[A page featuring selected quotes from this history of America's different British settlers]
# PREFACE: Four British Folkways in America
In its early years, the new social history claimed to be not merely a subdiscipline of history but the discipline itself in a new form. It promised to become a major synthesizing discipline in the human sciences — even the synthesizing discipline. Unhappily, these high goals were not reached. The new social history succeeded in building an institutional base, and also in exploring many new fields of knowledge. But in Fernand Braudel's words, it was overwhelmed by its own success. Instead of becoming a synthesizing discipline, it disintegrated into many fields — women's history, labor history, environmental history, the history of aging, the history of child abuse, and even gay history — in which the work became increasingly shrill and polemic. Moreover, too many important subjects were excluded from the new history — politics, events, individuals, even ideas — and too many problems were diminished by materialist explanations and "modernization models". By the 1980s the new social history had lost much of its intellectual momentum and most of its conceptual range. It had also lost touch with the larger purposes that had called it into being. What comes after the new history? This series offers an answer in its organizing idea of cultural history. In terms of substance, it is about both elites and ordinary people, about individual choices and collective experiences, about exceptional events and normative patterns, about vernacular culture and high culture, about the problem of society and the problem of the state. To those ends, it tries to keep alive the idea of 'histoire totale' by employing a concept of culture as a coherent and comprehensive whole.
Determinants of a Voluntary Society
#1 East Anglia to Massachusetts - The Exodus of the English Puritans (1629-41)
#2 The South of England to Virginia - Distressed Cavaliers and Indentured Servants (1642-75)
#3 North Midlands to the Delaware - The Friends' Migration (1675-1725)
#4 Borderland to the Backcountry - The Flight from North Britain (1717-1775)
Conclusion: The Origins and Persistence of Regional Cultures in the United States
"America is conservative
in fundamental principles... but the principles conserved are liberal and
some, indeed, are radical."
- Gunnar Myrdal (1942)
The problem is to explain the origins and stability of a social system which for two centuries has remained stubbornly democratic in its politics, capitalist in its economy, libertarian in its laws, individualist in its society and pluralistic in its culture... Most historians have tried to explain the determinants of a voluntary society in one of three ways: by reference to the European culture that was transmitted to America, or to the American environment itself, or to something in the process of transmission. During the 19th century the first of these explanations was very much in fashion. This idea was taken up by a generation of historians who tended to be Anglo-Saxon in their origins, Atlantic in their attitudes and Whiggish in their politics... In the early 20th century it yielded to the Turner thesis, which looked to the American environment and especially to the western frontier as a way of explaining the growth of free institutions in America. This idea appealed to scholars who were middle western in their origins, progressive in their politics and materialist in their philosophy. In the mid-20th century the Turner thesis also passed out of fashion. Yet another generation of American historians became deeply interested in processes of immigration and ethnic pluralism as determinants of a voluntary society. This third approach was especially attractive to scholars who were not themselves of Anglo-Saxon stock. This pluralistic "migration model" is presently the conventional interpretation. This book returns to the first of these explanations, within the framework of the second and third.
During the very long period from 1629 to 1775, the present area of the United States was settled by at least four large waves of English-speaking immigrants. The first was an exodus of Puritans from the east of England to Massachusetts during a period of 11 years from 1629 to 1640. The second was the migration of a small Royalist elite and large numbers of indentured servants from the south of England to Virginia (ca. 1642-75). The third was a movement from the North Midlands of England and Wales to the Delaware Valley (ca. 1675-1725). The fourth was a flow of English-speaking people from the borders of North Britain and northern Ireland to the Appalachian backcountry mostly during the half-century from 1718 to 1775.
These four groups shared many qualities in common. All of them spoke the English language. Nearly all were British Protestants. Most lived under British laws and took pride in possessing British liberties. At the same time, they also differed from one another in many ways: in their religious denominations, social ranks, historical generations, and also in the British region whence they came. They carried across the Atlantic four different sets of British folkways which became the basis of regional cultures in the New World... They had different methods of doing much of the ordinary business of life. Most important for the political history of the US, they also had four different conceptions of order, power and freedom which became the cornerstones of a voluntary society in British America.
Today less than 20% of the American population have any British ancestors at all. But in a cultural sense most Americans are Albion's seed, no matter who their own forebears may have been.
The interplay of four "freedom ways" has created an expanisve pluralism which is more libertarian than any unitary culture alone could be. That is the central thesis of this book: the legacy of four British folkways in early America remains the most powerful determinant of a voluntary society in the United States today.
