Notes about Vacuum Domicillium: The Social
and Cultural Landscape of 17th Century New England by David Grayson
by Susan McGowan
"vacuum domicillium" our
right by reason of its vacancy and our possession
John Winthrop "It was our land
The attitudes of the early settlers showed
a. land "little to be envied"
b. Edward Johnson 1654:
This remote, rocky, barren, bushy, wild-woody
wilderness, a receptacle for lions, wolves, Bears, Foxes Rockoons,
Bags, Beavers, Otters and all kind of wild creatures, a place
never afforded by the Natives better than the flesh of a few wild
creatures and parch't Indian corn incht out with Chestnuts and
bitter Acorns, now through the mercy of Christ become a second
England for ferilness in so short a space, that is indeed the
wonder of the world
[remembering, the settlers had recently
come from England and/or Holland, both of which were practically
treeless, with very ordered, enclosed fields.]
The Puritans justified their possession
of the land on the basis of a natural right that all men "may
make use of any part of the earth, which another hath not possessed
The Puritans held the belief that the "plauge"
[plague = smallpox] which had left void many areas, was an indication
of God's plan to help the English.
For the English, the subduing and the "improvement"
of the countryside by its enclosure, cultivation, and building of
permanent buildings insured their place.
One sign of English occupation and their
sense of order the replacement of Indian place names with
those more familiar to 17th c. English.
1610s - Capt. John Smith had named the
"unsettled" region "New England"on his brief
The peopling of New England was largely
the result of the "Great Migration" of English Puritans
in the 1630's. Between 1629 and 1643 N.E.'s population was about
18,500 to 21,500. After that, only a trickle of emigrants from mother
country. They were primarily the middling sort and in family units.
The reasons for emigration from England
were complex and seem to have varied from locality to locality;
the reasons included economic ones, religious considerations, and
those of health.
The 17th century town(ships) were concentrated
along coastal areas and in major river valleys.
By 1650, New England's population was close
to 27,000 and by 1700 had reached 100,000, largely the results of
a lowered marrying age for females and a lower mortality rate for
adults and children. Average family size included 7-8 children.
The average death date for those who reached ae 21 was 70 for males
and, because of death in childbirth, 62 for women.
-- Few early town maps were made: New Englanders
had casual attitudes regarding precision of boundaries. This often
resulted in problems for 2nd and 3rd generations.. [see p. 104 Family
Increasingly, maps were made only by certain individuals (Joshua
Fisher was one of these, the "artiste" of Deerfields
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