Essay on A New England Town: the First Hundred Years

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Kenneth Lockridge, A New England Town: The First Hundred Years (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1970) Many historical texts about the American Revolution and the events leading up to it are generalized, unspecific and do not investigate the preliminary causes of the changes America underwent before the Revolution. However, A New England Town by Professor Kenneth Lockridge attempts to describe how the colonies in America developed by following the progress of a typical Puritan colonial town, Dedham, Massachusetts, from its inception in 1636 through its first one hundred years. It is Lockridge’s belief that colonial history can be better learned through thoroughly examining one specific town instead of shallowly studying many.…show more content…
In the first, Dedham’s founders strive to create the perfect covenant that will shape the town into a vision of social perfection and emphasize that “the foundation whereof is everlasting love” (5). Once a specific number of townsmen were selected by the founders and all committed to the covenant, they assigned plots of land to each of the thirty settlers and painstakingly began to create a strict, selective and flawless church. Next, the town elects selectmen who act as the judge and jury when rare conflicts arise between neighbors or citizens. Dedham was growing in population until laws involving the church became too strict, loopholes were created in communal obligation laws and influential and experienced leaders retired or passed away. The perfected balance of Dedham was slowly tipping, and decline was evident. In the following section, Dedham begins to rebuild and expand significantly. The infrequent town meetings quickly gave way to numerous, drawn-out gatherings and eventually led to a more powerful government instead of a balance between the selectmen and townsmen. Later, sections of the land grant that were left undeveloped in the town’s first fifty years were now getting developed into farmland and inhabited by townsmen looking to expand. Eventually six different divisions were created. After the towns were built in each division, churches were created, and Dedham’s valued unity was nearly nonexistent. Similarly, a subtle development of

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