A Survey of Apocryphal Visions in Late Eighteenth-Century America

    By Robert Girouard*

    DURING the two decades immediately preceding and following the American Revolution’s beginning, a small but colorful movement in American Literature was seen to make its appearance; it was the vision. It was not representative of “valid,” religious, or quietistic visions; its purpose was primarily to voice a political sentiment, explain natural phenomena, or do both.

    As a genre, the vision lacked many of the mechanical conventions found in any genre; but it did have a consistent approach and style, and a uniformity of plot and theme in its different occurrences—enough so that one might easily say that here was a form, but a brief and fleeting one, and one given rise to by the needs of the times. While research would reveal many “visions,” few of them would be of the kind described here. Indeed, so few are the examples of spurious visions that tracing their time on Earth can only be measured by finding an arbitrary beginning, and an arbitrary end-point. The eight visions discussed in this essay are not merely representative, they are about all there are, and they, in turn, are, through their own publication dates, the determinants of the limiting dates of the “age of visions”: 1769–1791.1

    Of the eight visions discussed, all but Solemn Predictions, 1787, seem to be saying something about either America’s struggle for a kinder treatment at the hands of England, or later, something about the shooting struggle, and its eventual outcome. “Gentleman of Philadelphia” is, however, often just ambiguous.

    It may seem at first peculiar that but one of the eight represents a Tory viewpoint. But, in light of the fact that these visions, at least the five concerned with the struggle for liberty, and then, independence (A Short Relation, First edition, 1769; “A Wonderful Dream,”2 1770; “The Indian Dream,” 1773; “Angel, Devil and Ghost,” 1774; and “The Swansea Vision,” 1776), were expressive of a subterranean, insurgent movement, it can be seen that they had to be cloaked somehow. Up until strong hostilities were taking place, a Tory, often a spokesman of, or related to, authority, did not have to disguise his meaning or the distress he felt about the possibility of Anglo-American severance. If he were an official spokesman, he did not have to fear retribution from the military arm of officialdom; surely, Tories were persecuted, but only after the movement for Independence came to a head. Thus, rebellious thoughts were clouded, made seemingly ambiguous, in a time when rebellion was being quashed. The five visions mentioned above appeared at a time when a minority opinion had not yet become that of the greater part of American colonials. “The Swansea Vision” seems to mark an end to surreptitious protest and point toward different forms, broadsides, satires, and the like. The visions which followed “The Swansea Vision” turned to other, more diffused and diverse topics; the movement had its life in controversy and died when controversy did the same.

    The three remaining visions (Solemn Predictions, 1787; “Gentleman of Philadelphia,” 1796; and A Surprising Dream, [1777]) differ in the ways mentioned above. They have switched their focus from the heat of the political arena to other considerations: natural phenomena, manifest destiny, and American prospects, to mention but a few.

    Of the first five, all but “A Wonderful Dream,” 1770, were first published in New England. Of the other three, two were first published in New England; A Surprising Dream, 1777 (?), is without place or publisher. Thus it may be seen that six out of eight of these visions were New England in origin; the visions may be called a New England idiom, and not without cause: of those published in that region, five were published in the greater Boston area. It need not be belabored, but Boston’s struggle was a more fiery one. The blockade brought about by the Coercive Acts of 1773–74 and the so-called Massacre of 1770, were fuel for the flames of an already volatile political atmosphere. Boston, as the center of political events, thereby became the center of commentary upon those events. Part of that commentary took the form of visions.

    As mentioned previously, there are two kinds of visions, the first being essentially a literature of revolt disguised in prophetic language, and clearly defined, as we shall see, in the conventions of format. The second type defies classification; it has some attributes of the first type but not nearly enough to be able to permit ready comparison; it is included here only for perspective.

    While it may be thought that this movement was too short-lived to merit being called a genre, what is lacking in quantity is compensated for by uniformity from work to work, and the unity of theme within each individual work. These compensations might best be expressed by calling them conventions, which in general appear in the first group of five visions rather than in the other three. These conventions, or genre-characteristics, are listed below; while all of them do not appear in all of the visions, the majority of them do, and in some cases there are instances of all of them appearing in several very similar works. We cannot know if anyone pirated his vision from an earlier one, after having read it; in fact, we will probably never know how much influence of any kind an early vision may have had on later ones. We can only assume that the soil was fertile, and that one seed grew to bear much fruit, which, while being of the same tree, was, like any real fruit, slightly different in individual cases, in size, in texture and in flavor. The mysterious Samuel Clarke may have planted the first seed, but the climate of the times nurtured it.

    Genre Characteristics

    1. 1. A man (never a woman) is awakened from his sleep or else believes, within his dream, that he has been awakened.
    2. 2. He is summoned by a spirit or by a patriarchal figure to a vista, a dreamscape filled with symbolic and mysterious happenings and people. (An alternative visitation may not include the vista; there may be merely an oral statement of the theme.)
    3. 3. The spirit, or patriarch, acting as a guide, interprets the things seen by the dreamer and answers the dreamer’s questions. This Socratic dialogue affords the author a handy device for exposition.
    4. 4. There is a theme or undercurrent of the peoples’ political discontent in the spirit’s interpretation of the dreamscape’s events. The resolution to this discontent is in the future. The spirit seems to be saying, “Abide. God will return to his people when they have returned to Him. Evildoers and oppressors will be crushed, America will be restored, and will rebuild and rise to great, new heights.”
    5. 5. American colonials are represented as a chosen people and America becomes, in the words of Moses Coit Tyler, “. . . the final rendezvous of Gog and Magog.” The chosen people will triumph over the evildoers, peace will be restored, and the New Jerusalem established in America.
    6. 6. To this Apocalyptic end, the visions employ a pseudo-biblical language, even to the point of rephrasing passages from Isaiah (all chapters), and from Jeremiah (especially 32:36 ff.).
    7. 7. The dreamer acts as a casual, dispassionate observer and recorder of the dream. By not voicing a partisan statement of his own, and by not making comments upon what he sees, he is assuring, in one more way, the safety of the author.
    8. 8. The vision is related in prose, with occasional forewords, afterwords, or interspersings of verse, but only in some of the visions.
    9. 9. There is an ambiguity and opaqueness of theme and of meaning in several visions; this lack of clarity is perhaps intended to befuddle would-be censors. (One author, Punkapog, in the “Indian Vision,” warns his reader on the last page, “N.B—Let those that read understand and beware of the locusts.”)
    10. 10. The visions are often anonymously or pseudonymously written (cf. Samuel Clarke, Punkapog, “a Gentleman in the Town of Boston,” “A Gentleman of Philadelphia,” and one with no name at all, nor any hint of the author’s true identity).
    11. 11. The visions are mostly published in the Boston area or else in other parts of New England.
    12. 12. The visions seem to range in length from eight to twenty pages.
    13. 13. The visions often react to real occurrences and to the acts of real people more than to a general state of affairs.
    14. 14. Several of the visions manipulate dates to make the vision seem more credible. E.g., “The Swansea Vision,” 1776, is presumably the first printing of a dream-vision experienced in 1734. Obviously, the vision was written and printed in 1776.
    15. 15. At the ends of the visions the author awakes and closes with a line such as: “I awoke, and knew it had been a dream.”
    16. 16. Aside from general statements, or the singling out of specific political incidents, allusions are often made to real astronomical or geological phenomena, as if to lend authenticity to the augury of the vision by linking the theme, as an interpretation of these phenomena, to the phenomena themselves, thus creating an artificial causal relationship.

