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1.4 The Colonial Period in New England
It is likely that no other colonists in the history of the world were as intellectual as the Puritans. Between 1630 and 1690, there were as many university graduates in the northeastern section of the United States, known as New England, as in the mother country ‐‐ an astounding fact when one considers that most educated people of the time were aristocrats who were unwilling to risk their lives in wilderness conditions. The self‐made and often self‐educated Puritans were notable exceptions. They wanted education to understand and execute God's will as they established their colonies throughout New England. [17]

The Puritan definition of good writing was that which brought home a full awareness of the importance of worshipping God and of the spiritual dangers that the soul faced on Earth. Puritan style varied enormously ‐‐ from complex metaphysical poetry to homely journals and crushingly pedantic religious history. Whatever the style or genre, certain themes remained constant. Life was seen as a test; failure led to eternal damnation and hellfire, and success to heavenly bliss. This world was an arena of constant battle between the forces of God and the forces of Satan, a formidable enemy with many disguises. Many Puritans excitedly awaited the "millennium," when Jesus would return to Earth, end human misery, and inaugurate 1,000 years of peace and prosperity. [16]

Scholars have long pointed out the link between Puritanism and capitalism: Both rest on ambition, hard work, and an intense striving for success. Although individual Puritans could not know, in strict theological terms, whether they were "saved" and among the elect who would go to heaven, Puritans tended to feel that earthly success was a sign of election. [16]

Wealth and status were sought not only for themselves, but as welcome reassurances of spiritual health and promises of eternal life.

Moreover, the concept of stewardship encouraged success. The Puritans interpreted all things and events as symbols with deeper spiritual meanings, and felt that in advancing their own profit and their community's well‐being, they were also furthering God's plans. They did not draw lines of distinction between the secular and religious spheres: All of life was an expression of the divine will ‐‐ a belief that later resurfaces in Transcendentalism. [16]

In recording ordinary events to reveal their spiritual meaning, Puritan authors commonly cited the Bible, chapter and verse. History was a symbolic religious panorama leading to the Puritan triumph over the New World and to God's kingdom on Earth.

The first Puritan colonists who settled New England exemplified the seriousness of Reformation Christianity. Known as the "Pilgrims," they were a small group of believers who had migrated from England to Holland ‐‐ even then known for its religious tolerance ‐‐ in 1608, during a time of persecutions.

Like most Puritans, they interpreted the Bible literally. They read and acted on the text of the Second Book of Corinthians ‐ "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord." Despairing of purifying the Church of England from within, "Separatists" formed underground "covenanted" churches that swore loyalty to the group instead of the king. Seen as traitors to the king as well as heretics damned to hell, they were often persecuted. Their separation took them ultimately to the New World. [17]

The Dutch possessed New Netherland, later to be called New York, for 40 years. But thev were not a migrating people. Colonizing offered them neither political nor religious advantages that they did not already enjoy in Holland. In addition, the Dutch West India Company found it difficult to retain competent officials to administer the colony. in 1664, with a revival of British interest in colonial activity, the Dutch settlement was taken by conquest. [14]

Long after this, however, the Dutch continued to exercise an important social and economic influence. Their sharp‐stepped, gable roofs became a permanent part of the scene, and their merchants gave the city its bustling commercial atmosphere.

The Dutch also gave New York a style of life quite different from that in Puritan Boston. In New York, holidays were marked by feasting and merrymaking. And many Dutch traditions ‐ such as calling on one's neighbors on New Year's Day and celebrating the visit of Saint Nicholas at Christmastime ‐ survived for many years. [15]

With the transfer from Dutch authority, an English administrator, Richard Nicolls, set about remodeling the legal structure of New York. He did this so gradually and with such wisdom that he won the respect of Dutch as well as English. Town governments had the autonomous characteristics of New England towns, and in a few years there was a workable fusion between residual Dutch law and customs and English practices. [13]

By 1696 nearly 30,000 people lived in the province of New York. In the rich valleys of the Hudson, Mohawk, and other rivers, great estates flourished. Tenant farmers and small independent farmers contributed to the agricultural development of the region. Rolling grasslands supplied feed for cattle, sheep, horses, and pigs; tobacco and flax were planted; and fruits, especially apples, grew in abundance. The fur trade also contributed to the growth of the colony. From Albany, 232 kilometers north of New York City, the Hudson River was a convenient waterway for shipping furs to the busy port. [13]

In contrast to New England and the middle colonies were the predominantly rural southern settlements, Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Jamestown, in Virginia, was the first English colony to survive in the New World.

