetime, the rest of the world consisted of monarchies and empires based on the idea of the divine right of kings.

Washington didn’t have far to go to find a model.  Edmund Andros had served as governor of Virginia. As the local chief executive, Andros codified local laws, enforced them, maintained defenses, and avoided dealing directly with issues related to religion. He allowed and didn’t interfere with holiday celebrations. He didn’t use his office to plunder, and opposed absentee land ownership.  After six years he voluntarily retired to go back to his farm in Guernsey.

 

Religion, History and Holidays: a Final Thought

“I once wanted to become an atheist, but I gave up…. They have no holidays”. (Henny Youngman).

 

Technology Changes How We Live

Back in April I wrote in this blog that technological change appears to be accompanied by old jokes.  That was six months ago, and jokes have dried up a bit. The boredom continues, but people have overcome isolation through the use of modern devices. The use of new technology changes how we live.

For example, new technology has changed our lives  by providing us with virtual education through Zoom meetings. My granddaughter before the pandemic played drums in the high school band.  The pandemic stopped that. Now she teaches younger students how to play percussion through the internet. She has two students, one eight-year-old and one about thirteen, and she has written to me about her challenges teaching drums using Zoom.

My granddaughter becomes irritated after sitting in front of a computer screen for eight hours doing high school work. She takes a break by writing me a long-hand letter that she places in an envelope, stamps and mails. I’m sure she also bangs on her drums now and then for the pleasure it gives her. I treasure her letters and they bring back old memories.

Fountain Pens Were Once New Technology

My father’s pen, coated in dark red wood, felt heavy in my hand.  An early fountain pen, its gold point wrote smoothly. My father loved doing this.  I think his pen, a gift from his parents, brought back memories of his childhood.  He loved the beautiful sleek instrument and valued it more than jewelry.

Fountain pens came with rubber inserts that carried more ink than a simple dipping, and in its day represented a great innovation, a new technology. The defective ones leaked, but fine fountain pens became works of art and style. They were favorite gifts to children, and writers used them to create wondrous long letters. Without the fountain pen, Bob Dylan might not have written the 20-page letter to an ex-girlfriend, from which he later extracted the lyrics to “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Fountain Pens Had Style

 

In response to my grand-daughter’s letter, I dragged out my old fountain pens from a box at the top of my closet.  I answered her last letter using one and it wasn’t easy.   Like shoes, fountain pens have to be used regularly to feel comfortable. Their points change shape over time and the pressure used by the writer affects how much ink is released. I wasn’t used to my own pens, and my favorite one seemed scratchy. In this case, technology (new pens) has changed my life for the better.

Nobody thinks about pens as valuable any more. Modern technology produces pens that write smoothly, are cheap and easily replaced.  Who needs fancy pens when nobody writes letters?  The old companies- Parker, Waterman, Cross- don’t exist any longer. Their brand names now belong to foreign firms that manufacture mostly in China. We communicate through smart phones and the internet.

Technology Changes Life in Unforeseen Ways

We  already can see the next revolution in how people will live.  Pens are ordinary cheap instruments, but changes in their use affects the economy. Great companies disappear when people no longer buy their products. We can’t foresee all the effects of people moving their work back into the home, and communicating electronically instead of personally or through the mail.

Ruth Goldman in her book “The Domestic Revolution” writes about the shift from wood to coal fuel in sixteenth century Elizabethan England.  The population of London grew and wood prices became exorbitant because wood had to be shipped from miles away overland. Coal could be shipped by sea from Newcastle. Britain was the first country to convert from wood to coal fuel and it happened quickly.

The switch to coal transformed the country. Since  wood wasn’t needed for fuel, forest areas were converted to agriculture. Smoke stacks with chimneys were built to vent the noxious fumes caused by coal fire.  Once tall smoke stacks were being constructed, it made sense to build larger buildings and London began to see two and three-story buildings topped by chimneys.

Coal burned hotter than wood and British industry began to develop and produce cooking utensils made of iron and brass. This laid the foundation for the Industrial Revolution hundreds of years later, based on knowledge and machinery using iron and coal.

Technology changed life dramatically. People cooked, ate and lived differently.  Coal fires stained walls and wall hangings.  Tapestries came down and wall paints were developed as well as wall papers. Coal ovens could be regulated producing a steady temperature. The use of coal-fire for cooking allowed foods to be roasted.  With the new technology, the British invented boiled puddings and kidney pies.

Coal Fire Made Possible the Baking of Steak and Kidney Pie

 

Will the Use of Virtual Communication and Technology Change How we Live Long-term?

Moving people back to home from the place of work reverses trends of the last few hundred years.  The industrial revolution began with cottage industries.  Workers in their own homes had to produce goods, without regulation of hours, working conditions and no restrictions on child labor. When factories were built, they were considered an advance in living conditions. Factories had light, heat, and were designed to produce goods efficiently.

Factories moved manufacturing out of the home and away from crafts and hand labor. Eventually abuses brought about strikes and legislation regulating conditions of work.

When we move work back to the home, we aren’t going back to the eighteenth century. We’ll expect our salaries, pensions, health care and other legislatively provided protections to continue.

Nevertheless, we’re moving back.  A house that contains workers as well as families has to be built to accommodate all the functions necessary for the people living and working in it.  Will houses be redesigned to house work spaces?  What would that kind of house look like?