The Puritans believed that evil was a palpable presence in the world, and that the universe was a scene of cosmic struggle between darkness and light. They lived in an age of atrocities without equal until the 20th century. But no evil ever surprised them or threatened to undermine their faith. They believed as an article of faith that there was no horror which mortal man was incapable of committing. The dark thread of this doctrine ran through the fabric of New England's culture for many generations.
The builders of the Bay Colony thought of themselves as a twice-chosen people: once by God, and again by the General Court or Massachusetts. Other English plantations welcomed any two-legged animal who could be dragged on board an emigrant ship. But Massachusetts chose its colonists with care. Not everybody was allowed to settled there.
The New England location of this Bible Commonwealth was not an accident; its site was carefully chosen by the Puritans with an eye to their special requirements. It proved to be a perfect choice for a Calvinist utopia. Even the defects of the place were blessings in disguise for the builders of the Bay colony. The first and most important environmental fact about New England was that it was cold — much colder in the 17th and 18th centuries than today... But after the first few years this cold climate proved to be a blessing. It created an exceptionally healthy environement for settlers from northern Europe. Average rates of mortality in Massachusetts fell far below most other places in the Western world. At the same time... it proved to be an exceptionally dangerous place to immigrants from tropical Africa. So high was mortality among African immigrants that race slavery was not viable on a large scale, despite many attempts to introduce it. A labor system which was fundamentally hostile to the Puritan ethos of New England was kept at bay partly by the climate.
Altogether, the environment of Massachusetts proved to be perfectly suited for a Puritan experiment. The climate was rigorous but healthy and invigorating. The land was challening but rewarding. For historians Arnold Toynbee, New England was the classical example of a "hard country" which stimulated its inhabitants to high achievements through a process of "challenge and response".
The founders of Massachusetts and their descendants for many generations tended to cling to the cultural baggage which they had carried out of England. This mood of cultural conservatism created a curious paradox in colonial history. New settlements tended to remain remarkably old-fashioned in their folkways. They missed the new fads and customs that appeared in the mother country after they were planted. They tended to preserve cultural dynamics that existed in the hour of their birth. It was if they were caught in a twist of time, and held in its coils while the rest of the world moved beyond them.
So important was the idea of a covenanted family in Massachusetts that everyone was compelled by law to live in family groups. The provinces of Conneticut and Plymouth forbade any single person to "live of himself." These laws were enforced. In 1668 the court of Middlesex County systematically searched its towns for single persons and placed them in families. This custom was not invented in New England. It had long been practiced in East Anglia.
The Puritans required in most cases that both parents and children must give their free consent to marriage. Massachusetts courts fined children for an offense called "self-marriage", which meant marrying without the consent of parents or magistrates. But parents were forbidden to withhold their approval arbitrarily, in some cases, children successfully sued parents for refusing permission to marry.
In their bluff and awkward way, the Puritans cherished true love, and insisted that was a prerequisite of happy marriage. The Puritans used the expression "falling in love." They believed that love should normally precede marriage... Customs of courtship in New England were carefully designed to alow young people privacy enough to discover if they loved one another, at the same time that parents maintained close supervision. This is was the purpose of "bundling", a European custom which became widespread in New England. The courting couple were put to bed together, "tarrying" all night with a "bundling board" between them. Sometimes the young woman's legs were bound together in a "bundling stocking" which fitted her body like a glove. Another regional custom was the "courting stick", a hollow pole with an earpiece at one end and a mouthpiece at the other. The courting couple whispered quietly to one another through this tube, while members of the family remained in the room nearby... They were designed to reconcile two requirments of New England courtship — the free consent of the young, and strict supervision by their elders.
Hostility to unnatural sex had a demographic consequence. Puritan moralists condemned as unnatural any attempt to prevent conception within marriage. This was not a commona attitude in world history. Most primitive cultures have practiced some form of contraception, often with high success. Iroquois squaws made diaphragms of birchbark; African slaves used pessaries of elephant dung to prevent pregnancy. European women employed beeswax disks, cabbage leaves, spermicides of lead, whitewash and tar. During the 17th and early 18th centuries, coitus interruptus and the use of sheepgut condoms became widespread in Europe. But the Puritans would have none of these unnatural practices.
John Adams used a New England cliche when he wrote that "none were fir for Legislators and magistrates but 'sad men'... aged men who had been tossed and buffeted by the vicissitudes of Life, forced upon profound reflection by grief and disappointments, and taught to command their passions." In this context, "sad" preserved its old English meaning of "grave, serious, wise, discreet, settled, steadfast and firm" — qualities which the people of New England associated with age.