    One might ask why visions were chosen as the media of political commentary. To a people whose Puritan heritage was Jehovah, prime cause and arbiter, even in day-to-day events, the Bible was still the central document of state. The Puritan theocracy also laid foundations for the belief in the American New Jerusalem, and that belief was held nowhere more highly in respect than in New England. In eighteenth-century England, where Locke’s followers had early proposed a clockwork theory of the universe, phenomena of existence were considered chance occurrences; in New England, later in the century, God was still omnipresent and omnipotent. God, and talk of God, were still around, remnants of the Puritan establishment and its institutionalized jargon: the sermon and the jeremiad. To a people still believing that New England was the latent New Jerusalem, and still believing that the wastes west of the Hudson were inhabited by Satan and his minions, the savages, the vision would be a highly acceptable genre indeed: they knew the allusions, they felt comfortable in the language, and they certainly saw no blasphemy in spuriousness. “The sound must seem an echo to the sense,” and, in the case of the spurious vision, the sense is what counted; the sound itself was an argot, the language of the Old Testament, whether the vision was believed or not. This language in itself was a convention and one we must assume was as well known to the beleaguered partisans of the Revolution as any other language. The political visions of New England of the era of Revolution were simply old jugs filled with new wines.

    The colonials had been used to hearing every man conjure God as his witness—in elections, on special occasions; why not, then, in the face of adversity? How many knights embarked on the Crusades because of a sacred mission; how many others went for adventure? And those who went for adventure need not have found their motivations irreconcilable with those whose intent came, they believed, from God’s will.

    The political visions of the 1770’s must have been interesting and provocative to their readers, if for nothing else, than for the relief they offered from the tedium of the stock political essays of the time. The visions served several functions: they aired the issues of the day; they offered safety to the writers, printers, and booksellers; and they did both in a new, original, compelling, and artful way, while still employing a mode of expression that would be accepted and understood.

    In arranging the visions, it has seemed wisest—of all the ways of arrangement possible: chronological, genre type, and so on—to discuss first Ezekiel Russell and the three works he printed, then Angel, Devil and Ghost and “Gentleman of Philadelphia,” after which follow the remaining works. While this choice of organization crosses boundaries of types, it is hoped that it will allow stylistic continuity and flow among the visions themselves as well as within the essay in its entirety.

    Visions Printed by E. Russell of Salem, Boston, and Danvers


    Ezekiel Russell 1743–1796

    Ezekiel Russell was responsible for three of the five visions (discussed in this section) being published. He published “The Indian Vision,” enlarged A Short Relation by Samuel Clarke, and published another work by Clarke, “The Swansea Vision.” As well, he reissued “Gentleman of Philadelphia” several years after its first publication elsewhere. It is only fitting, then, to examine more closely the life of a man who had so much to do with the genre in question.

    Russell’s story is an erratic one. He printed in the Boston area, in Boston proper, Danvers, and Salem. He moved about considerably, the first time, from Boston; he was driven out by angry crowds because of his Tory sympathies expressed in his journal, The Censor, in 1771. He was notorious for his publication of Loyalist pamphlets, as well.3 His first move was to Salem. With his business failing and possibly not trusting his own political judgment any longer, Russell allowed one J. Rogers, a journeyman, to start “The American Gazette or Constitutional Journal,” for him in June 1776. Russell had been successor to the Bickerstaff Almanac previously, but Rogers effected a change in editorial policy that made a former Tory a Son of Liberty within years.

    Russell was perhaps changing earlier, for it must be remembered that “The Indian Vision” was published in 1773 with a Boston colophon. This can mean one of two things: either Harriet Silvester Tapley, author of Salem Imprints, was unaware of the Punkapog vision, and therefore stated that Russell was categorically Tory until he reached Salem, or else Russell, who was not averse to tampering with publication dates, names of authors, and the texts themselves, was up to his old tricks and was attempting to whitewash himself by running off a—let us say—1776 vision with a 1773 title page date. I tend to believe that the former is more credible.

    Russell, in 1775, started an almanac, “George’s Cambridge Almanac, or the Essex Calendar,” and it ran for two years. The Salem Gazette, an earlier venture (June 1774–1775) had never been too well received, but “George’s Almanac” apparently fared better.4 In this same year, Russell began printing political broadsides, such as the famous “Bloody Butchery” or “Coffin” broadside, so named because of the left-to-right printing of banner-headline-height black coffins on the first page under the title-headline. The broadside listed Americans killed or wounded in area combat. This broadside is interesting in a study of the Russell visions, because in his vision of A Short Relation the running commentary in the footnote margins is evidently nothing more than “Bloody Butchery” reprinted, the total thereby yielding a true example of a house book.

    In the seven years that he was in Salem and Danvers, Russell also printed patriotic verse and religious pamphlets. In 1777, he had renewed the Bickerstaff series (the first in America to use illustrations) and had then moved his shop to Danvers. The year 1776 had seen the publication of “The Swansea Vision” and of A Short Relation. In 1780–81, the printer brought out an almanac in his own name, “Russell’s American Almanac.” In 1781, probably assured that he had proven himself and would no longer be persona non grata in Boston, Russell returned there, and again resumed the Bickerstaff series. The Bickerstaff series is interesting, because the frontispiece used for it was identical to that used for several of the visions, “The Swansea Vision” being one of them. One of the last works, with Russell’s imprint, that concerns us is his 1795 reprint of “Gentleman of Philadelphia.” Russell died the following year.

    The Indian Vision—1773

    This first vision under Russell’s aegis, the vision of Punkapog, is known as the “Cape-Cod Vision” but is given little or no discussion in reference material; Salem Imprints, for instance, does not mention it at all.

    The date 1773 could be spurious (cf. p. 197 above), but it seems doubtful.

