Questions of identity – who am I? An American? English, Irish, Scot, or German? Or do I yearn for something more? How do others see me? These were surely questions that also haunted the early colonists.
Were they English? Godly or no? What denomination? Puritan? Closet Catholics? Anglican? Quakers? Were they Americans? There wasn’t really an “America” yet to be a part of. And then the pesky issue of the natives. What about class? Did that mean the same thing in the colonies as it did back in England? The legacy of the English Civil War, the attempt to usurp Queen Elizabeth I (evidently I have other ancestors who were involved in this), and then the attempt on James I (was it James I? research), plus (later) Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites. What was the position of great houses in the north of England? Durham? Northumberland? Did they side with the Prince Charlie, or the King? I have no idea.
I am increasingly fascinated with the colonial identity and mindset. Just a glance tells me that within 100 years, questions of identity – and loyalty – were foremost in many of the colonists’ minds, and many of them were ready and willing to commit treason. And a lot of people just went along to get along, hoping it would all blow over fast, trying to keep their heads down and get their crops in and praying for favorable weather and good health and praise God, the milk cow is feeling better. Working people being working people, they maybe didn’t really want to have to pick a side, or join an army and leave their fields. But I imagine it would be increasingly difficult to avoid being seen to pick a side, when neighbors watched neighbors for signs of concealed leanings. Judged your earnestness and enthusiasm for the cause. It could be awkward, and occasionally dangerous.