Respect for age rested upon a solid material base. The system of land-holding in New England was purposely used to maintain a proper attitude of subordination in the young. Sons who married at 25 or 26 sometimes did not receive land of their own until well into their thirties, and continued in a state of dependence upon their aged parents... Most elderly people were treated with respect in New England, no matter whether rich or poor, male or female, weak or strong. But sometimes they were not much loved. Veneration was a cold emotion, closer to awe than to affection. The control which elders maintained over the young created strong resentments.
The people of Massachusetts were trained by their ministers never to be entirely confident of their own salvation. From childhood, they were taught to believe that a sense of certainty about salvation was one of the surest signs that one was not saved. "This was the constant message of Puritan preachers," writes historians Edmund Morgan, "in order to be sure one must be unsure."
John Eliot had no conception of what we would call an accident. There were no random events in Puritan thinking. Everything was thought to happen for a purpose.
More than 95% of all formal accusations and more than 90% of executions for witchcraft in British America occured in the Puritan colonies.
Literacy was higher in New England than in any other part of British America... The zeal for learning and literacy in New England was not invented in America. The proportion of men and women in the Bay Colony who could sign their own names was almost exactly the same as yeomen and their wives in eastern England.
After the great migration, the people of New England fought a two hundred years' war to preserve the values of their culture.
Altogether, the economy of early New England was neither a system of village communism nor nascent capitalism. It was an old-fashioned system of agricultural production, domestic industry and commercial exchange which bore the impress of East Anglian customs and Calvinist beliefs.
The coming of darkness, which they called the "candle-lighting", divided each period of 24 hours into profoundly different parts. Night was dangerous, threatening and hostile. As the shadows grew longer, New England travelers hurried on the highway, trying desperately to reach their destination before dark... To the Puritans the night seemed not only dangerous but evil. The town bells sounded a curfew each night. To be abroad after curfew without permission was to risk punishment for a crime called "nightwalking".
The experience of social oppression in England caused the founders of Massachusetts to modify the ranking system in their society. After much discussion, they deliberately eliminated both the top and bottom strata of the East Anglian social order, and at the same time carefully preserved its middling distinctions... The founders of Massachusetts, unlike the rulers of other European colonies, deliberately excluded an aristocracy from their ranking system. At the same time, the leaders of Massachusetts also made a concerted and highly successful effort to discourage immigration from the bottom of English society. They prohibited the entry of convicted felons and placed heavy impediments in the path of migrant poor.
"Love your neighbor," said Poor Richard, "but don't pull down your fence."
Sir William Berkeley was destined to rule the colony of Virginia for more than 30 years. In that period, he had a profound impact upon its development. At a critical moment, he bent the young sapling of its social system and made it grow in the direction that he wished. The cultural history of an American regiion is in many ways the long shadow of this extraordinary man.
Berkeley's recruiting campaign was highly successful. Nearly all of Virginia's ruling families were founded by younger sons of eminent English families during his governorship. Berkeley himself was a younger son with no hope of inheriting an estate in England. This "younger son syndrome", as historian called it, became a factor of high importance in the culture of Virginia. The founders of Virginia's first families tried to reconstruct from American materials a cultural system from which they had been excluded at home.
In 1724 there were twelve members of Virginia's Royal Council: all without exception were related by blood or marriage. Many of these ties were cemented by cousin marriages, which were carefully planned to create a web of kinship as dense as that of the Roman patriciate... This elite gained control of the Council during the mid-17th century and retained it until the Revolution. As early as 1660, every seat on the Council was filled by members of five related connections. As late as 1775, every member of that august body was descended from a councillor who had served in 1660.
New England had drawn mostly from the middle of English society. Virginians came in greater numbers from both higher and lower ranks. In quantitative terms, Berkeley's "distressed cavaliers" were only a small part of the total flow to the Chesapeake colonies. The great mass of Virginia's immigrants were humble people of low rank. More than 75% came as indentured servants... Patterns of gender were also very different from New England's great migration. Altogether females were outnumbered by males by more than four to one. Few women freely chose to settle in Virginia.
John Donne, the poet dean of St Paul's Cathedral, called himself "an adventurer; it not to Virginia, then for Virginia."
Six generations after settlement, Virginians still perceived the culture of England as a precious inheritance to be protected from change, and passed intact from one generation to the next. For a very long time, the Chesapeake colonists thought of themselves as Englishmen apart from England — cultural exiles in a distant land. They often referred to their nation as "the mother country".
Virginia speech ways were not invented in America. they derived from a family of regional dialects that had been spoken throughout the south and west of England during the 17th century.