    On the title page, we learn that the vision was experienced on the fourteenth of May in 1773 by “. . . Punkapog, a Native of the Land, and one of the Nichawoonock Tribe.” Punkapog is awakened in the night and sees a vista, “. . . a gathering together of the people, and . . . saw that they moved westward.”5 They are led by a man with a white rod, who brings them to a large building; Punkapog, who has followed them, is told by his guiding spirit to go in and see what lies within. He sees a tribunal of twelve just men, who, he is told, have fallen from their former just ways into injustice. There are four who seem more important than the others—a Painter, a Coaster, a Carpenter, and a Physician. The Painter was once a Glazier but finds his new occupation more satisfactory, for “. . . he could paint a man as white as snow, or as black as hell with the same brush.”6 The Carpenter is allowed to sell rum out-of-doors. The Coaster is not dwelt upon but is lumped with the other eight as being, like them, a “party man.” The Physician’s intent is not always bad; he is mostly deceived by his advisors. The Physician is “just and upright . . . it is but seldom that he is induced to do iniquity.”7 There is an interruption in the narrative when the spirit departs, only to return again and explain more fully what goes on at this tribunal.

    Punkapog and the spirit are once more at the court; the former asks the latter if these wicked men sit in judgement of the people, and the spirit answers that this is so.

    Punkapog weeps bitterly, and the spirit tells him to cease, “. . . for they have almost fulfilled the measure of their sin. . . [and]. . . they shall be scattered abroad. . . .”8 The spirit predicts that 1,275 days will see disagreement between the Physician and the Painter. Meanwhile, the tribunal stirs, and the Painter and Coaster vie for the Physician’s attention. The spirit says that “. . .the people shall suffer greatly”; and that “. . . they . . . prepare war against him [the Physician].”9

    Punkapog asks how long the wicked men shall rule the people. After 1,987 days, says the spirit, the Painter and Coaster shall be taken away from this people (N.B—not the; perhaps meaning American people, but not all those owing allegiance to the British crown). Then there shall be a great change among the people. “Then shall that prophecy be fulfilled. . . .”1 “. . . they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the house of Jacob, [italics Punkapog’s] because they have seduced my people, saying, peace, and there was no peace.”2 After the 1,987 days, the Physician will remain to rule, since there is some good in him, and he will then have holy men, not of the ilk of the Painter or Coaster, with him. The children of the latter “. . . shall bear the iniquity of their fathers until the third generation.”3

    Punkapog spies some books and asks if they are tomes of law by which the people are to be judged. The spirit answers that they are books of law, but that the perverters of the law have made it as good as none at all. One of the twelve judges even stands and asks of what good these books are, for he cannot understand them.

    The Cape-Cod Indian asks who this was that just stood up. His guide says that it is an old “. . . Rescinder from all good resolutions, a Blacksmith. . . and. . . the Coaster had got him a seat . . . in order to help him in in his evil designs. . . .”4 After the 1,987 days, he will be a useless tool (he, meaning the Rescinder). The rest will turn from their wicked ways “. . . and serve their generation with an upright heart; which days thou shalt see and rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for the promise will be performed to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham which hath been promised unto your fathers from the days of old.”5

    The spirit departs; Punkapog awakens to realize that he had been dreaming. He says, “I was then on Cape-Cod, but could find no interpretation thereof, as I was an Aboriginal Dreamer.” The last page is dated: “Mashbae [Mashpee], the 14th day of the 5th Moon.”

    These last few lines are a feeble attempt at creating authenticity. If they were not ludicrous enough, one could ask what a biblical patriarch meant when he kept referring to Punkapog’s Old Testament antecedents in words like “your fathers,” and “your anscestors.” Actually, there is little Christianity in Punkapog, who himself admits that the whole experience has bewildered him, because, after all, he is only an aboriginal dreamer. (Moses Coit Tyler reports, however, that James Adair’s 1775 “History of the American Indians” makes a lyric, albeit unconvincing, attempt to prove that Indians are the lost tribe of Israel; perhaps the spirit knows that they are and thus his acceptance of and teaching to a confused “Nichawoonock.”)

    The symbolism seems easy to explain: the Physician is George III, who is ill-advised. When his poor advisors are dispelled, he will rule more wisely; his people will no longer raise arms against him. God and good will prevail.

    As an early vision, this seems mildly warning of what could, but not of what will happen. There seems to be a moderate sentiment here, probably reflected by Russell’s midstream position, for we must remember that he was in a time of change between the poles of loyalism and libertarianism.

    As for the vision’s authorship, we cannot seriously believe that there was a Punkapog. Either Russell wrote the vision himself or the same man known as Samuel Clarke did, or else there was a third and unsuspected party, who will most probably remain unsuspected and unknown.

    The Swansea Vision—1776

    “The Swansea Vision” is one of two visions printed by Russell in 1776 (cf. note 6 for a full discussion of Samuel Clarke, the purported author of both of these). The vision discussed here first appeared under Russell’s imprint; the other, A Short Relation, has already been mentioned to be a reprint. At any rate, it is highly doubtful that there was a Samuel Clarke.

    “The Swansea Vision” attempts to establish an earlier date for the author’s experience: 1734. Russell has surely come full circle, now, for the advertising in his end-pages bears an announcement of Paine’s “Common Sense” being for sale; the content of the vision also lets us see this shift of political opinion. (Harriet Silvester Tapley seems to confuse this vision with the other Clarke vision through faulty grammatical reference.)6

    Clarke is awakened from his sleep and is told by an angelic figure, while awake in his dream, how God has raised up a People out of the See of Rome and how he then raised up a “peculiar people,” their offspring. New England will be threatened and will suffer. But her enemies will be turned away at God’s behest. However, irreligion will take hold, and more wars and chaos will follow. There will be much famine, oppression, and death. The Wilderness and the savages will be hostile. The people will again seek God, and the Gospel will be vindicated and propagated. There will be more persecutions, but the Lord will raise up his powers to help his Children. The Gospel will be even further propagated. Oppression will cease from among the chosen people. The angel bids farewell to Clarke, who wakes up to find himself in bed knowing that it was all a dream.

    The greater part of the vision is the doomsday voice of the angel, talking in the strains of the Old Testament prophets. A cursory examination of this vision might lead one to suspect that here was nothing more than an “elevation of Biblical text.” But the obverse of the frontispiece shows two groups of men: one, a small and irregular band; the other, a large, orderly file. They are on a country road, firing muskets at one another.

    Now, if we are to assume that here is a complaint registered against British harshness at Concord, Lexington, or elsewhere, it is the British who are New England’s enemies. Likewise, the People out of the See of Rome must be early Protestants, or emigrating dissenters, fleeing the Restoration’s neo-Catholicism; these are the “peculiar people,” the settlers of New England. Their offspring, the generation present to Clarke, have fallen away from the piety of the Puritan settlers; they will be persecuted until the dumb show of God’s fury for the sake of fury has played itself out. Once purged, the people will return to God and He to them. Oppression among New Englanders, the chosen people, will cease, and they can start rebuilding for the millennium.

