The Colonial Cavalier or Southern Life before the Revolution by Maud Wilder Goodwin, illustrated by Harry Edwards
Sweethearts & Wives
News Trade & Travel
His Friends & Foes
His Man-Servants & His Maid-Servants
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Sickness & Death
Two great forces have contributed to making of the Anglo-American character. The types broadly classed in England as Puritan & Cavalier repeated themselves in the New World. On bleak Massachusetts coast the Puritan emigrants founded race as rugged as environment. Driven by force of compelling conscience from their homes they came to new land at once pilgrims & pioneers to rear altars & found homes in primeval forest. It was not freedom of worship alone they sought but their own way. They found it & kept it. Such a race produced a strong & hardy type of manhood admirable if not always lovable.
But there was another force at work moulding national character a force persistent a type intense as the Puritan’s own & its exact opposite. The men who settled Southern Colonies Virginia Maryland & the Carolinas were Cavaliers; not necessarily in blood or even in loyalty to the Stuart cause but Cavalier in sympathies in the general view of life in virtues & vices. So far as the provinces could represent the mother country Virginia & Maryland reflected the Cavaliers as Massachusetts & Connecticut reflected the Puritans.
Their settlers came impelled by no religious motives & driven by no persecution. They lacked therefore the bond of a common enthusiasm & the still stronger tie of a common antipathy. Above all they lacked the town-meeting. Separated by the necessities of plantation life they formed a series of tiny kingdoms rather than a democratic community. To the Puritan the village life of Scrooby & its like was familiar & therefore dear; but to the Southern settlers the ideal was the great estate of the English gentry whose descendants many of them were.
The term “Cavalier,” came into vogue in the struggle between Charles the First & his Parliament but the type itself was already well-developed in the reign of James & under the fostering influence of Buckingham. A great deal of energy has been wasted in the discussion as to how much of this Cavalier blood was found among the early settlers. It is enough that we know that between the coming of the first adventurers & the Restoration the number of “gentlemen” was sufficient to direct the policy of the State & color the life of its society.
When the earliest colonists left England the Cavalier was at the height of his glory. Now he represents a lost cause “and none so poor to do him reverence.” The sceptre of royal authority is shattered; society has grown dull & decorous. Even in dress the Puritan has prevailed. The people who speak of Cromwell’s followers as “Roundheads” & “Cropped Ears,” go closer cropped than they & the costume of a gentleman of to-day is uglier & gloomier than any the Puritan ever dreamed of introducing.
These concessions of the modern world make the Puritan a familiar figure as he stands out in the page of Hawthorne or on the canvas of Boughton. But the Cavalier fades into the dim & shadowy background of the past. We cannot afford to have him slip away from us so if we wish really to understand the history of our country; we must know both sides of its development.
Hitherto the real comprehension of the Colonial Cavalier has been hindered by the florid enthusiasm of the South & the critical coldness of the North. His admirers have painted him as a theatrical personage always powdered & be-ruffled fighting duels as frequently as he changed his dress living in lordly state in a baronial mansion or dancing in the brilliant halls of fashion in the season at the capital. All this is of course seen to be absurd as one comes to study the conditions under which he lived. (Continued - see Preface)