Virginia's building ways, like its speech ways, were not created de novo in the New World. They grew out of the vernacular architecture of southern England in a process that was guided by cultural purposes, environmental conditions and the inherited memory of an English past.
Virginians gave more importance to the extended family and less to the nuclear family than did New Englanders. Clear differences of that sort appeared in quantitative evidence of naming practices and inheritance patterns... For most Virginians the unit of residence tended to be a more or less nuclear household, but the unit of association was the extended family, which often flocked together in the same rural neighborhoods... From an early date in the 17th century, extended families were also bured together in Virginia — a custom that was uncommon in Massachusetts... Chesapeake households also tended to include more step-relatives and wards, fewer children in the primary unit and also many more servants than in New England. This was largely because the southern colonies had higher rates of illness and death. Children died young, and marriages were cruelly shattered at an early age. In tidewater Virginia during the 17th century more than 75% of children lost at least one parent before reaching the age of 18. One consequences was to enlarge the importance of other kin; for when a nuclear family was broken in Virginia the extended family picked up the pieces.
Altogether, the family ways of Massachusetts and Virginia were two distinct cultural systems. Even as they shared important qualities in common, they rose from different English roots, and responded to different American environments.
Amongst landed families,
marriage was regarded as a union of properties as well as persons, and
the destinies of entire families were at stake. One English gentleman advised
another to "marry thy daughters betimes, lest they marry themselves." Love
was not though to be a necessary precondition for these unions. Moralists
insisted that love should follow marriage, but they did not believe that
it would normally precede it. An English gentleman recommended that one
should "take a wife thou canst love." He did not think in terms of marrying
a women whom one loved already. Love was not thought to be a special or
exclusive bond between two unique personalities — a romantic idea that
did not develop until a later era.
Parents had an active role in the marriage decision... Children who defied their parents were denied dowries and inheritance. Children were rarely made to marry against their will, but neither were they left to decide the question for themselves.
Written prenuptial agreements of high complexity were common not only among members of the gentry but also among yeomen and husbandmen... Domestic conflicts over property were common in this culture. In Virginia, as in England, it was not unusual for husbands and wives to keep written cash accounts with one another. Colonel and Mrs Custis bound themselves to do so by their marriage contract.
In Massachusetts, men and women found guilty of adultery in most cases received similar punishments. In the Chesapeake, however, adulterous women were punished more harshly than adulterous men... This difference was not the result of mindless or instinctive sexism. It rested upon the assumoption that the bloodline within a family was threatened by a wife's adultery, but not by the husband's.
Virginians held themselves to different standards of behaviour according to their rank, gender and standing in society. A multiple standard of sexual behaviour (not merely a double standard) appeared not only in the laws of Virginia but also in its customs. Women, especially gentlewomen, were held to the strictest standards of sexual virtue. Men, especially gentlemen, were encouraged by the customs of the country to maintain a predatory attitude toward women... Sexual predators have existed in every society. But some cultures more than others have tended to encourage their activities, and even to condone them. This was the case in tidewater Virginia, with its strong ideas of male supremacy and masculine assertiveness... An old tidewater saying in Maryland defined a virgin as a girl who could run faster than her uncle. The sexual predators of Virginia found many opportunities among indentured servant girls during the 17th century... There is evidence in the records that some masters deliberatrly impregnated their servants as a way of extending their indentures. In the 18th century, race slavery created other opportunities for planter predators, some of whom started at an early age to exercise a 'droit du seigneur' over women in the slave's quarters... The abolitionist indictment of slavery for its association with predatory sex had a solid foundation in historical fact.
The people of Virginia thought less of the biblical commandment to increase and multiply and replenish the earth which so obsessed the Puritans, and more of breeding stocks and bloodlines. Children of the elite were bred to one another in a manner not unlike dogs and horses.
It is interesting that the Puritans regarded the Indians as a lost tribe of Israel, the Quakers saw them as Children of Light, the borderers regarded them as rival warriors, and royalist gentlemen saw them as natural aristocrats with an inborn taste for heraldry.
In Massachusetts eldest children were named after their parents, and younger children after grandparents and other relatives. That pattern was reversed in Virginia... Another naming-custom in Virginia was the use of surnames as forenames to reinforce connections between families and strengthen the solidarity of the elite. This custom of using surnames as forenames was mostly used for boys, but it was not unknown for girls. The wife of the leader of Penruddock's Rising was named Arundel Penruddock.
