Friday, May 14, 2010

State Loyalty in Colonial America

For the American people today we find ourselves very loyal and patriotic to the United States of America. We wave our flags and sing the anthem and celebrate the greatness of this country. However, before 1865, many Americans were loyal and patriotic first to their state, something that is a bit of a foreign concept to us today.

Sure we love the state we grew up in but how many of us still live in that same state, root for the professional or collegiate teams from there, or have aspirations of one day moving away to someplace "nice". When this country was first founded the citizens that lived here found themselves apart of a unique community of individuals. With similar religious beliefs, similar jobs, and a similar economy they remained in that general situation their entire lives. It is from this close community that strong loyalty to colony or state grew.

I came across an oath for the State of Connecticut, dated 1640, which reminded me of this colonial or state loyalty that the American people once had. The very idea of of having an oath to the colony and not the country itself speaks volumes to how people felt and where their loyalties first lied. The initial sentence from the oath jumps off the page to me, "being by the Pruidence of God an inhabitant wthin the Jurisdiction of Conectecotte, doe acknowledge my selfe to be subject to the gourment thereof". It means that through God's graciousness or God's divine will one becomes a citizen of Connecticut. Such pride and honor is bestowed upon a citizen of Connecticut. By taking this oath you are agreeing to the idea that God made me a citizen of Connecticut as a privelege.

The oath also pledges "boath my Prson & estate thereunto, according to all the holsome lawes & orders that ether are or hereafter shall be there made". When one takes this oath they are not only pledging themselves to the laws of the land but also their property. Everything about yourself is pledged to the colony. Notice here and throughout the oath it never mentions mother England. At this time a Connecticut citizen would have been a British citizen. The oath speaks nothing of that connection.

This oath seeks for the individual to be apart of the community. Without their loyalty and participation in the community it will falter. It seeks for them to vote at all necessary times and pursue what is good and right for the people of Connecticut. One might have seen oaths similar to this one throughout the American colonies. It really gives one a glimpse into the mindset and interests of Colonial Americans.

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