The Early American Dream

Access to print and publication mediums, along with literacy in being able to read and write provided a narrative and also the framework to follow The Early American Dream. This access was gated by separating the ability to read, the ability to write, the right to citizenship through slavery, and many other ways that included half-hearted supported such as bible-reading at home at a time where collective individual agency and state-level politics loomed over a nascent US federal government. Having a basic education fed into the understated importance of almanacs, as these mediums retain modern day equivalents of serving as primitive social media feeds or blogs. Almanacs played an understated role in shaping The Early American Dream by providing a relatable individual viewpoint that enabled readers (predominantly white male separatists in the USA) to imprint themselves upon their perceived impression of the author in a way that fit into their busy lives as almanacs were different than books and longer than news articles. Almanacs uniquely offered a glance into what was perceived to be cultural and social ongoings of modern culture by isolated farmers and socially disoriented shopkeeps who otherwise perceived their upward mobilities to stunted without having followed along with the instructions laid out in the margins and stories found in these almanacs.

A discussion of almanacs can’t be had in the proper context without making the occult material contained so pervasively in them the primary subject of the discussion, and not the mundane astrological charts that the things are so voraciously reported to be about which they very much were not. Phrases that garnished many-a-margin instructed a reader to have a reaction to common human tendencies where it’s written, “Sloth, like Rust, consumes faster than Labour wears, while the used Key is always bright, as Poor Richard says.” (Franklin 5). Alternatively, one might be shunned from sharing their feelings on a matter where it’s written, “A Word to the Wife is enough, and Many Words won’t fill a Bushel, as Poor Richard says,” while quite literally sharing enough words to fill a bushel himself (Franklin 4). These quotes here were taken from “Father Abraham’s Speech” where Benjamin Franklin had taken nondescript quips like these and made an artistic story out of hundreds of them he collected in some seemingly primitive attempt to propagate memes.

These types of occult quips would often be written into the margins of various almanacs. These quotes can be interpreted different ways, and here my interpretation is that Franklin was writing to his audience (which he would have known to be entirely male) so as to set a narrative that it’s appropriate to seek out those who would be slothful and “correct” their situation as one would be expected to do to subordinates, and the second quote is one that’s meant to drive a husband away from his own wife in witholding conversation so that it might manifest elsewhere – possibly in one of the popular fraternal societies at the time? So many other almanacs had seemingly endless amounts of highly suggestive phrases in every available corner of their publications that were reported to be simple astrological analysis. It was directly witnessed that the people that these types of materials were imposed upon were the very same people who bore the condition of being oppressors who otherwise might’ve been perceptably benevolent people that may’ve had a very different American Dream.

Among the people who shared this perception was a freed slave, Olaudah Equiano, who documented the horrors that he and people like him endured as he wrote in his first hand narrative that, “Such a tendency has the slave-trade to debauch men’s minds, and harden them to every feeling of humanity! For I will not suppose that the dealers in slaves are born worse than other men—No; it is the fatality of this mistaken avarice, that it corrupts the milk of human kindness and turns it into gall,” in one of the most powerful paragraphs in his entire narrative (Equiano 2020). It was apparent to folks like Olaudah that there was a certain design to this paradigm of slavery that was inflicted on people who otherwise might’ve done very differently had they grown up in a world in which it wasn’t present. It’s not the focus of this essay to debate the moral ethos of a particular group of people who were clearly performing morally reprehensible actions, and it’d take substantially more evidence than can be discussed here to substantiate the claim that these documents contained instructions to perpetuate slavery. Further investigation’s also warranted of the various social perceptions of the people involved in slavery at the time by people that lived amongst them that’s outside the scope of this essay which aims only to suggest that the notion that the social purview of The Early American Dream was heavily influenced by content in these more palatable publications aimed at capturing the attention of otherwise isolated farmers and socially disoriented shopkeeps.

A supporting idea of the influence of the occult verbiage contained in almanacs is that if one were to note the relative proximity of many diaried notes as also appearing the the very same margins, possibly as a subconscious indication that the words that appeared there had much more to do with influencing the perception of The Early American Dream than may have originally been thought. As seen in the show History Detectives, it can be seen that the usage of the almanacs extended beyond simply reading as Shep Williams says on one that, “someone had apparently been using it as a diary,” when speaking of a common Ames almanac (“1775 Almanac, Exercise Records, Moon Museum” 2:20). Could it be reminiscent of the same way in which one itches a scab itches in the same location as the initial wound, the logs of mens lives ended up in the same margins that oriented them and formed their opinions so strongly in the face of such suggestive comments? People were reported to have sewed pages into these almanacs.

Benjamin Franklin was one example of an author of a popular almanac, but all founding fathers would’ve had their own “social media feed”, when not making their own, that was provided to them through almanacs. Barriers to pursuit of The Early American Dream such as basic education have since been removed, dismantled and replaced with more accessible solutions as almanacs have been since replaced with things like Tiktok and Instagram feeds that individuals use to spread their ideologies today. These mediums require no real competency to be able to write critically in order to utilize them. The accessibility is such that it’s both easier to come by, participate in, understand and contribute to than this previous exclusionary medium.

