Background of the American Revolution
No one can understand the foundations of the American nation without understanding the common background and morals of the Christian sects that settled the country. Almost every Colonial child taught to read and write learned how from one of the many editions of The New England Primer with its recurrent moral aphorisms.
Woodcut from The New England Primer.
The Exhortation of Robert Smith Unto His Children, commonly Set Out In the Name of John Rogers.
Some few Days before his Death he writ the following exhortation to his Children.
Lay up his Laws within your Heart, and print them in your thought.
I leave you here a little book, for you to look upon.
That you may see your father’s face, when he is dead and gone.
Who for the hope of heavenly things while he did here remain,
Gave over all his golden years to prison and to pain.
Where I among my iron bands enclosed in the dark,
Not many days before my death, I did compose this work.
And for example to your youth, to whom I wish all good,
I send you here GOD‘s perfect truth, and seal it with my blood.
To you my heirs of earthly things, which I do leave behind,
That you may read and understand, and keep it in your mind,
That as you have been heirs of that which once shall wear away,
You also may possess that part which never shall decay.
Keep always GOD before your eyes, with all your whole intent,
Commit no sin in any wise, keep his commandements.
Abhor that arrant whore of Rome and all her blasphemies;
And drink not of her cursed cup obey not her decrees.
Give honour to your mother dear, remember well her pain,
And recompence her in her age, with the like love again.
Be always ready for her help and let her not decay.
Remember well your father all, that should have been your stay.
Give of your portion to the poor, as riches do arise,
And from the needy naked soul turn not away your eyes.
For he that doth not hear the cry of those that stand in need,
Shall cry himself and not be heard, when he does hope to speed.
If GOD hath given you increase, and blessed well your store.
Remember you are put in trust, and should relieve the poor.
Beware of foul and filthy lusts, let such things have no place,
Keep clean your vessels in the LORD, that he may you embrace.
Ye are the temples of the LORD, for you are dearly bought
And they that do defile the same, shall surely come to nought.
Be never proud by any means. Build not thy house too high,
But always have before your eyes,that you were born to die.
Defraud not him that hired is, your labour to sustain,
And pay him still without delay, his wages for his pain.
And as you would another man against you should proceed,
Do you the same to them again, if they do stand in need.
Impart your portion to the poor, in money and in meat,
And send the feeble fainting soul, of that which you do eat.
Ask council always of the wise, give ear unto the end,
And ne’er refuse the sweet rebuke of him that is thy friend.
Be always thankful to the LORD, with prayer and with praise,
Begging of him to bless your work, and to direct your ways.
Seek first I say the living GOD and always him adore,
And then be sure that he will bless your basket and your store.
And I beseech Almighty GOD replenish you with grace,
That I may meet you in the Heav’ns, and see you face to face.
And though the fire my body burns, contrary to my kind,
That I cannot enjoy your love, according to my mind.
Yet I do hope that when the Heav’ns shall vanish like a scrowl,
I shall see you in perfect shape, in body and in soul.
And that I may enjoy your love and you enjoy the land,
I do beseech the living LORD, to hold you in his hand.
Though here my body be adjudg’d in flaming fire to fry,
My soul I trust will straight ascend, to live with GOD on high.
What though this carcase smart a while, what though this life decay,
My soul I trust will be with GOD, and live with him for aye.
I know I am a sinner born, from the original,
And that I do deserve to die by my fore father’s fall
But by our Saviour, precious blood, which on the cross was spilt,
Who freely offer’d up his life, to save our souls from guilt.
I hope redemption I shall have, and all that in him trust.
When I shall see him face to face, and live among the just.
Why then should I fear Death’s grim look, since CHRIST for me did die?
For King and Cesar, rich and poor, the force of death must try.
When I am chained to the stake, and faggots gird me round,
Then pray the LORD my soul in Heav’n may be with glory crown’d.
Come welcome death, the end of fears, I am prepar’d to die,
Those earthly flames will send my soul up to the LORD on high.
Farewell my children, to the world, where you must yet remain,
The LORD of hosts be your defence, till we do meet again.
Farewell my true and loving wife, my children and my friends,
I hope in Heaven to see you all, when all things have their ends.
If you go on to serve the LORD, as you have now begun,
You shall walk safely all your days, until your life be done.
GOD grant you so to end your days, as he shall think it best,
That I may meet you in the Heav’ns where I do hope to rest.
—New England Primer, 1777.