"An infant coming into the world in Virginia during the 18th century," writes Edmund Morgan, "had a good deal more to cry about it than one who arrives in any part of the US today." Roughly one-third of newborn babies perished within the first 20 months of life, and nearly half were dead before they reached adulthood.
More women could read than write — a condition of passive literacy which was the common lot of females in the 17th century.
During the 18th century, literacy rapidly increased on both sides of the Atlantic. As it did so, differences between people of high and low status tended to diminish in New England and Britain. But in Virginia the opposite as the case. Disparities in literacy between rich and poor actually grew greater... The elite was deeply interested in the education of gentlemen... At the same time, formal education did not flourish in the Chesapeake. This condition was not an accident. It was deliberately contrived by Virginia's elite, who positively feared learning among the general population... William Cavendish write to Charles II in the 1650s, "The Bible in English under every weaver and chambermaid's arm hath done us much harm."
From the beginning, Chesapeake elites tended to dress more opulently than did the builders of Massachusetts Bay Colony. The tone was set by the gentry of southern England, whose costume was designed to display their riches and refinement, their freedom from manual labor, and their dominion over others. The costume of this elite was made of fragile fabrics, perishable colors, and some of the more impractical designs that human ingenuity has been able to invent... Contempt for labor was expressed in a fad for gossamer gloves so fragile that the slightest effort would ruin them.
In the reign of James I, when political conditions were dangerously unstable throughout Europe, gentlemen wore quilted doublets and breeches for protection against a dagger's thrust. This cloth armour was encrusted with precious stones.
Many Virginians of middle and upper ranks aspired to behave like gentlemen. In the early 17th century an English gentleman was defined as one who could "live idly and without manual labor." The words "gentleman" and "independent" were used synonymously, and independence in this contect meant freedom from the necessity of labor. But in Virginia, independence could be achieved or maintained only by labor of the sort that a gentleman was trained to despise... The gentlemen-planters repeatedly expressed an intense contempt for trade, even as they were compelled to engage in it on a daily basis... The same ambivalence also appeared in attitudes toward money, which Virginians liked to have, but hated to handle.
Wealth was regarded not primarily as a form of capital or a factor of production but as something to be used for display and consumed for pleasure... The economic consequence of this attitude was debt.
The temporal hierarchy of Virginia ranked people largely by their ability to regulate their own time whenever and however the pleased. Through many centuries, when the people of Virginia found a moment of leisure, they "killed the time" with any lethal weapon that came to hand — a dice box, a pack of playing cards, a book of dramatic readings or a long conversation at table in the gathering dusk... The progency of the New England Puritans, on the other hand, preferred to "improve the time" by inventing alarm clocks and daylight saving time and by turning every passing moment to a constructive purpose.
"Praised be to God," wrote a gentleman of Virginia in 1686, "I neither live in poverty nor pomp, but in a very good indifferency, and to a full content." This ideal of material moderation was widely shared by Virginians. The reality, however, was very different. From the outset, the distribution of wealth was profoundly unequal. During the last 17th and early 18th century it became even more so.
The development of slavery in Virginia was a complex process — one that cannot be explained by an economic imperative. A system of plantation agriculture resting upon slave labor was not the only road to riches for Virginia's royalist elite... But for the social purposes of Virginia's ruling elite it required an underclass that would remain firmly fixed in its condition of subordination. The culture of the English countryside could not be reproduced in the New World without this rural proletariat.
is so happily constituted that a governor must first outwit us before he
can oppress us."
- William Byrd
In place of New England's distinctive idea of ordered liberty, the Virginians thought of liberty as a hegemonic condition of dominion over others and — equally important — dominion over oneself. The Virginia idea of hegemonic liberty was far removed from the New England system of communal restraints which a town meeting voluntarily imposed upon itself... Virginia ideas of hegemonic liberty conceived of freedom mainly as the power to rule and not to over-ruled by others. Its opposite was "slavery", a degradation into which true-born Britons desended when they lost their power to rule... It never occured to most Virginia gentlemen that liberty belonged to everyone. It was though to be the special birthright of free-born Englishmen — a property which set this "happy breed" apart from other mortals, and gave them a right to rule less fortunate people in the world. Even within their own society, hegemonic liberty was a hierarchial idea. One's status in Virginia was defined by the liberties that one possessed. Men of high estate were though to have more liberties than others of lesser rank. Servants possessed few liberties, and slaves none at all... To a modern mind, hegemonic liberty is an idea at war with itself. We think of it as a contradiction in terms. This is because we no longer understand human relationships in hierarchial terms, and can no longer accept the proposition that a person's status in the world is determined and even justified by his fortune.