If very many people work at home, will food delivery services have to improve and increase?  What will happen to food production and delivery, if restaurants stay in a state of decline? Will our stay-at-home chefs come up with brand new food ideas and how to prepare them?

What about big cities and big office buildings? Will the city of the future be simply an entertainment park where very little productive work is done? Technology changes how we live, how we eat, and how we work in unpredictable ways.

 

Technology has Already Changed How We Live and More Change is Coming

We are aware of how technology changes how we live, but we don’t see the wider picture of where we are going.

But the following describes what we are experiencing now:

  • You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach a family of four
  • Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don’t have email addresses
  • Accidentally you enter your password on the microwave
  • You haven’t played solitaire with real cards in years
  • You pull in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries.

Pirates and Law and the Development of Chocolate

 

During the Golden Age of Piracy (the early eighteenth century) royal governors treated pirates as criminals, even though no established law of the seas existed. Pirates operated outside the law, and brought prosperity, and even chocolate. Pirates when caught on land could be held in jail for ransom or executed for crimes against the king’s justice.

Ship owners, to avoid being labeled pirates and hounded by tax collectors, could pay for a charter issued by the king’s bureaucracy. They could then sail their ships for the mother country and pillage whatever other ships they could find. A pirate with a charter complied with the law. He became a privateer, and on the seas he could break all of the laws that existed on land.

Pirate Ships at Work

Pirate Ships at Work

Who Became a Pirate under the Law?

The general public saw through this and didn’t think of pirates as criminals.  If ships brought needed goods to the ports of the new world and sold them at a fair price, the pirates who sailed them became popular. Blackbeard was popular during his lifetime and remains so to this day.

Of course, if pirates didn’t pay the ransom demanded by the law established by royal bureaucrats and governors for their charters, they could sell their goods at a competitive price. They could charge less for the same goods, compared to privateers who paid the price of the charters.

In the early 1700s only people appointed by the established monarchy could become governors and bureaucrats.  Civil service exams didn’t exist. In Virginia, the House of Burgesses exercised power over local taxation, but the bureaucrats in London decided the cost of a ship’s charter for ships crossing the ocean.

Pirates operated outside the law and freely. On the seas they could make their own laws. They elected their captains and adopted a system of sharing the profits from their voyages. In this environment, pirates could enlist whole crews of ships they seized at sea as volunteers. Sailors decided to join pirate fleets for the feeling of freedom and the hopes of sharing in the ship’s profits.

Pirate captains commanded large fleets. For example, historians estimate that Blackbeard commanded a fleet of more than forty ships when he blockaded Charleston harbor in 1718. For more on this, see my book, Blackbeard’s Legacy.

 

Pirates, the Law, Science, and the Development of Chocolate

Not only sailors on rival ships joined pirate fleets. Anyone with a skill that could be used on board a ship could try to join. For example, people who wanted to see the world volunteered. A ship needed navigators, doctors, and a variety of specialists. If a ship operator planned to load agricultural products and foodstuffs, he needed a specialist or botanist to help with the selection, loading and description of the cargo’s uses.

William Hughes, a serious botanist, served on ships that plundered the Caribbean in the 1630s. Hughes was interested in the characteristics of the New World’s plants. A low ranking sailor, he manned a long boat that took sailors to shore during various raids.

Hughes used his opportunities to explore unknown coasts. He met with native peoples and took detailed notes on his discoveries. After he returned to England he published a treatise on New World botany, The American Physitian (1672). In it he included notes on sugarcane which he described as “both pleasant and profitable”.  He described lime as “excellent good against the Scurvie.”

The longest entry in Hughes’ book addressed chocolate which he described as “the American Nectar.” He included a recipe and a long list of potential ingredients. His hot chocolate recipe is discussed by Marissa Nicosia of Cooking in the Archives in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s “First Chefs” exhibition.

 

Pirates and Law: Chocolate is Still with Us

When Hughes sailed, Spain and much of Europe already drank hot chocolate.  Columbus had brought the cacao bean to Europe more than a century earlier. Hot chocolate had already become a popular drink sold from street carts and chocolate houses.

Hughes didn’t say much about his experience as a buccaneer, but returned to his profession as botanist and gardener. He ended his life working at the country estate of a noblewoman, Viscountess Conway.  In his later years, he published a book on grapevines, and later his notes on the New World.

Here is Marissa Nicosia’s plate of ingredients for hot chocolate (cocoa nibs, chopped dark chocolate, cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla, breadcrumbs, chili flakes, and milk):

Ingredients for Hot Chocolate

Jokes about Chocolate

An elderly man lay dying in his bed.

In death’s agony, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookies wafting up the stairs.

Gathering his strength, he lifted himself from his bed. He slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and, with even greater effort, forced himself down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands. With labored breath, he leaned against the door, gazing into the kitchen.

Were it not for death’s agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven: there, spread out on the kitchen table, were hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies.

Mustering one final effort, he threw himself toward the table. His aged and withered hand painstakingly made its way toward a cookie when it was suddenly smacked by a spatula.

“Stay out of those,” said his wife, “they’re for the funeral.”

 

If Bob has thirty chocolate bars, and eats 25, what does he have?

Diabetes.

 

Never eat more chocolate than you can lift.