    A Short Relation—(Russell’s edition)—1776

    This vision, another by the mysterious Mr. Clarke, comes under several titles (cf. Bibliography for printing history). It first appeared in 1769, and, by the time Russell got around to reprinting it, he was strongly partisan, taking the side of the colonials. He embellished the original, adding his broadside, “Bloody Butchery,” to it and a foreword written by himself and signed Publicola. The result was that a work originally twelve pages long increased to twenty pages. Clarke’s text is not altered in any way from the original edition of 1769. Russell added a subtitle, “The American Wonder or, the New England Vision of Night.”

    The foreword by Publicola is a wordy plea to American housewives to conserve rags for paper, due to a paper shortage (caused by the blockade of Boston, no doubt). There are some pro-Revolutionary comments and, seemingly, an apology for the necessity of using small type in part of the book—the footnote reproduction of “Bloody Butchery.” Russell’s plea is ironic in view of the fact that his foreword takes up that space that he says is so valuable that it cannot be wasted.

    The dream itself takes the following form: Clarke finds himself in bed in a trancelike state.7 He then discovers that he is on a strange road and beset by “many evils.” He hears a voice8 saying, “Woe to mortal man, for end of all flesh draws nigh.” The voice goes on to say that the time spoken of by the Angel of Revelation is at hand. “Men have corrupted their ways before the Lord, for which evil shall overspread the Lord” (sic—Land may be the word intended here; Lord is used in the 1769 edition, and Russell may just have copied the error).

    Strange men come running down the road toward Clarke, and he suddenly sees right next to him an old man, grave and white-haired. He greets the old man, receiving no answer. Pangs take hold of him “. . . as the pangs of a woman that travaileth. . . .”9 Trying again, he asks the old man what that great company of men is in the distance and which is approaching both of them. The old man finally answers, “. . . forerunner of great trouble that is coming upon New England.”1 There then follows an antiphony between the old man and a disembodied voice. The latter says, twice, “Watchman, what of the night?” The old man answers, again, twice, saying “What of the times?” The voice responds: “. . . midnight darkness is spreading itself over the face of the whole earth.”2 Distress and great anguish will follow.3

    Clarke asks what the matter is. The patriarch answers, “. . . cannot you see?” He then traces the history of God’s favoritism to New England, mentioning how God had caused the French fleet and army to be defeated at Halifax.4 Other enemies were subdued; earthquakes afflicted other parts of the world, but not New England.5

    The old man stops and raises his head to look at something. Clarke asks what it is. The old man answers that it is a great blazing star denoting great troubles for New England.6 (It must be remembered that part of this vision’s title is “. . . Remarks on the Comet which then appeared in Hemisphere.” There was a comet at the time of A Short Relations publication; cf. note 6). The troubles will spread to Old England, for the inhabitants have “. . . cast off all fear; no truth, nor justice [is] in them, for which the earth must mourn, and the inhabitants thereof languish and die out of it.”7

    Bad days are coming, says the old man, as the company of men approaches and spreads out in all directions. The guide asks Clarke if he can interpret this motion. He cannot. The old man says:

    God will send forth his judgments upon the earth, which shall spread themselves every way at once, to afflict the children of men, because they have wickedly departed from God. . .8

    . . . you see how soon they spread themselves, so God will bring his judgments upon you; inasmuch as the people of New England have rejected the counsel of God, and foolishly departed from his ways, therefore shall a curse go forth which shall destroy the wicked from the earth.9

    Clarke turns by a great mountain, which opens up. Within, he sees a fine and beautiful room. A man in that room pleads to God so that He will spare New England, crying “Holy! Holy! Holy Lord God!” His supplication is most humble; he begs God, through Christ, to “. . . remember [His] covenant with [his] people of old. . .”1 (Italics mine). The man closes with:

    O New England, New England New England—had thou known in this thy day the things that belong to thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes.2

    The split in the rock shuts up. On the next page, the last, the old man gives his parting speech.

    Friend . . . it is almost day, I must be going: But before I depart I must tell you, that you must return from whence you came, and declare to all your friends, and the neighbors round about you, what you have seen and heard, and exhort all the people to a speedy preparation: Let all, both young and old, both bond and free, rich and poor, make their request to God: For such a time is coming, that New England never saw; for the first vials of God’s wrath that is spoken of in Revelations, will be poured out very soon upon the earth; such sore Judgments and calamities New England never saw before;

    Clarke, on the same page, says,

    With that such bitter lamentation was heard around me, that would almost melt the heart of a stone; such lamentations and bitter cries put me beyond myself: I stood amazed, but I heard a voice crying, “How Long, O Lord! How long shall thy anger burn against thy people? How long shall these things be so?”! I awoke and it was a DREAM.

    Both the first and Russell’s editions of A Short Relation end with the following poem, after the signature “S. Clarke.”

    You virgins all to you I call. What oil

    have you in store?

    If you have none, you are undone: O look to

    it therefore.

    You have the shell, but no curnell—the chaff

    but not the wheat;

    The husk you take and do forsake,—your

    soul’s most precious meat.

    There is a problem in interpretation with this vision. The first edition of 1769 seems moderate and, peculiarly, could be read as a Tory document which urges the Americans to repent of their sins against Britain and her authority before there is resulting devastation and chaos. This vision is more sincerely religious than any of the others and may have been written by a minister.

    On the other hand, if Russell was able to make A Short Relation pro-Revolutionary by the artifice of his house-book montage of the vision, Publicola’s foreword, and “Bloody Butchery,” then the problem seems to be merely that politics is secondary in this vision. If we look for a clear political statement, we are confronted with ambiguity, and this is perhaps due to the vision’s primary role, as evidenced by the verse at the end—to bring the people, during a time of stress, back to God and the old ways.

    In A Short Relation (First edition), Samuel Clarke has placed an afterword; in Russell’s edition, the afterword is run off as soon as “Bloody Butchery” ends, in the margins. The personal message from Clarke is a tortured one, the writings of a man who says he has been bedridden for some thirty years. His tale is one of guilt, lost faith, melancholy, and depression because of his unhappy lot and faith restored. He remarks upon the evil prevalent in New England and how God’s wrath will come to those who fail to obey God’s laws. The sentiment, whether real or forged, is that of a fanatic.

    Real or forged, the primary concern is theological. Political considerations are subjugated but are nevertheless present, in innuendo if not in direct statement. Ezekiel Russell was very gifted in the art of innuendoes, and, as is readily visible here, in giving life and form to them.