Late in December 1606, a group of about a hundred men, sponsored by a London colonizing company, had set out in search of great adventure. They dreamed of finding gold; homes in the wilderness were not their goal. Among them, Captain John Smith emerged as the dominant figure, and despite quarrels, starvation, and Indian attacks, his will held the little colony together through the first years. [13]

In the earliest days, the promoting company, eager for quick returns, required the colonists to concentrate on producing lumber and other products for sale in the London market, instead of permitting them to plant crops for their own subsistence. After few disastrous years the company eased its requirements and distributed land to the colonists. [17]

In 1612, a development occurred that revolutionized the economy of Virginia. This was the discovery of a method of curing Virginia tobacco to make it palatable to the European taste. The first shipment of this tobacco reached London in 1614, and within a decade it had become Virginia's chief source of revenue.

The cultivation of tobacco exhausted the soil after several crops. Breaking new ground, planters scattered up and down the numerous waterways. No towns dotted the region, and even Jamestown, the capital, had only a few houses. [17]

Though most settlers had come to Virginia to improve their economic position, in Maryland the neighboring colony, religious as well as economic motives led to settlement. While seeking to establish a refuge for Catholics there, the Calvert family was also interested in creating estates that would bring profits. To that end, and to avoid trouble with the British government, the Calverts encouraged Protestant as well as Cathoiic immigration. [17]

In social structure and in government the Calverts tried to make Maryland an aristocratic land in the ancient tradition, which they aspired to rule with all the prerogatives of kings. But the spiritof independence ran strong in this frontier society. In Maryland, as in the other colonies, the authorities could not circumvent the settlers' stubborn insistence on the guarantees of personal liberty established by English common law and the natural rights of subjects to participate in government through representative assemblies. [17]

Maryland developed an economy very similar to that of Virginia. Devoted to agriculture with a dominant tidewater class of great planters, both colonies had a back country into which yeomen farmers steadily filtered. Both suffered the handicaps of a one‐crop system. And before the midpoint of the 18th century, both were profoundly affected by black slavery. In these two colonies the wealthy planters took their social responsibilities seriously, serving as justices of the peace, colonels of the militia, and members of the legislative assemblies. But yeomen farmers also sat in popular assemblies and found their way into political office. Their outspoken independence was a constant warning to the oligarchy of planters not to encroach too far upon the rights of free men. [17]

By the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the social structure in Maryland and Virginia had taken on the qualities it would retain until the Civil War. Supported by slave labor, the planters held most of the political power and the best land, built great houses, adopted an aristocratic way of life, and kept in touch with the world of culture overseas. Next in the socioeconomic scale were the farmers, placing their hope for prosperity in the fresh soil of the back country. Least prosperous were the small farmers, struggling for existence in competition with slave‐owning planters. in neither Virginia nor Maryland did a large trading class develop, for the planters themselves traded directly with London. [17]

It was reserved for the Carolinas, with Charleston as the leading port, to develop into the trading center of the south. [16]

There the settlers quickly learned to combine agriculture and commerce, and the marketplace became a major source of prosperity. Dense forests also brought revenue; lumber, tar, and resin from the longleaf pine provided some of the best shipbuilding materials in the world. Not bound to a single crop as was Virginia, the Carolinas also produced and exported rice and indigo. By 1750, more than 100,000 people lived in the two colonies of North and South Carolina. In the south, as everywhere else in the colonies, the growth of the back country had special significance. Men seeking greater freedom than could be found in the original tidewater settlements pushed inland. Those who could not secure fertile land along the coast, or who had exhausted the lands they held, found the hills farther west a bountiful refuge. [21]

Soon the interior was dotted with thriving farms. Humble farmers were not the only ones who found the hinterland attractive. Peter Jefferson, for example, an enterprising surveyor‐father of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States‐settled in the hill country by acquiring 160 hectares of land for a bowl of punch. [23]

Living on the edge of the Indian country, making their cabins their fortresses, and relying on their own sharp eyes and trusty muskets, frontiersmen became, of necessity, a sturdy, selfreliant people. They cleared tracts in the wilderness, burned the brush, and cultivated maize and wheat among the stumps. The men wore buckskin, the women garments of cloth they had spun at home. Their food was venison, wild turkey, and fish. They had their own amusements‐great barbecues, housewarmings for newly married couples, shooting matches, and contests where quilted blankets were made.