# THE DELAWARE
During the 18th century, the number of American Quakers increased very rapidly — doubling every generation. By the year 1750 Quakers had become the third largest religious denomination in the British colonies. Their 250 meeting houses were more numerous than the churches of any other faith except Congregationalists (456) and Anglicans (289). After the mid-18th century the number of Quakers in British America continued to rise in absolute terms, but began to fall relative to other religious groups. Among American denominations, Quakers slipped to 5th place by 1775; 9th place by 1820 and 66th place by 1981. But in early America, the Friends were not a small sect.
These early Quaker immigrants were accompanied by many other colonists who were not members of the Society of Friends, but sympathized with the values of the sect.
Persecution played a major part in driving Quakers to America, but it was never the leading cause. The primary religious goals of the Friends' migration were positive rather than negative. An historian observes that the founders of the Delaware colonies wishes "to show Quakerism at work, freed from hampering conditions."
At the center of Quaker belief was a God of Love and Light whose benevolent spirit harmonized the universe. The Puritans worshipped a very different deity — one who was equally capable of love and wrath — a dark, mysterious power who could be terrifying in his anger and inscrutability. Anglicans, on the other hand, knelt before a great and noble Pantocrator who ruled firmly but fairly over the hierarchy of his creatures.
Four distinct stages
might be distinguished in the history of the Quakers. The first was the
seedtime of a revolutionary sect (ca. 1646-66), when Quakerism tended to
be radical, primitive, militant, aggressive, evangelical and messianic.
The second stage (ca. 1666-1750) was the time of flowering, when the Society
of Friends became increasingly institutional, rational, progressive, optimistic,
enlightended, liberal, moderate, political and actively engaged in the
world, without losing its piety and godly purposes. The third stage (ca.
1750-1827) was an era when Quakers turned inward upon themselves and grew
increasingly sectarian, exclusive, quietist and perfectionist. A fourth
stage of denominational division and maturity followed the Hicksite separation
Of these four stages, the most important for American history was the second, when the cultural institutions of the Delaware Valley were created. In this second stage, Quaker teachings were exceptionally open, outgoing and liberal in an 18th century sense. The special teachings of Quakerism in this second period entered deeply into the culture of the Delaware Valley. Friends and neighbors alike embraced the idea of religious freedom and social pluralism... After 1750 the Society of Friends turned inward, and distanced itself not merely from other people in the present, but also from its own past. It increasingly developed ideas of unyielding pacifism, withdrawal from politics, extreme sectarian discipline, and extravagant ways of "going plain" in the world. But the more open and liberal spirit of Quakerism's second phase survived apart from the Friends themselves, in the culture of an American region which they did so much to create.
The English Friends who founded West Jersey and Pennsylvania welcomed immigrants of different national origins but remained firmly in control of their colonies long enough to shape the character of the region. The proportion of Quakers in the Pennsylvania Assembly remained as high as 50% until 1773. For 80 years they wrote the laws, distributed the land, decided immigration policy and created institutions which still survive to the present day. Most important, the Quakers also established the rules of engagement among people of different ethnic groups.
Pennsylvania and its neighboring provinces were intended to be, in William Penn's words a "colony of heaven" for the "children of Light". He did not think of his province as a retreat from the world, but as a model for general emulation. Like the Puritans of Massachusetts and the cavaliers of Virginia, Penn intended his American settlement to be an example for all Christians. The cornerstone of this "holy experiment" was liberty of conscience — not for everyone, and never for its own sake. William Penn believed that religious liberty was an instrument of Christian salvation. It did not occur to him that liberty was to be desired as an end in itself. He excluded atheists and non-believers from his colony, and confined officeholding to believing Christians. Even so, Pennsylvania came closer to his goal of a non-coercive society than any state in Christendom in the 17th century.
Penn's dream was not unity but harmony — and not equality but "love and brotherly kindness." Penn never imagined that all people were of the same condition.
In the words of founder George Fox, the Quakers, believed that the family should "outstrip and exceed the world, in virtue, in purity, in chastity, in godliness and in holiness; and in modesty, civility, and in righteousness and love." They tended to think of the family as a spiritual communion which was a sanctuary of goodness and love in a world of sin and hatred.
On the subject of gender, the Quakers had a saying: "In souls there is no sex." This epigram captured one of the deepest differences between the founders of the Delaware colonies and their neighbors to the north and south. Of all the English-speaking people in the 17th century, the Quakers moved farthest toward the idea of equality between the sexes.