    Angel, Devil and Ghost, 1774

    This dream-vision is the most monumental of them all. It is viciously anti-Tory, and makes that fact clear in acidic footnote commentary on the naivete of the anonymous narrator, a man who is informed by the three spirits who visit him that he has hurt, not helped, the American cause. The foreword is signed S.W. (cf. discussion of Samuel Clarke in notes), and that is the only hint of authorship. The foreword tries to establish authenticity by mentioning several names; they are of people who will act as character references for the author. The names are incomplete, however, only first letters or a part of the letters being given.

    S. W. is disturbed on the first night of his three-night vision by strange, but harmonious sounds. He has been with friends and thinks, perhaps like Scrooge, that his digestion has affected his imagination. Finally, he goes to sleep at midnight. There is a violent rap on his window at two; his candle burns more brightly, and his first visitor, an angel, appears before him, carrying a sword in one hand and scales in the other. S. W. asks the angel what he wants, and whence he has come. The visitor doesn’t answer but sits down.

    At last, while he is dressing, the angel addresses him, saying that he was sent to acquaint all “such miscreants—such public robbers . . .”3 with the wrongness of their ways.

    Heaven beholds . . . such . . . with ineffable contempt: And unless prevented by a speedy repentance, and restitution . . . made to the many hundreds who are now groaning under the weight of that oppression that you have been instrumental in bringing upon them, you may expect . . . to meet with the severest punishment, if not in this, in the future state, the hottest place in hell being reserved for all those who have proved themselves TRAYTORS to their KING and COUNTRY.4

    The angel seems to be “setting up” the author with these charges of disloyalty, because the author certainly believes himself a patriot in the traditional sense. The other spirits are not so ironic and are less indirect. The angel’s statement seems designed to make S. W. think and sweat a little.

    The angel, after all, has admitted that he is only a harbinger of other visitations. The next visitor will be the devil.

    When S. W. awakes, he decides not to tell family or friends about the dream he had. Having a permission card from the British, he is able to go for a walk around the Common. He has a conversation with an officer whom he meets and tries to bring up the subject of the strange noises of the night before. The officer, who has been on watch, is sure that there were no noises. Troubled, the author returns home after refusing an invitation to dine with a Colonel————————. Letting no one in the household know what has happened, he retires to his room

    . . . and spent my time in reading over the late acts of parliament respecting this government. Upon the most critical observation, I could not discover by either of them that the parliament had any design of distressing the people of America; they only meant to correct the errors [italics S. W.’s] and rectify the behavior of a few.5

    The footnote commentary on this Candide-like simplicity is, “Had he not been politically blind, he must have seen that these acts were calculated on purpose to distress us, for he has been himself an eye-witness of the distresses that have come upon many people by the operation of the Port Bill.”6

    S. W. continues, calling the Revolutionary movement one composed of

    . . . factious and disobedient individuals, who have trampled upon all law and government, and therefore it became absolutely necessary for the Supreme Legislature of the nation to put a final period to such abominable enormities as have been committed by those Sons of Violence.7 [Italics S. W.’s; wordplay on Sons of Liberty is intended]

    The footnote commentator responds to these words with a poem called “Oh! Britain.” The poem hopes that the “Fatal Acts” will be repealed; there is wordplay on “Acts,” for the line reads

    And soon, ah! soon, these Fatal Acts repent.8

    The commentator still seems to be in that middle stage of sentiment mentioned by Tyler, for one line of the poem reads

    Briton. American, ’tis all the same . . .9

    At four, S. W. drinks two glasses of Madeira (which he states is but one fifth his normal consumption. Not only is he set up as a fool but also as a drunkard). Finally, after having tried to read, the author goes to bed, his family thinking him ill. He is unable to sleep for six hours due to his agitation. At 12:30 a.m., his candle goes out, and a cry rings out. Satan appears, bearing a folio volume and a halter.

    Readers are warned in a footnote that in this instance, Satan is acting less wily and more human than usual. His role seems to be that of a specialist called in for a consultation by the angel. He asks S. W. how he got to be such an enemy of his country. The gentleman, astonished, answers that he is one of his country’s best friends. Satan asks, “What do you call friendship to your country?”1 S. W. says that it consists of anything within his power capable of promoting its welfare. The devil asks what of this order he has done. The gentleman explains that ten years earlier he had written, and had others write, to members of the House of Commons in England to get an act passed [“In regard to taxes, I imagine.” Footnote] whereby Americans would be on an equal footing with Britons.2

    Parliament, in its wisdom, passed the act in 1765. (A footnote questions the wisdom of this legislation, in view of what came to pass in America afterwards.) After all, continues S. W., Britons are taxed for almost everything, as they should be; otherwise, those above the “common level of mankind” could not be supported in the splendor and magnificence so necessary to the well-being of the state. The colonists had been exempt before, but now that they are opulent, it is their turn to pay the piper, and that is the purpose of the Stamp Act—to make sure that they do.

    Continuing his defense of the Stamp Act, S. W. says how astonished and shocked he had been at the reception given the act by the colonials. He calls the act a righteous one and those who opposed it hotheads. The devil asks for more examples of such “patriotism.” The gentleman, calling Satan “your worship,” and “your majesty,” traces the history of the I 767 Acts (Townshend) and tells how, after the Boston Tea Party, he made a plea to Bostonians to make restitution for the lost cargo. (The footnote gleefully says that Indians dumped the tea, after other means had failed.) Restitution was not made, and Parliament shut up the Port of Boston. S. W. goes on to defend the justice of the Intolerable Acts, citing the necessity for submissiveness to superiors.

    Even the devil is shocked and tells the author that his politics won’t do; he is his country’s enemy, a “parracide.” Only hell awaits such as you, says the devil, unless you change your ways. He disappears.

    On the third night, the apparition is the ghost of one of S. W.’s ancestors. The ghost is in a long white gown, and his hair is dishevelled. The spectre tells S. W. that his ancestors left the persecution of England to work hard and suffer much deprivation so as to build the new nation.

    Heaven forbid that their children should give up the dear-bought inheritance . . . which cost . . . so much blood and treasure.3

    Now is the time they are in a peculiar manner called forth to exert themselves in the defence of their liberties and properties, which were transmitted to them by us, their predecessors, and which they ought to maintain and transmit to their posterity inviolate, even at the hazard of their lives and fortunes.4 [Italics are ghost’s]

    In the opinion of the ghost, S. W. has denied his birthright, his honor, his countrymen, and his history. God will punish S. W., the ghost says, upon which the author confesses the truth of the charge. The ghost demands public confession of some sort (the published vision is thus given authenticity), the making of restitution, and the asking of God’s pardon. He vanishes.

    Alone, the gentleman feels the weight of his sins and desires fervently to once more become an honest man. In conclusion, there is a poem describing the tortures of hell; the poem is in iambic pentameter, rhyme scheme a-a-b-b. It is of no particular significance.

