Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Identifying Patriotism through Archaeology

Many of our blogs since quarantining have been related to the pandemic; how the staff of the Section of Archaeology works from home, updates on lab projects, a virtual tour of publicly accessible archaeological sites around Pennsylvania, and the effects of epidemics on Native American populations in the past. The pandemic has changed much of our daily routines and forced us to examine our priorities in an effort to avoid crowds and exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Unfortunately, not all of us have chosen to follow the guidance of scientists and doctors who universally advise social distancing and above all - wearing a mask. Protesters have argued that this guidance is an infringement on personal rights - a violation of the Constitution. Some have identified masks as a political tool or a sign of weakness. The upcoming July 4th holiday- Independence Day in the United States is an opportunity for us to examine the archaeological record for evidence of the social unrest and patriotism that gave birth to our nation. The following are several examples from the City of Brotherly Love.

Philadelphia was the largest city in North America in the 18th century and home to a diverse community of European skilled laborers and professionals. The city’s location on the Delaware River and the Chesapeake Bay provided an important port for commerce in the developing Commonwealth and contributed to its role in early Colonial government. Penn’s vision for religious freedom and his Quaker beliefs placed these pacifists in the middle, as protests erupted prior to the French & Indian War. The Quaker government, known as the Provincial Council, chose to avoid conflict, despite pleas from settlers to control the Indian tribes living in the region. Virginia wanted to control lands in the Ohio River Valley for future expansion and wanted Pennsylvania to assist in removing the French from the north west corner of the Commonwealth.

An important political figure of the time was Ben Franklin. Archaeology conducted at his home and printing press yielded artifacts that supported his role as a scientist. He had many interests, including paleontology based on a mastodon tooth recovered in these excavations. This discovery links Franklin’s interest in science to the social and economic events of his time and the general dissatisfaction with the British government ruled by a king located 3000 miles away. The colonies were not dominated by the old traditions of Europe, but rather new concepts of government were emerging including democracy and self-rule. Franklin’s role as the first Postmaster and his printing of the Pennsylvania Gazette were an opportunity to spread ideas of independence and publish his experiments with electricity.

Mastadon tooth.
Credit: Philadelphia Archaeology Forum

Franklin’s role within the Provincial government increased as the tensions between colonists and Native Americans escalated. He saw a need to unite the colonies in their effort to control territories. His political cartoon Join or Die and accompanying editorial “The Disunited State” published in 1754 called for the colonies to join with the British to defeat the French and the Indians. He essentially implored us to come together to defeat our enemies or we will fail.

Join or Die.
Credit: Library of Congress

(The Benjamin Franklin History website was created by the Benjamin Franklin Historical Society as part of of the University of Massachusetts History Club )

Franklin needed to inspire the Quaker pacifists to take action and for the other colonies to take up arms in a united effort. His political cartoon was the first one published and led the way for others to push for funding and support of a militia.

Franklin had limited military experience but, with the assistance of Conrad Weiser, was instrumental in organizing the Pennsylvania Militia and was significant in his multiple roles during the French & Indian War (1756-1763). The costs of fighting a war in the Americas and around the globe during the Seven Years War took a toll on Britain’s economy. This led to multiple taxes imposed on the colonies to raise revenue. The 1765 Stamp Act was initiated to raise monies for British troops and required the purchase of stamps for all official documents. Opposition to the Act was illustrated in newspapers, political cartoons and even teapots. Fragments of teapots have been recovered at several archaeological sites in the Philadelphia area.

Stamp Act Tea Pot
Credit:  W

This remarkable punch bowl was recovered during excavations for the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. Produced in England and based on research of digitized American and British newspapers by the archaeologists, the story of this bowl was revealed. The bowl was likely produced to commemorate the launch of a new ship or to mark a voyage. The December 1, 1763 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette carried an advertisement for merchants Robert Lewis and Son, located on Front Street in Philadelphia, where they offered an assortment of goods just imported on the “Triphena, Captain Smith, from Liverpool.” It is certainly no coincidence that Captain Smith’s travels on the Triphena over the next few years regularly carried him to Liverpool, the place where the punch bowl was made, as well as Philadelphia, Charleston, and the West Indies.