These types of social mediums historically formed the narrative that went into what ones impression of what their American Dream was. The concepts of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in being held as equals were a general tenet of daily life for people in the world and these thoughts were mirrored in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, where it’s written that, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (US 1776). This serves as an example of what The Early American Dream actually was perceived to’ve been, and it’s through a lens that was influenced by the social context offered in publications like Almanacs that people could really begin to resonate with how they were suggested to pursue these types of dreams in the way that they did.

This pursuit made no room for the majority of the population that invariably had contributions to add, but were ignored at the time. Writers such as Equiano often were met with ignorance or no regard for the engaging of their ideas or concepts, where barriers such as simple ownership of almanacs or more advanced barriers such as institutionalized racism often set an exclusionary narrative. These various forms of oppression lead to essentially torturing these Americans in the expense of pursuing The Early American Dream and as an example in his first hand testimony Equiano continues, “You stupify them with stripes, and think it necessary to keep them in a state of ignorance; and yet you assert that they are incapable of learning; that their minds are such a barren soil or moor, that culture would be lost on them; and that they come from a climate, where nature, though prodigal of her bounties in a degree unknown to yourselves, has left man alone scant and unfinished, and incapable of enjoying the treasures she has poured out for him!—An assertion at once impious and absurd.” (Equiano 2020). Here Equiano was pleading with any rational mind to weigh the perceived costs of slavery in order to pursue this early American Dream against the steep prices paid later that satisfied immediate wants of people at that time. At the time of writing this, Equiano was writing of the slavery he perceived in the Indies, but the opinion seems directed toward all institutinalized slavery.

One of the more understated aspects of The Early American Dream is that it can reasonably be said that it represented a disproportionate minority. Accounting for population numbers of white men and women who were composed of loyalists and separatists. Also accounting for slaves and freed slaves and among all of these groups there were folks that didn’t commit to a party for various reasons (separatist or loyalist), as well as the Indigenous North American inhabitants present within the future US borders at that time that numbers as low as ten percent of the people could be claimed to’ve presented that ideology that came to represent The Early American Dream. The sheer number of people that weren’t represented in the perceived Early American Dream, despite being within the boundaries of the country at that time suggests that the unified view of The Early American Dream was not possible. Therefore, the “we” discussed in the Declaration of Independence is misleading where it says, “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” (US 1776). This statement in the constitution was misleading because it was written in there, before this quote, that equality is an unalienable right that it was denied to up to 90% of the people that were there at the time. Evidence to support this statement is that since that time those same groups of people have attained equality under the exact same doctrine.

In this essay it’s shown that The Early American Dream wasn’t a unified dream because it couldn’t be representative of the full population of people at the time. It was shown that almanacs influenced the social perception of a selected class of individuals and fostered the pursuit of what the perceived Early American Dream was. It was shown that these same people were utlitized to enforce a political system that benefited folks that would produce this type of documentation based on access delineated along racial boundaries. These pieces of literature, almanacs and legislation, worked together to both instill a perception of what The Early American Dream was and also offered a framework to obtain it – at costs that were excruciatingly painful to a majority of people who came to struggle with it. This essay doesn’t claim to make a statement of what exactly The Early American Dream was, because all record of it was obliterated when only the best-portrayed wishes of a selected upper class was represented in it which allowed a perceived early American Dream to circulate without due critique of what the implications of the implied individualism and fervent work ethic actually meant in the true context of what “we” actually stood for at the time of writing the Declaration of Independence.

In conclusion, almanacs played a large role as primitive forms of social media in shaping The Early American Dream by providing the critical and relatable individual viewpoint that would become imprinted on the individual reading it. This paper had a goal of suggesting the highly suggestive content in almanac margins played a understated part in forming what was perceived to be The Early American Dream, and many other avenues came up as prospects for further research. It’s apparent that whatever The Early American Dream actually was perceived to be, it was the consequence of a minority subset of thinking men who ought to have known better. The actual early American Dream was had by up to a 90% majority of the population not originally incorporated into it, despite residing within the present day boundaries of the Unites States at the time, along with that 10%. Furthermore, there are all of North, South and Central Americas where were not within the scope of this essay that really just was intended to suggest that there really wasn’t a unified early American Dream beyond that which ended up on paper.

Works Cited

1775 Almanac, Exercise Records, Moon Museum. History Detectives, Matthew Horovitz, Episode 909, Public Broadcasting Service, 2011. https://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/video/2097342856/index.html. Accessed 20 May 2024

Equiano, Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African written by Himself.” The Project Gutenberg eBook of “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African”, by OLAUDAH EQUIANO., 07 May 2024, www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/15399/pg15399-images.html.

Franklin, Benjamin. “Father Abraham’s Speech.” Boston, G. K. Hall & Co. 1963, Internet Archive https://archive.org/details/fatherabrahamssp00franuoft/page/6/mode/2up. Accessed 20 May 2024.

US (United States). “The Declaration of Independence: Full Text.” Ushistory.Org, Independence Hall Association, www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/. Accessed 20 May 2024.

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