Already lines of cleavage were discernible between the settled regions of the Atlantic seaboard and the inland regions.

Men from the back country made their voices heard in political debate, combatting the inertia of custom and convention.

A powerful force deterring authorities in the older communities from obstructing progress and change was the fact that anyone in an established colony could easily find a new home on the frontier. Thus, time after time, dominant tidewater figures were obliged, by the threat of a mass exodus to the frontier, to liberalize political policies, land‐grant requirements, and religious practices. Complacency could have small place in the vigorous society generated by an expanding country.

The movement into the foothills was of tremendous import for the future of America. [23]

Of equal significance for the future were the foundations of American education and culture established in the colonial period. Harvard College was founded in 1636 in Massachusetts. Near the end of the century, the College of William and Mary was established in Virginia. [13] A few vears later, the Collegiate School of Connecticut (later to become Yale College) was chartered. But even more noteworthy was the growth of a school system maintained by governmental authority. In 1647 the Massachusetts Bay Colony, followed shortly by all the other New England colonies except Rhode Island provided for compulsory elementary education.

In the south, the farms and plantations were so widely separated that community schools like those in the more compact northern settlements were impossible. Some planters joined with their nearest neighbors and hired tutors for their children; other children were sent to England for schooling.

In the middle colonies, the situation varied. [13] Too busy with mater1al progress to pay much attention to educational matters, New York lagged far behind. Schools were poor, and only sporadic efforts were made by the royal government to provide public facilities. The College of New Jersey at Princeton, King's College (now Columbia University) in New York City, and Queen's College (now Rutgers) in New Brunswick, New Jersey, were not established until the middle of the 18th century.

One of the most enterprising of the colonies educationally was Pennsylvania. The first school there, begun in 1683, taught reading, writing, and keeping of accounts. Thereafter, in some fashion, every Quaker community provided for the elementary teaching of its children. More advanced training‐in classical languages, history, literature‐was offered at the Friends Public School, which still operates in Philadelphia as the William Penn Charter School. The school was free to the poor, but parents who could were required to pay tuition.

In Philadelphia, numerous private schools with no religious affiliation taught languages, mathematics, and natural science, and there were night schools for adults. Women were not entirely overlooked, for private teachers instructed the daughters of prosperous Philadelphians in French, music, dancing, painting, singing, grammar, and sometimes even bookkeeping.

The intellectual and cultural development of Pennsylvania reflected, in large measure, the vigorous personalities of two men: James Logan and Benjamin Franklin. Logan was secretary of the colony, and it was in his fine library that young Franklin found the latest scientific works. In 1745, Logan erected a building for his collection and bequeathed both building and books to the city. Franklin contributed even more to the intellectual activity of Philadelphia. He formed a club known as the Junto, which was the embryo of the American Philosophical Society. His endeavors led, too, to the founding of a public academy that later developed into the University of Pennsylvania. He was also a prime mover in the establishment of a subscription library‐which he called "the mother of all North American subscription libraries." [23]

In the south, volumes of history, Greek and Latin classics, science, and law were widely exchanged from plantation to plantation. Charleston, South Carolina, already a center for music, painting, and the theater, set up a provincial library before 1700. In New England, the first immigrants had brought their own little libraries and continued to import books from London. And as early as the 1680s, Boston booksellers were doing a thriving business in works of classical literature, history, politics, philosophy, science, theology, and belles‐lettres. The desire for learning did not stop at the borders of established communities. On the frontier, the hardy Scotch‐Irish, though living in primitive cabins, were firm devotees of scholarship, and they made great efforts to attract learned ministers to their settlements. [23]

Literary production in the colonies was largely confined to New England. Here attention was concentrated on religious subjects. Sermons were the most common products of the press. A famous "hell and brimstone" minister, the Reverend Cotton Mather, authored some 400 works, and his masterpiece, Magnalia Christi Americana, was so prodigious that it had to be printed in London. In this folio, the pageant of New England's history is displayed by the region's most prolific writer. [23]

But the most popular single work was the Reverend Michael Wigglesworth's long poem, The Day of Doom, which described the Last Judgment in terrifying terms.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, boasted a printing press, and in 1704 Boston's first successful newspaper was launched.

