The Minutemen and Their World
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The Great Awakening of the 1730’s and 1740’s greatly affected colonial society prior to the American Revolution. In Robert Gross’s novel The Minutemen and Their World these changes are stated specifically for the town of Concord. These changes are also contributed to helping lead the town to support the revolution. But, in the same sense, the American Revolution helped to remove the changes set to the town by the Great Awakening.
Concord’s population was spread out over many farms and much land around the center of the town. The families who lived far from town, sometimes called the “outlivers”, had too far to travel to the school and church in Concord to attend theses on a regular basis. This problem and the coming of the Great Awakening both pushed the dividing of opinions throughout Concord. The first issue was in 1738, when Concord was forced to fire their current minister because he drank too much. He was then succeeded by a man named Daniel Bliss. He revived the towns’ religion, more then doubling the attendance in two years. But, his way of preaching was a new way brought by the Great Awakening and he had to deal with the “old lights”, men who believed in the older ways of the church and who were against the new loud, emotional ceremonies. This was a beginning of the separation of ideas in the town.
As the church attendance grew and more citizens became interested in the church, more “outlivers” began to notice “that the Sabbath journey was long and hard.”(20) A southeastern group petitioned the General Court on this basis and in 1754 became a part of Lincoln, then a new town. Another group, a fifth of the population of Concord, had seceded from the church in 1745 and formed the West Church. This church never had a regular minister and only lasted for fourteen years. A few of the men against the Great Awakening came over to Bliss’ side but most remained bitter against the pastor, as well as the town. These issues would soon carry over to the town’s politics.
Bliss was then succeeded by a man named William Emerson. One third of the town voted against him becoming the new pastor because he was viewed as another “new light.” This was basically “a re-enactment of the divisions under Bliss.”(21) Emerson essentially inherited both the supporters and enemies the Bliss had obtained. One of these enemies was Dr. Joseph Lee. Lee fought year after year to become a part of the church but was always voted against by town members because of the ill treatment he provided to his neighbors. This conflict lasted in the town for the next six years. Concord had become a “divided town that was rapidly losing its moral center. This failure of community, at its height in the early 1770s, would pay a large role in shaping the town’s response to revolution.”
During the beginning of the revolution the town settled down. Having a common goal seemed to bring the seceded parts of town back and join Concord together against the British. Many men who had moved out of town came back to help defend it against the Redcoats invasion. But, as the war moved away from Concord, it settled back into its same routine and started battling against its own. Dr. Lee was a particularly favorable choice for retaliation. He was suspected of being a Tory, a man still with the British government. On April 23, 1775 he was seized out of his bead and taken to the farm of Thomas Barrett to be tried by the committee of correspondence for his political sins. This committee ordered Lee confined to his farm. Despite the committee urging he be left alone, soldiers fired at Lee’s house, and he had to endure snubs by the occasional passers by. This all ended at the end of the war.
At the end of the revolution, many of the men who had been citizens of the town and accused of being Tories were pardoned, including Lee who was finally let off of his property. The oneness that the town had felt during the revolution slowly helped the town fight the separation it had gained through the Great Awakening and sunk back into at its distance from the fighting. Despite the economic troubles that followed after the Revolution as the country tried to set up a stable government, Concord was able to regain the patriotic feeling it had had at the start of the Revolution. It was able to look past the petty disputes it had to deal with in its earlier days.