Acts of violence against Quaker women arose in part from their headlong challenge to an entire system of gender relations. In the 17th century, there mere appearance of a female preacher was enough to start a riot. As late as 1763 the spectacle of "she-preaching" seemed perverse and unnatural to many Englishmen, and gave rise to Dr Samuel Johnson's famous canard, which was aimed specifically at female Quakers: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." The Quakers themselves did not entirely escape these conventional prejudices. Their idea of spirital equality between the sexes had its limits. The early Friends were not modern feminists, and normally expected female preachers to show a measure of modesty and restraint.
Quakers drew a sharp distinction between love and lust. William Penn wrote, "It is the difference betwixt lust and love that this is fixed, that volatile. Love grows, lust wastes by enjoyment."
By the standards of
the age, rates of mortality in the Delaware Valley were in a middling range
during the late 17th and early 18th century. From 1675 to 1750, death rates
increased and also became increasingly unstable — with sudden surges caused
by the spread of epidemic disease. In that setting the Quakers no less
than Puritans and Anglicans frequently reminded themselves of what John
Woolman called "the uncertainty of temporal things."
The Quaker attitude (to death) might be described as optimistic fatalism. They regarded death as the climax of life — an event not to be feared or abhorred but welcomed and embraced. Death for a believing Quaker was an act of Christian apotheosis — the extinction of the mortal self.
In the face of death, Quakers cultivated an attitude not merely of resignation but confident expectation. For believing Quakers death became the fulfillment of life. It was an escape from the corruptions of the world, and the final transcendence of the mortal self.
Quakers refused to touch foods that were tainted by social evil. Some did not use sugar because it had been grown by slave labor. Others banned salt from their tables, because it bore taxes which paid for military campaigns.
Liberty of conscience was one of a large family of personal freedoms which Quakers extended equally to other. William Penn recognized three secular "rights of an Englishman": first, "a right and title to your own lives, liberties and estates; second, representative government; third, trial by jury." In Pennsylvania, these liberties went far beyond those of Massachusetts, Virginia and old England itself... The laws of Pennsylvania also guaranteed the right of every freeman to a speedy trial, to a jury chosen by lot in criminal cases, and to the same privileges of witnesses and counsel as the prosecution. These ideas went far beyond prevailing practices in England and America.
Quakers genuinely believed that every liberty demanded for oneself should also be extended to others.
The Quakers were among the most radical libertarians of their age, but they were not anarchists. Penn himself wrote in his 'Frame of Government' that "liberty without obedience is confusion, and obedience without liberty is slavery." Penn instructed his governor to "rule the meek meekly, and those that will not be ruled, rule with authority."
# THE BACKCOUNTRY
Through the long period from 1718 to 1775, the annual number of immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and the north of England averaged more than 5000 a year. At least 150,000 came from northern Ireland.
The motives of these emigrants were fundamentally unlike those of New England Puritas, Delaware Quakers and even Virginia cavaliers. Among the North Britons, there was no talk of holy experiments, or cities on a hill. These new emigrants came mainly in search of material betterment. In northern Ireland, conditions were so very hard that famine and starvation were often mentioned as a leading cause of migration.
A combination of poverty and pride set the North Britons apart from other English-speaking people in the American colonies. Border emigrants demanded to be treated with respect even when dressed in rags. Their humble origins did not create the spirit of subordination which others expected of "lower ranks". This fierce and stubborn pride would be a cultural fact of high importance in the American region which they came to dominate.
Sectarian conflicts became commonplace in the backcountry. Many denominations were planted in the wilderness, but various groups of Presbyterians outnumbered all others, and outrivaled them in religious bigotry.
The border variant of the golden rule - do unto others as they threatened to do unto you.
When these Christian warriors were not battling among themselves they fell upon the Indians with the same implacable fury.
Many scholars call these people "Scotch-Irish". That expression is an Americanism, rarely used in Britain and much resented by the people to whom it was attached. "We're no Eerish bou Scoatch," one of them was heard to say in Pennsylvania... "We are a mixed people," a border immigrant declared in America during the 18th century. So they were in many ways. They were mixed in their social rank, mixed in their religious denomination, and most profoundly mixed in their ancestry... But in another way, these immigrants were very similar to one another. No matter whether rich or poor, Anglican or Presbyterian, Saxon or Celt, they were all a border people. They shared a unique regional culture which was the product of a place in time.
By the 18th century, the culture of the British borders bore little resemblance to the customs of the ancient Celts. The dominant language was English — unlike that of Gaelic-speaking Irish Catholic peasants, Scottish highlanders, Welsh cottagers, and Cornish miners... Few Gaelic-speaking people emigrated from Ireland, Cornwall or Wales to the American colonies before the 19th century. Irish immigrants were excluded by law from some American colonies such as South Carolina.