Several others soon entered the field, not only in New England but also in other regions. In New York, freedom of the press had its first important test in the case of Peter Zenger, whose New York Weekly Journal, begun in 1733, was spokesman for opposition to she government. After two years of publication, the colonial governor could no longer tolerate Zenger's satirical barbs and had him thrown into prison on a charge of libel. Zenger continued to edit his paper from jail during his nine‐month trial, which excited intense interest throughout the colonies. Andrew Hamilton, a prominent lawyer defending him, argued that the charges printed by Zenger were true and hence not libelous. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty, and Zenger went free. This landmark decision helped establish in America the principle of freedom of the press.

In all phases of colonial development, a striking feature was the lack of controlling influence by the English government. [23]

During their formative period, the colonies were, to a large degree, free to develop as circumstances dictated. The English government had taken no direct part in founding any of the colonies except Georgia, and only gradually did it assume any part in their political direction. [23]

The fact that the King had transferred his immediate sovereignty over the New World settlements to stock companies and proprietors did not, of course, mean that the colonists in America would necessarily be free of outside control. Under the terms of the Virginia Company and Massachusetts Bay charters, complete governmental authority was vested in the companies involved, and it was expected that these companies would be resident in England. Inhabitants of America, then, would have no more voice in their government than if the King himself had retained absolute rule.

In one way or another, however, exclusive rule from the outside was broken down. The first step was a decision by the London (Virginia) Company to grant Virginia Colonists representation in the government In 1618 the Company issued instructions to its appointed governor providing that free inhabitants of the plantations should elect representatives to join with the governor and an appointive council in passing ordinances for the welfare of the colony.

This proved to be one of the most far‐reaching events in the entire colonial period. From then on, it was generally accepted that the colonists had a right to participate in their own government. In most instances, the King, in making future grants, provided in the charter that freemen of the colony involved should have a voice in legislation affecting them. Thus, charters awarded to Cecil Calvert of Maryland, William Penn of Pennsylvania, the proprietors of the Carolinas, and the proprietors of New Jersey specified that legislation should be with "the consent of the freemen."

In only two cases was the self‐government provision omitted. These were New York, which was granted to Charles II's brother, the Duke of York, later to become King James II; and Georgia, which was granted to a group of "trustees." In both instances the provisions for governance were short‐lived, for the colonists demanded legislative representation so insistently that the authorities soon yielded. [23]

At first, the right of colonists to representation in the legislative branch of the government was of limited importance. Ultimately, however, it served as a stepping stone to almost complete domination by the settlers through elective assemblies, which first seized and then utilized control over financial matters. In one colony after another, the principle was established that taxes could not be levied, or collected revenue spent ‐ even to pay the salary of the governor or other appointive officers ‐ without the consent of the elected representatives. Unless the governor and other colonial officials agreed to act in accordance with the will of the popular assembly, the assembly refused to appropriate money for vital functions. Thus there were instances of recalcitrant governors who were voted either no salary at all or a salary of one penny. In the face of this threat, governors and other appointive officials tended to become pliable to the will of the colonists.

In New England, for many years, there was even more complete self‐government than in the other colonies. If the Pilgrims had settled in Virginia, they would have been under the authority of the London (Virginia) Company. However, in their own colony of Plymouth, they were beyond any governmental jurisdiction. They decided to set up their own political organization. Aboard the Mayflower, they adopted an instrument for government called the “Mayflower Compact” to "combine ourselves together into a civil body politic for our better ordering and preservation... and by virtue hereof (to) enact, constitute, and frame much just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices... as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony...." Although there was no legal basis for the Pilgrims to establish a system of self‐government, the action was not contested and, under the compact, the Plymouth settlers were able for many years to conduct their own affairs without outside interference. A similar situation developed when the Massachusetts Bay Company, which had been given the right to govern, moved bodily to America with its charter, and thus full authority rested in the hands of persons residing in the colony. The dozen or so original members of the company who had come to America at first attempted to rule autocratically. But the other colonists soon demanded a voice in public affairs and indicated that refusal would lead to a mass migration. [23]

Faced with this threat, the company members yielded, and control of the government passed to elected representatives.

