Quote Of The Day: Life In The 18th Century

Quote Of The Day #39

I’ve got this habit of picking up books from the local grocery store. They are very good sleep aids–reading several pages can put me to sleep much quicker than watching videos on my cell phone.

Then last week I picked up “The Loyal Son” by Daniel Mark Epstein and surprisingly it is a very well written book. I guess the reason it ends up in the grocery store here is because most of the scenes in the book happened in places around Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

And I was surprised to learn that before the Revolutionary War, Perth Amboy, which is the little town next to Edison, served as one of the capitals of the Province of New Jersey. I really can’t believe it. At the time in the 18th century, New Jersey has two capitals, one in Perth Amboy and the other in Burlington. I would have thought Newark and Princeton being the two capitals. Also why two capitals.

The book is about Ben Franklin and his son William Franklin. Apparently Ben Franklin supported the revolutionary cause while his son William supported the opposite side. In hindsight, William really backed the losing side, but at the time I guess nobody really knew who could win

Interesting Facts About The 18th Century

  • When Ben Franklin wanted to marry Deborah, he was in danger of being held liable for Deborah’s first husband’s debt. That’s really unfair, isn’t it? How come there’s a law like that?
  • Before the Revolutionary War, Pennsylvania was owned by William Penn’s family and Maryland was owned by Lord Baltimore’s family. They were the proprietors of the states and they didn’t pay property tax even though they owned big chunks of land. I guess this is what “lord” really means in English. It means no property tax. Considering how high the property tax is in New Jersey now, I can imagine how big a financial relief it is when one doesn’t have to pay it.
  • In 1753, General Edward Braddock was sent by the Crown to Pennsylvania to fight the French and the Indians, and he “had somehow risen steadily in rank without ever setting foot on any battlefield during a fight or firing a shot in anger.” He was nicknamed “Armchair General”. Isn’t this incredible?
  • I had the mistaken notion that the Revolutionary War was caused by the tax on tea and ignited by the incident of dumping tea in the Boston Harbor. However the book describes a more complicated picture. It was much more than the tax on tea or the tax on stamp. The Crown didn’t want people to form their own militia. Instead commissioned officers and soldiers were sent from Britain across the Atlantic ocean to defend all the provinces along the Atlantic coast. And such expensive military campaigns were supposed to be paid for by people living in these provinces. That’s an unbearable financial burden. No wonder Benjamin Franklin supported the revolution and too bad his son William couldn’t stand with him.
  • In those days, if people didn’t like their governors or other officials, they built effigies of them and burn the effigies. I learned the word “effigy” long time ago and I had always thought effigy is for the purpose of worship. However in this book, all these effigies were built to be burned, and not for the purpose of worshiping.
  • In those days, there were Wigmakers and Ropemakers. I guess one could make a living by making wigs or ropes.
  • Ben Franklin wrote the following reasons for supporting the Revolutionary War and I somehow feel that it echoes a little bit of what George Orwell said about the Empire he was serving:

I fear they will drag us after them in all the plundering wars their desperate circumstances, injustice and rapacity, may prompt them to undertake; and their wide wasting prodigality and profusion will devour all revenue and produce continual necessity in the midst of natural plenty. I apprehend therefore that to unite us intimately, will only be to corrupt and poison us also.

6 thoughts on “Quote Of The Day: Life In The 18th Century

    1. LOL. It is an interesting book but I am afraid that I skip about half of it. If I don’t skip, I won’t be able to read at all. Skipping is part of the fun, like flipping TV channels.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Very interesting read – quite a few things there I didn’t know, and I read a lot about that period of history, usually in the form of biographies of literary people. The “liberal elite” of Britain in the late 18th century (writers and so on) were nearly all supporters of the American cause. That sentiment is almost universal now in the UK. Even popular series like Poldark have the hero coming home from the war and saying ruefully that he was on the wrong side.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve never read books on this period before and it is actually quite interesting. I mean so many different factions in the U.S. at the time, each having their own religious doctrines Mennonite, Lutheran, Moravian, Quakers, Irish etc. I actually visited Bethlehem, the town 40 miles north of Philadelphia. It’s so old and beautiful. The wall is very very high for each of their enclosures. It is said in some of the Mennonite establishment, people were quite equal, but they were not allowed to speak. I mean textbook history is boring, but real history is fascinating.


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