    This vision is the clearest of all in many ways—in theme as well as in style. The essence is still religio-political, but for once the politics comes strongly to the fore. The religious aspects are sublimated by their incidental nature and by the fact that Satan is made less awesome than the herald angel. The language is markedly non-biblical, and there are evidences of attempts at humor, an element lacking in the other visions, e.g., in the footnote commentary (and most likely written by the purported author, S. W., himself), and in isolated incidents, such as at the time of the angel’s arrival when S. W. asks him to have a seat after he has already seated himself, and during the devil’s visitation, in the way by which S. W. addresses his visitor. Other attempts at humor include puns and other wordplay.

    “Gentleman of Philadelphia”—1796

    This short vision, bound together with the “Vision of Nathan Culver,” was originally published in 1793. It was reprinted by E. Russell in 1795; the Culver vision is one of the so-called non-spurious visions which are not under consideration here.

    The second work begins on page twelve, leaving only four pages to work in. The author is only indicated by the end-initials, B. W.

    Awakened from his sleep, B. W. is carried to a high mountain from which he can see all of the American states. His guide is a venerable old gentleman, wearing a black coat, being of placid demeanor, and having white hair and a beard like that of the biblical Aaron.

    The old man says, “I am one of those; who, to escape tyranny, fled Great-Britain about 160 years ago. . . .”5 He tells the narrator that he is appearing as a mortal so as not to frighten him and says that he is a messenger.

    He begins his message: the first generation in New England was composed of good men who underwent great hardships, “. . . that they might enjoy the rights of men and of christians [sic], and hand them down unimpaired to succeeding posterity.”6 The next generation begins to forget God; the generation present to the vision is corrupt.

    The old man explains how his knowledge of things stems from his familiarity with cosmology. He sees vengeance in store for the sinful people of America, in punishment for their wickedness. A voice, as of 1000’s or ten 1000’s booms out: “The Lord reigneth, let he [sic] people tremble. He is great in Zion and high above all people.”7

    Satan will be loosed by God for a season, often to infiltrate high offices and places, causing great confusion and turmoil, and “. . . a far higher degree of suffering than . . . ever yet felt. . . from the utmost efforts of the whole British army.”8 But this will be only for a while; God will not cast off his people forever. He will eventually show mercy, after due chastisement, and then send salvation to his people.

    The next generation will imitate “the faith, the piety, and virtuous patriotic temper and conduct of the first fathers. . . .”9 America will be honored and courted by all of the European nations. Americans will “. . . be the protectors, under God of all that are tyranised over by the despots of the world.”1

    The author awakes to find himself in bed.

    It is interesting to hypothesize the cause of the writing of this vision; surely, there is present in it a strong religious plea. But there are lines and phrases, here and there, that point at politics: “virtuous patriotic temper,” “rights of men,” and Satan loose in high places. Much had happened in America and the world since 1776. By 1793, the French Revolution had already taken place; the Rights of Man had been set down. Burke, and others, sounded the warning that immoderation was afoot in France. The events in France worried Americans, especially the French decree in 1793 of a war against all kings by all peoples. The year 1793 was crucial for other reasons: it was the year of Washington’s second inauguration, the year France declared War on England and Spain, and, for that reason, the year in which American sympathies were torn. It was also the year when discrete parties were beginning to crystallize on this continent.

    The unrest of the times called for a new sentiment of strength through-piety, along with political conservatism, or at least moderation. B. W. might be pleading for a renewal of the old Puritan Covenant, insuring the Rights of Man, but within the matrix of the laws of God. But we can hardly tell from such flimsy and extraneous historical evidence, never really alluded to, that there is a political intent here. It must be noted that this vision is one of the three considerably out of phase enough with the other five that they must be viewed in a different light. The vision here is not one of the Revolution; it is more one of rededication to God. It was included here because it outwardly manifests characteristics of the visions already discussed. Thematically, it is only a distant cousin, and any attempt to find political statements will end in the conjecture exemplified above.

    However, while “Gentleman of Philadelphia” has the style, but not the content of the political visions, the following political vision is extraordinary because of its almost total lack of the traits by which its fellow visions are known. In fact, “Gentleman of Philadelphia” seems more like any kind of vision, let alone the arbitrary definition of one, given here, than the next item, A Wonderful Dream.

    A Wonderful Dream—1770

    A Wonderful Dream, attributed to B. Nicoll, is unique for several reasons. First, it is the only Tory vision represented; secondly, by the reckoning of time, and because of its political nature, it must be grouped with the other “political” visions; however, and thirdly, it is not at all similar in format, as has been stated, to these same political visions.

    Most probably a two-page broadside in its original form, the dream purports to be a letter written to a “Mr. Gaine,” telling him of a dream of things to come in 1775. The dream, rather than transporting the dreamer to a dreamscape, only allowed him the privilege of seeing headlines and stories in a newspaper of the future, the New York Gazette of 20 May 1775. The dream is supposed to have been dreamed twenty years earlier, a fact about as believable as Samuel Clarke’s having dreamed the “Swansea Vision” in I 734.

    Before getting into the actual text of his visionary newspaper, the author says,

    I dreamed, that there had been a Revolution in England; that another Lord Protector had usurped the Throne: That all Laws and Customs were entirely changed, and every thing model’d and put upon the same Footing as they were, in the Days of OLIVER CROMWELL, whose Laws were revived and reprinted; in Consequence whereof, Independency was established, and Bishop’s Lands, Tythes, and other ecclesiastical Revenues, were invested in the new Clergy; that the Act of Toleration was repealed, and Presbytery and independency, were; by Proclamation declared to be synonymous Terms; and that we had been under a protectoral Government four Years, in this Province; and the Governments of New-York and Connecticut were united.

    While these visionary ideas were disturbing my natural Repose, I dreamed, that I heard the Printer’s Man, crying the New-York Gazette, of whom (as I was ever desirous of knowing the worst of Things,) I purchased one, which made such a strong Impression on my Mind, that I perfectly remember the contents yet; which are as follows. [Italics Nicoll’s]

    The Revolution that the author envisions has caused much trouble, especially concerning civil liberties, and, particular among them, religious liberties. There is a rundown of regional and international news. In London, the Lord Protector has issued a proclamation forbidding any other form of worship than that established by the laws accompanying his accession. In New Haven, two Yale students have been expelled from studies because they deigned to go to church, something which had been forbidden there since the new order. In Ashford, “John Faithful an Old Man of the Church of England, aged 85 was severely whipped 20 stripes, for being so obstinate as to neglect and refuse to go to the Meeting. . . .”

    There are similar reports of the same kind of persecution occurring throughout America. Many churches, other than those affiliated with the new regime, are being forced to disband. Minority groups are forced to emigrate.

