Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Age of Enlightenment, Womanhood, Catharine Brown, missionaries


During the settlement era of the English colonies in North America, narratives that expressed hopefulness about the assimilation of Indians often did so through tropes of intermarriage. From William Byrd to Thomas Jefferson, writers fantasized that the most obvious, effective, and nonviolent solution to the ongoing Indian problem could have been-even should have been-intermarriage. Writers, however, seldom suggested their contemporary readers actually seize on this solution. Instead, the overwhelming majority cast such panaceas in the distant past, while a few imagined them taking place in the remote future. Almost all of them ignored actual intermarriage taking place between white men and Indian women. Although queasy about its practical applications, such writers nevertheless wrote about intermarriage, envisioned to take place between a white male colonist and an Indian "princess:' in idyllic terms. It could have brought out the best in both people, they lamented, giving rise to a revitalizing cultural and racial hybridity. This was especially appealing given some writers' concerns in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries about English deracination.