Subsequent New England colonies ‐ New Haven, Rhode Island, and Connecticut ‐ also succeeded in becoming self-governing simply by asserting that they were beyond any governmental authority and then setting up their own political system modeled after that of the Pilgrims of Plymouth.


Chapter 2. Representatives of Colonial American Literature and Their Works
2.1 William Bradford – His Life, career as a Writer and Explorer
William Bradford was born in 1590 in Austerfield, Yorkshire, as the only son of William Bradford and Alice Hanson and was baptized on March 19 of the same year. His father, who was a yeoman farmer, died when William was but a year old. His mother, who was the daughter of a village shopkeeper, remarried, and care for the young William fell to his grandfather and uncles. [23]

When he reached the age of 12, William joined a group of Separatists led by William Brewster, who would later be a founding member of the Plymouth Colony. William expressed an earnest desire to read the Bible, and in his writings, such as Of Plymouth Plantation, he would often quote from the Geneva version. As Brewster was in the nearby village of Scrooby, the young Bradford soon moved there. His involvement in the Separatist Church, later called the Congregational Church, would continue throughout his lifetime and would deeply influence his view of himself and the colony in New England. In his biography of Bradford, Cotton Mather reports that Bradford’s relatives scorned and scoffed at the young man for becoming a church member in 1606. [33]

When the church, following the leadership of John Smith, John Robinson, and William Brewster, quit England to seek out religious freedom in Amsterdam, Bradford set sail with them. He used the money he had inherited from his family to purchase a home in Leyden, where the church remained for 12 years before journeying to what is currently the United States. During his time in Amsterdam, Bradford earned a living as a weaver and taught himself Dutch in order to communicate with the locals. In his religious pursuits, Bradford worked assiduously on Latin and Hebrew, languages deemed essential for religious leaders and scholars. His appetite for knowledge led him to acquire a considerable library, which he took aboard the Mayflower. By the time of his death in 1657, Bradford’s library had grown to nearly 400 volumes, including John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, John Speed’s Prospects of the Most Famous Part of the World, Peter Martyr’s De Orbe Novo, Jean Bodin’s De Republica, and Pierre de la Primauday’s

French Academy (Morison xxxvi). [24]

While in Amsterdam in 1613, Bradford met and married his fi rst wife, Dorothy May. She accompanied him in 1617 on their famed voyage and died by drowning while their ship was anchored in Provincetown Harbor. Although Bradford does not mention her death in Of Plymouth Plantation, he learned of it during his absence from the Mayflower when he joined an expedition to explore Cape Cod. She had accidentally fallen overboard and drowned before anyone could offer her help. Historians such as Samuel Eliot Morison attribute the silence surrounding Dorothy Bradford’s death to the belief that it was suicide rather than accident (xxiv). Probably the rumor of Dorothy’s suicide originates in an article written in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in June 1869, entitled “William Bradford’s Love Life.” This article, essentially a historical romance, begins with the theory that William Bradford was originally in love with the woman who would become his second wife, Sarah Carpenter Southworth. As the story begins, Bradford is in London awaiting departure for Holland, has already proposed to Alice, and is impatiently waiting for her response. Alice, however, described as a “spoiled little beauty,” artfully demurs, postponing her decision until the following morning. She even belittles Bradford when he remains at her house awaiting her answer, teasing him, “Truly the elders of your church did ill to entrust their mission to such a dreamer and laggard as yourself” (135). He responds seriously, describing “our people [as] mindful to remove to some country over seas where shall be room for all and opportunity for all to thrive by honest labor” (136). Bradford’s dedication to the church prevails over his own love life, as evidenced from his absence the following days from dear Alice’s home. She learns through her father that Bradford and “the deputies from the dissenting folk at Leyden had returned thither,” and heartbroken, Alice readily agrees to marry Edward Southworth (136). [24]