Punch Bowl
Credit:  Philadelphia Archaeology Forum

The slogan Success to the Triphena on the interior of the bowl demonstrated support of the merchant trade and the dependency on trade. The Triphena also played a role in the protests of the Stamp Act by colonists. In late 1765, Captain Smith carried a notice from the merchants and traders of Philadelphia addressed to the merchants and manufacturers of Great Britain, asking assistance in pressuring Parliament to repeal the offensive act. The Act was repealed in March of 1766 but tensions between England and the colonies continued to grow, eventually leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Franklin’s appointment during the Revolutionary War to the Committee of Safety led to the installation of a series of chevaux-de- frise in the Delaware River to defend Philadelphia. The assistance of France in our efforts to defeat the British was significant in developing and engineering this line of defense to protect Fort Mifflin and Fort Mercer which were positioned south of Philadelphia. The sharp pointed tip of the chevaux-de-frise was not visible at high tide but at low tide was intended to puncture the hull or at minimum, slow the approaching British ships. Unfortunately, British forces were able to navigate through the defense and attack and defeat both forts before occupying Philadelphia in the winter of 1777.

Map of Chevaux-de-frise
Credit:  Library of Congress
Hurricane Sandy in November 2012 stirred up debris from the bottom of the Delaware River and wreaked havoc on communities. The clean-up effort by the Anchor Yacht Club of the river at Bristol, PA yielded a single cheval de fries. Their discovery of a 28’8” long oak post with the iron tip intact is the longest example recovered to date. It’s diameter tapers from 13.6” at the base to 6.2” at the tip.

Cheval-de-Frise installed at Brandywine Battlefield
Credit: PHMC
Franklin’s Committee of Safety had recognized this form of land defense as a potential method for defending Philadelphia from British forces, but they didn’t factor in loyalists who might provide the British with locational information which would allow for navigation around the obstacles. The placement of these massive logs required large wooden cribs (some 40 x 45 foot) and tons of stone to secure the posts. There were attempts to keep their installation secretive, but they couldn’t be installed without observation by loyalists. The wealthy merchants of Philadelphia stood to lose if trade between England and Philadelphia ceased. Historians suggest that between twenty and thirty percent of the citizens were loyalists (Tories) and about the same number were Quaker pacifists who were unwilling to fight. Raids by Loyalist troops on households confiscated goods intended for Washington’s troops. In 1778 the state legislature in Lancaster passed the Act of Attainder to confiscate the properties of all who joined or supported the British. When British troops fled Philadelphia at the end of June 1778, an estimated 60,000 loyalists had fled the country. British supporters still here lost their properties, many fled to Nova Scotia and African Americans who sided with the British were returned to slavery in the Caribbean.

Political divide continued to define Pennsylvania well into the 19th century and artifacts that illustrate that support or divide from England continued to be produced. This glass tumbler was recovered by archaeologists prior to the construction of Independence National Historical Park. The simple political message- LIBERTY, expresses the support of the struggles for independence. It also provides a personal connection to the German baker who lived in the house where this tumbler was recovered. His privy yielded household goods reflective of a simple lifestyle with a few upscale goods, commonly found in colonial house lots.

Credit: Philadelphia Archaeology Forum

These are just a few artifacts that illustrate Pennsylvania’s role in the development of our democracy as we know it. There are still divides amongst us ranging from rural and urban, conservative and liberal, wealthy and poor, white and non-white. Our passion for political causes and issues are at the root of who we are as a Commonwealth. Note that we are not a State, we are a Commonwealth, defined as a community formed for the common good and welfare of all. Wow- the Common Good and Welfare of All. Those are strong, meaningful words- they were in the 18th century and they still are today. As I write this blog and think about the artifacts illustrated here and the passionate causes they represented, I have to wonder what future generations will think of our artifacts that illustrate current viewpoints. Can we come together as a community and be mindful of our need to social distance and wear masks? I think we can if we can think about the determination and conviction of our forefathers in leading us to be an Independent Nation, it seems like a small sacrifice to wear a mask.

We thank you for continuing to follow our blog and hope that you’ve found this post of interest as we continue to telework at home. Keep checking our collections on the PHMC Collections page and following our blog. We thank all of you who support preservation of our past so we can share this material with you and generations to come. Enjoy our freedoms and celebrate July 4th, 2020 wisely – stay safe and healthy!

For more information, visit PAarchaeology.state.pa.us or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

No comments:

Post a Comment