    A commencement is reported, with a partial list of theses, in Latin and English titles; end-to-end, the theses make one long piece of faulty logic which the author seems to be satirizing while pointing out the dangers inherent to radicalism.

    1. 1. All Authority . . . is derived from the People.
    2. 2. A King that does not act according to the Will of the People is a Tyrant.
    3. 3. All such Kings are to be beheaded.
    4. 4. The Independent Form of Church Government, was from all Eternity.
    5. 5. Episcopacy is no more of divine Right than Geography.
    6. 6. Heretics are to be utterly extirpated.
    7. 7. Whoever contradicts the Opinion of our Associations, is a Heretic, and therefore to be extirpated.
    8. 8. The Athanasian Creed contradicts right Reason. ERGO
    9. 9. There is no such Trinity. . . .

    The Gazette continues with legislation enacted that will further limit minority religions, allow for the building of enforced-worship meetinghouses, and remove certain prayers, creeds and rituals from the people’s hands (e.g., an act has been issued declaring the Lord’s Prayer non-divine, and, therefore, taboo). A catalogue of books offered for sale by the newspaper’s printer lists such titles as: Democracy, i.e. Anarchy, the only Christian Government; Christmas, New Year, Easter &c contrary to true Christianity; and A Sermon setting forth the glorious Merit of murdering Kings.

    While the author is highly involved with religious problems, they appear to be symptomatic of a general political malaise. Nicoll seems to be saying, “All right, you want to overthrow the Church of England and institute ‘Democracy.’ Here is what could happen if that were done: one immoderate act would lead to another, all authority would be replaced, all institutions turned topsy-turvy; the result would be brutality, perversion of natural and divine law. All religions would suffer, not only the High Churches and their members. There would be senseless persecution, warped education, and government even more tyrannical than that which had been supplanted.”

    To express these thoughts, the author has enclosed them in the indirect statements of his vision-journal; he is vituperative and extremely satirical but lacks the clarity of focus, by his medium, upon his true theme. This roughness of delivery, in the means employed, is further injured by one salient fact: it is never really made clear which of the following is the true state of affairs in the futuristic chaos he envisions. Are England and America still ruled jointly, under a protectorate; or are they separated, but ruled similarly; or are they still ruled jointly, but with America procreating the new anarchy (she has learned from an English revolution) as evidenced by her collegians’ desires to do away with the monarchy? The meaning is garbled on this score, but it seems most likely that the last possibility would make the best interpretation. This issue is vital in that the reader of today cannot tell very consistently where the blame is attributed for the horrid state of civil affairs. Is it America or England being chastised, the latter for her leniency and lack of watchfulness, or the former, for her egalitarian tendencies? We cannot tell but can definitely be sure that the author supports the old lines of authority in Church and state, implying that they are more humane and enlightened than the unknown quantity of what might come out of popular insurrection.

    A Surprising Dream—[1777]

    This peculiar one-page work, published with another page bearing a satirical account of the exploits of General Burgoyne, consists of a poem in iambic pentameter. The poem is a vision of Doomsday, Colossi, and an archangel. The meaning throughout is highly unclear, and the syntax thick and opaque. It is hard to classify this work by any standards; it is most probably only a filler written to complete the space left in the righthand side of the page. As a vision, it can neither be called significant nor can it in any way represent “valid” religious visions or spurious, political visions, except for the lines

    Chief captains, potentates and mighty men,

     . . . . . . [4 ll.]. . . . . . .

    Now feel the living worms gnawing within.

    One theory to explain this vision of doom is that it might very well be a warning to the British that they are doomed to defeat and that only death awaits them.

    At any rate, this vision should be consulted for its curiosity and not because it is in any way definitive or representative. Its inclusion here is only justified by this author’s desire to present a variety of forms in, and related to, the vision.

    Solemn Predictions—1787

    This last vision considers natural phenomena and their supernatural effects. Samuel Elsworth, “Professor of Astronomy,” is the author; in his foreword, he goes into much pseudoscientific (mostly astrological) jargon about the appearances in the heavens seen by inhabitants of New England. Elsworth sees troubles for America, brought about by a comet and by eclipses. Aside from diseases and natural disasters, civil disorder will also prevail.

    . . . several parts of America will suffer great disorders on the account of the expensiveness of law. . . Factious men will find much fault with the leaders or commanders of the states.2

    Elsworth continues to say how certain celestial configurations show war in store for France and that war will be on the seas. An eclipse will greatly affect North America

    . . . with quarrels and contentions of a warlike nature, the savages of different tribes will be induced to make inroads upon our frontiers, laying waste many of our towns, villages and new plantations, which will for a time hinder the extension of the line of jurisdiction of the United States . . . the United States of America will be troubled with intestine jars, and domestic quarrels, and contentions of every kind, even to destroying the ties of friendship,3 and dissolving the bonds of love . . . to the utter ruin of families. . . . designing knaves. . . will persuade the unthinking to rise in opposition to government, despising rulers, magistrates and Judges . . . Ministers of the . . . gospel will be contemned and despised for a limited time, but the earth is the Lord’s, who is able to bring order out of confusion. . .

    These things and many more are the natural predictions of the planetary system, but as the Lord commanded nature in the days of Joshua, for the good of his people, so may it please him to order times and seasons for the good of his American Israel.4

    There are many echoes here of the political visions of the 1770’s—the American Israel, the time of God’s testing of his people, the rise of evil, the gospel in jeopardy, etc.—but there is a great difference in this vision. For one thing, the astronomical events that lead to the predictions, did occur.5 Secondly, the vision itself is in verse (twenty-four four-line stanzas), iambic tetrameter, rhymed a-a-b-b.

    The vision itself starts didactically enough but then slips into an account of the strange sights seen in the sky by people of New England, for the most part west of the Connecticut River. The sights are accompanied by earthquakes and booming sounds, presumably demonstrating

    The wonders of our threaten’d land,

    Bespeak the Lord Jehova’s hand,

    And shew if we believe his word,

    The second coming of the Lord.6

    The author is most probably serious in his intention here. An attempt could be made to link Shays’s Rebellion to this vision, and that would explain the mysterious rumblings throughout New England. (Shays escaped to Vermont after his debacle; N.B. that Elsworth is writing in Vermont, in the same year, 1787.) And while there was fighting and mob-action at this time throughout Middlesex and several western Massachusetts counties, that may explain the sounds of small-arms fire heard and the marching thousands but not the ethereal figures in the sky, the strange lights, and the other phenomena. If Elsworth is concerned with Shays’s Rebellion, his possible allusions to it serve the function of a doomsday prediction and not of political commentary. The vision tapers off in mid-air with no conclusion drawn about the strange happenings. The real intent of Elsworth’s report of the visions of others is most likely best summed up in his second and third stanzas:

    Oft has the sacred truth been told,

    By priests and prophets new and old,

    That e’er the dreadful Judgement day,

    E’er nature moulders to decay,

    Strange signs shall to the world arise,

    And dreadful omens fill the skies,

    The moon shall shroud her glim’ring light,

    The sun shall be as dark as night;7

    While the vision is surely involved with religion, and might be involved with politics, astrological considerations intervene. At any rate, the rumblings in the earth might very well be earthquakes and the envisioned wraiths not Shays’s compatriots but supernatural manifestations of a world in disorder.8


    In future years, if more visions and dreams, especially those immediate to the Revolutionary era, are uncovered, the generalizations of this essay may be proven false, notwithstanding the care which this author has taken to point out the arbitrary nature of his classifications and the handicap of a dearth of sources. Some might feel that there is little basis, within the small offering of visions here, for the assigning of generic labels and names. Admittedly, all herein is theory, and that is why the essay is called a survey; it in no way assumes thoroughness and completeness, and if there are flaws—stones unturned or connections unmade—they are the fault of the author.

    There have been other minutely productive and short-lived literary movements in the history of literature: vorticism, Aestheticism, and Amy Lowell’s polyphonic prose are but a few. Ubi sunt. . . ? They ended when the vogue for them ended. Vogue, a ukase of the spirit of times, changes with the times. I believe that not only are there visions yet to be found but that the few visions herein most probably represent with truthfulness the spirit of their own times in a statement of a political nature disguised as a spiritual one, the spirituality or supernaturalism of the statement designed to muster the forces of God and righteousness to the author’s side while allowing him the protection accorded to madmen, visionaries, and saints.



    Anonymous, The Grand Exploits of one of His Majesty’s Generals, viz., John Burgoyne, followed by A Surprising Dream. No publisher; 2 pages; [1777]; Philadelphia(?). Evans 15318. LOC. Only second work is referred to in text, and only by title here.

    ————, [The Wonder of Wonders . . . Or] The Wonderful Appearance of an Angel, Devil and Ghost to a Gentleman in the Town of Boston, In the Nights of the 14th, 15th, and 16th of October, 1774 To whom in some Measure may be attributed the Distresses that have of late fallen upon that unhappy Metropolis. Published and sold by John Boyle; 31 pages; 1774; Boston. Evans 13779. BA. Referred to in text as “Angel, Devil and Ghost.”

    [Samuel Clarke], b. 1721–28? (Most likely a pseudonym; see notes for further discussion): A Short Relation Concerning a Dream which the Author had on the Eighteenth day of September in the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-Nine With Some Remarks on the Comet which then appeared in our Hemisphere. Several editions. First,

    Evans a. 1769, Boston, Bible and Heart, Evans 11857; EI. Evans lists, for #’s next, BM as having a copy, but upon inquiry, they reported that they

    b. could not trace it. This is Evans, 13200, Boston, 1774. Third publication known was by E. Russell, Salem, 1776, and listed as an eighth edition, with additional titles The American Wonder, or, the New England Vision of Night, and for some reason unknown to us, called

    c. further in title by Evans, “The Cape-Ann Vision.” Evans 14681.

    —First edition reprinted, New London, 1770, BPL.

    —Original versions, before Russell’s additions, were circa 12 pages.

    Increased version, 21 pages.

    —Referred to in text will be A Short Relation . . . first edition, and the Russell edition of 1776. They will be kept distinct by calling the latter, A Short Relation (Russell) and the former, A Short Relation (First edition).

    —The original publishers, Bible and Heart, reissued this vision in 1785, Evans 19402.

    [Samuel Clarke], cf. above. The Strange and Remarkable Swansea Vision: Or a Dream that was dreamed above Forty Years Ago, which exactly prophecies and foretells the dreadful Judgments and Calamities that are now come to pass in North-America, in this melancholly and distressing Day. Now published from an ancient Manuscript, at the earnest Request of many. E. Russell; 8 pages; Salem, 1776. Evans 14680. JCB, EI. Reprinted in Norwich, 1787. JCB. Will be referred to in text as “The Swansea Vision.”

    Nathan Culver, A Very Remarkable Account of the Vision of Nathan Culver, Late of Newtown, (New-York) shewing, His Deistical and vicious Principles, and how he was converted to the Truth, by an extraordinary and immediate Revelation, Jan. 10, 1701 to which is added An Extraordinary Vision seen by a Gentleman of Philadelphia. Oracle Office, Court Street, Portsmouth, N. H., 1796; fifth edition. 16 pages. This particular edition is, seemingly, not listed in Evans; or, at least this title is not. There were other editions: 1793, Windsor, Evans 25365; 1793, again, Exeter, Evans 25364; 1795, E. Russell, Boston, Evans 28509 (Italics mine). Portsmouth edition of 1796, AAS. Only second title referred to, and as “Gentleman of Philadelphia.”

    Samuel El[l]sworth, Solemn Predictions of Future Events Plainly Manifested in the year 1787, Together with a True Account of Appearances in the Heavens Seen by the Inhabitants of New England. Haswell and Russell, 1787, Bennington, Vt. JCB. 10 pages. This title is not listed in Evans, but for that same year, same publisher and place, Evans lists the title “New-England astrology.” Numbered 20343, it is most probably identical to Solemn Predictions, and was a variant title placed in advertisement.

    Will be referred to in text as Solemn Predictions.

    [B. Nicoll], A Wonderful Dream. John Holt, 1770, New York, 2 pages. Evans 11791. LCP, NYHS, NYPL. The MS is dated 1775, but Evans reports that LCP believes this date is fictitious, and that the true date given should be 5 January 1770.

    [Punkapog], A Strange and Wonderful Indian Dream, dreamed on Cape-Cod OR, A Remarkable Prophecy Relating to twelve Great Men, who sit in the Judgement seat, to judge the People of the Earth, whose Works are evil in the Sight of all Men, and that continually, in as much as they vex and grieve the People, who are sorely oppressed under their wicked and arbitrary perversion of the Law. Dreamed by Punkapog, a Native of the Land, and one of the Nichawoonock Tribe. Translated into English for the Benefit of Many. E. Russell, 1773, Boston. 8 pages. Evans 12969. AAS. (The date seems spurious; see discussion of Russell.) Referred to in text as “The Indian Dream.”


    William Tufts Brigham, Historical Notes on the Earthquakes of New England 1638–1860. Memoirs, Boston Society of Natural History, II (June 1871).

    Harriet Silvester Tapley, Salem Imprints, 1768–1825 (Essex Institute, Salem, 1927).

    S. K. Vsekhsvyatskii, Physical Characteristics of Comets (Fizicheskie kharakteristiki komet), (Moscow, 1958); translated from the Russian and published by (with NASA) the Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem, 1964.