Bradford learns that Alice is married and, as she has, he quickly marries the next available woman, Dorothy May. She agrees to marry him even though she is aware of his recent heartbreak about Alice. When they make their fated trip to America aboard the Mayflower, Bradford requests that May and their newborn baby join him. Initially, Dorothy was to remain behind with her mother, only to join Bradford in the future after she and the baby were well and sturdy enough for the journey. When Bradford learns that Alice’s husband has passed away, and that she will be traveling to America to join her father, Bradford requests that Dorothy join him and leave their child behind with her mother. [24]

In true melodrama form, the Harper’s Monthly author writes, “and that day she began to die.” In one of the last sections of the story, entitled “Dorothy Bradford’s Journal,” she documents repeated nightmares of her dead baby and reports that Bradford has been dreaming about Alice. These fictional journal entries abruptly end, followed by a love letter from Bradford to his beloved Alice, reminding her of his first proposal and expressing his interest in her as a future wife. It is quite interesting that the unnamed author of this fictional tale should turn to the tale of William Bradford, a leading Puritan figure, and address him as a character second to the two women in his life—Alice Carpenter Southworth and Dorothy May. It is also quite telling that the author follows the same format Bradford does in Of Plymouth Plantation: She incorporates letters and journal entries. Perhaps because of this element of the story, or perhaps because of the popular interest in the fate of Bradford’s first wife, this fictional tale has become part of the lore associated with the arrival of the Mayflower. In 1621, when Bradford was 31, he was elected governor of Plymouth Colony. His election followed the death of its first governor, John Carver.

Bradford remained governor, being reelected 30 times to the offi ce, until 1656. The only gap in his 30-year span as governor was a five-year period in which Edward Winslow and Thomas Prence served. [24]

In 1623, when additional members of the Leyden church sailed for the colony, Bradford met his second wife, a widow named Alice Southworth, who had two sons by her previous marriage. Together the two bore a family of three additional children, two sons and a daughter.

He began his most famous work, Of Plymouth Plantation, in 1630, “sure . . . that New England would be the model for Old” [22]. The narrative recounts the rise of the Separatist Church out of the forced Catholicism under James I of England, and the rifts and divisions separated that faction even further. Critics believe that Bradford began work on his chronicle in 1630 because it was a historical moment in which he felt confident and assured of the colony’s success in fulfilling their special covenant with God as his chosen people. Just two years later, in 1632, his greatest hope would turn to despair as he was witness to a hurricane, the loss of their furs in a ship that sank, their near starvation, and the departure of the young members of the colony for Duxbury and Marshfield. Dejected, Bradford quit writing the journal in 1648 and only returned to it in 1650 to write out a list of passengers on the Mayflower.

The critic Mark Sargent believes that Bradford attempted to return to his task of recording the colony’s history with a series of three dialogues that attempted to reconcile its past with its present. Entitled “A Dialogue or the Sume of a Conference between Som Younge Men Borne in New England and Sundery Ancient Men That Came Out of Holland and Old England 1648,” the dialogues were a genre popular among Elizabethan Separatists (Sargent 390). Sargent attributes the survival of the first dialogue to Bradford’s nephew, Nathaniel Morton, who copied it into the Plymouth Church Records (391). The second dialogue has been lost, but the third was found among Thomas Prince’s collection of books and manuscripts in 1826 (391). Through an analysis of the two extant dialogues, Sargent argues, readers can discern “many of the pressures that were diverting [Bradford’s] attention from the chronicle” (392). Among those pressures were the “signs of reconciliation between Puritan Congregationalists and Presbyterians” that began in 1648 (Sargent 400). Bradford was emboldened by the attacks on the Separatists in the late 1640s and thus took up pen again to work out the dialogues (Sargent 401). Bradford’s chief accuser was the Scottish Presbyterian minister Robert Baillie, who in 1645 published Dissuasive from the Errors of Time, which contained a direct attack on “a small company at Leyden” (reported in Sargent 402). Baillie argues that the Separatists undermined the possibility of reforming a national church. He engaged in a heated debate, through publications, with John Cotton and Edward Winslow, a chief ally to Bradford and member of the Plymouth Colony who returned to England to answer charges against the colony. [22]

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