Following the colossal development of the West, the American economic and social balance point is moving inexorably towards the Mississippi, leaving New England behind. Nonetheless, According to acronymmonster, Boston always defends himself by willpower, enthusiasm, tradition. Economic demographic science predicts the day not far off, when industrial New England is to decline. Boston does not believe in that scientific myth: profound care and money in external embellishments and improvements, as if it were to progress forever; and contrasts demographic science with Christian Science, an almost new religion that reconciles the city with the favor of millions of devotees.
A well-known epigram says that Boston “more than a city is a state of mind”. It could be added that Boston, “more than a city, is the historic municipality, perhaps the largest of the historic municipalities”. Down until after the Civil War (1861-65), Boston’s story is largely American history. Boston gave the republic all the characteristic institutions, the moral spirit, the rhythm of civic life. On all national problems he pronounced his word aloud; on all the solutions he left his own particular mark. He fertilized the land of America with words and ideas and men; it generated in part the leading class that still guides the destiny of the country in all its scattered and distant centers.
The story begins in 1628, when in London John Winthrop gathers around him a group of independent Protestants, who want to find in the New World a place to live as they want. They get the famous Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company, which guarantees them almost absolute freedoms; and in 1629 twelve ships with eight hundred people departed.
From a hard, rocky, inhospitable land, the Puritans succeed in giving rise to a flourishing and prosperous city, which has a character of its own in the persistence of a very rigid Puritan spirit, which to the modern eye also ends up being ridiculous. The Puritan shepherds are extremely uncompromising, dominating city life and never doubting their judgment: white sheep, those who interpreted certain moral chapters of the New Testament as their own: black goats all the others – Anglicans, Papists, Quakers, witches and sorcerers, blasphemers, gamblers, and such endless crap. It should be noted, however, that under the ridiculous appearance, vigorous spiritual tendencies were hidden: the passionate search for a spiritual harmony that reconciled revealed faith, human intellect and practical struggle for life; and the conviction that this research was purely individual, that it was an individual obligation to do it, and that it should be done in conditions of absolute freedom. That freedom the Puritans had sought in Boston and legally entrenched in their Charter. So precisely religious intolerance: living in Boston meant accepting the contract of the Charter, and doing what Boston was doing. “Those who do not think like us” a pastor ruled, “have perfect freedom to leave, and the sooner the better”. And the “we” were then the literate shepherds who alone knew the truth; then it was the wealthy and no less Bible-educated citizens (at Harvard University), who demonstrated their superiority by earning money. Under the democratic spirit of Boston.
From the fifty years dominated by the figure of John Winthrop, head of the Puritan theocracy, it passes into a period (1684-1760) in which the English want to withdraw the charter of freedom from Boston and replace it with the direct authoritarian government of the king. Boston reacts. By folding, he does sabotage and diplomacy. The governor Andros is undoubtedly a black goat: slandered in England, he is thrown into prison by Boston. But after 1689 he is compromised: royal but colonial governor, colonial bureaucracy. In the age of the two Mather (Increase and Cotton) and of the diarist Samuel Sewall, the Puritan aristocracy will succumb to the worldly coaxing of London: it will become loyalist, monarchist, Anglophile. But under the eternal Boston rich, aristocratic (later federalist, snobbish, republican), the eternal Boston poor (that is, only well-to-do) and democratic, will be recreated. Boston which conquers Louisburg from the French (1754-55) sees the rise of the “commune”. Now people gather in churches to ask themselves whether, and to what extent, Bostonians are subjects of the distant King of England, and what good is this addiction.
These questions will have their answer in the following period (1761-1784). In these two revolutionary decades, the history of Boston coincides exactly with what is called the history of the United States. Each episode in Boston (determined by the personalities of the Adams, Hancock, Warren, Revere), has a permanent American national significance. From 1761 the struggles begin to resist the English Parliament, which imposes its taxes; in October 1768 an English garrison took up residence in Boston; in 1770 there was an open conflict between the royal troops and groups of commoners: the so-called massacre of Boston; finally, on December 16, 1773, a group of citizens disguised as Indians completely threw the cargo of tea from three ships overboard. General Guya arrives in the city with strong troops and dissolves the assembly; but in 1776 the Washington’s artillery reaches the Dorchester Heights and on March 13 the British leave the city forever. The traditional puritan aristocracy of Boston accompanies the British army in retreat, to give rise to a new people who flock to all the surrounding cities, people enriched in the maritime adventure, in agriculture, in the industries of war and peace.
If the commune of Boston is consecrated to glory in the age of the Revolution, it draws its true splendor in the three quarters of a century that follow (1785-1859). His best families then constituted true dynasties of ingenuity, culture, initiative, worldly elegance, civic and civic spirit: the Careys, the Lowells, the Curtis, the Lodges, the Ames, the Adams, the Quinceys., the Dana. This is the golden age of the port of Boston which will send its frigates, its corsairs, its fast ships (clippers) in all remote corners of the oceans. After 1940 the first steamers will preferably seek the docks of Boston (closer than New York to Europe). Meanwhile, the municipality will be liquidating its intellectual past. In the political field, the new and old aristocratic sentiment will prevail against the democratic sentiment: throughout the Jacobean Jeffersonian period of the United States, Boston will be disdainfully federalist, conservative. The cause is also local: the population is growing: the new are new and the old are old, but the old are also rich, cultured, elegant. In the religious field, the rational element, inherent in Puritanism understood as an intellectual research and now reinforced by the European Enlightenment, will triumph over the traditional element: all theological architecture, historical cosmological of Christianity will fall in front of modern thought, to superior criticism. Of the old, only God and the immortality of the soul will be preserved, but a God adapted to the needs of good society. From Freeman to Channing, from Emerson to Elliott, unititarianism will conquer Boston. the church, the school, the university (Harvard), the worldly environment. There will be reactions (Lyman Beecher), but they won’t count. In the literary and aesthetic field, Boston will predominate as sovereign over all Anglo-Saxon America. Just think of the names of: Lowell, Dana, Higginson, Ticknor, Emerson, Agassiz, Prestcott, Parkman, Longfellow, Holmes; just remember the magazines: the Anglo-Saxon America. Just think of the names of: Lowell, Dana, Higginson, Ticknor, Emerson, Agassiz, Prestcott, Parkman, Longfellow, Holmes; just remember the magazines: the North American and the Atlantic. A century earlier, the political history of the United States was the political history of Boston; now the history of American culture is the history of Bostonian culture.
Legally, the municipality ends in 1822, when Boston becomes a city (the well-known unicameral system with elective mayor). But spiritually the commune will survive the Civil War, also, like that of Independence, owned in a special way by Boston. They are the Garrisons, the Sumners, the Everettis, the Daniel Webster, the Wendell Philipps, those who will not compromise with Mezzogiorno Schiavista, who will add direct action to the words, popular tumult to the contradictory, opposing the moral question to legalism, to the national and party interest the intolerant idealism of the old Puritanism.
Boston has lost its national importance in the more recent period, but it has been a relative and not an absolute loss, due rather to the fact that other cities have grown at a faster rate. Another thing then: in New England the old Anglo-Saxon element gave way to contemporary immigration not by decadence, as they say in certain new environments, but by dispersion. The nation could not come to Boston; Boston therefore went, was called, to the nation. It is true that in Boston herself the Puritan, suffocated by new elements of very different origins, became chaste: he withdrew behind his closed doors, he no longer “gets his hands dirty” in “vulgar politics”. Boston, consequently, is now a city, simply, among other American cities: and it is a cultured and rich city.