This border region included 6 counties in the far north of England: Cumberland, Westmorland and parts of Lancashire on the western side of the Pennines; Northumberland, Durham and parts of Yorkshire to the east. It also embraced 5 counties of southern Scotland - Ayr, Dumfries, Wigtown, Roxburgh and Berwick. During the 17th century, its culture was carried westward across the Irish Sea to 5 counties of Ulster - Derry, Down, Armagh, Antrim and Tyrone.
The Irish Sea united its surrounding lands in a single cultural region.
The borderers entered America principally through the ports of Philadelphia and Newcastle. They moved quickly into the surrounding countryside and in the words of one official, simply squatted wherever they found "a spot of vacant land". The Quakers were not happy about this invasion... There was talk of restricting immigration as early as 1718, by "laying a duty of £5 a head on some sorts and double on others." But this idea cut against the grain of William Penn's holy experiment, and was not adopted. Instead, the Quakers decided to deal with the problem in a different way, by encounraging the borderers to settle in the "back parts" of the colony... In 1731 James Logan argued that these people might usefully become a buffer population, "a frontier in case of disturbance", between the Indians and the Quakers. At the same time, he frankly hoped to rid the east of them.
The North Britons gradually become the dominant English-speaking culture in a broad belt of territory that extended from the highlands of Appalachia through much of the Old Southwest. In the 19th century, they oved across the Mississippi River to Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. By the 20th century, their influence would be felt as far west as New Mexico, Arizona and southern California.
These emigrants established in their southern highlands a cultural hegemony that as even greater than their proportion in the population. An explanation of this fact may be found in the character of this American environment, which proved to be exceptionally well matched to the culture of the British borderlands.
Proud Indian nations did not give way easily before white settlement. Savage warfare began in the late 17th century, and continued to the early 19th century in some of the fiercest Indian wars of American history. To the first settlers, the American backcountry was a dangerous environment, just as the British borderlands had been. Much of the southern highlands were "debateable lands" in the border sense of a contested territory without established government or the rule of law. The borderers were more at home than others in this anarchic environment, which was well suited to their family system, their warrior ethic, their farming and herding economy, their attitudes towad land and wealth, and their ideas of work and power. So well adapted was the border culture to this environment that other ethnic groups tended to copy it. The ethos of the North British borders came to dominate this "dark and bloody ground," partly by force of numbers, but mainly because it was a means of survival in a raw and dangerous world.
The people of the southern highlands would become famous in the 19th century for the intensity of their xenophobia, and also for the violence of its expression. In the early 19th century, they tended to detest great planters and abolitionists in equal measure. During the Civil War some fought against both sides. In the early 20th centiry they would become intensely negrophobic and antisemitic. In our own time they are furiously hostile to both communists and capitalists. The people of the southern highlands have veen remarkably even-handed in their antipathies — which they have applied to all strangers without regard to race, religion or nationality.
Marriage customs among the people of the backcountry also derived from border roots. An ancient practive on the British borders was the abduction of brides. In Scotland, Ireland and the English border counties the old custom had been elaborately regulated through many centuries by ancient folk laws which required payment of "body price" and "honour price". Two types of abduction were recognized: voluntary abduction in which the bride went willingly but without her family's prior consent; and involuntary abduction in which she was taken by force. Both types of abduction were practiced as late as the 18th century... and introduced to the American backcountry.
Many backcountry marriages included mock abduction rituals that kept the old customs alive in a vestigial way. A wedding in the back-settlements was apt to be a wild affair.
One is occasionally tempted to abandon the role of the historian and to frame what social scientists call a theory. Wherever a culture exists for many generations in conditions of chronic insecurity, it develops an ethic that exalts war above work, force above reason, and men above women. This pattern developed on the borders of North Britain, and was carried to the American backcountry, where it was reinforced by a hostile environment and tempered by evangelical Christianity. The result was a distinctive system of gender roles that continues to flourish even in our own time.
The borderers did not often use forenames such as Douglas, Donald, Kenneth, Alan, Ian, Neil or Stewart which were favoured by Scottish highlanders. Neither did they make much use of Gaelic Irish names such as Sean, Kathleen, Maureen or Sheila. Altogether, a more complex border and backcountry combination of biblical names (such as John), Celtic names, Teutonic names (Robert or Richard), saints' names (especially Andrew, Patrick, David), folk names, Scottish kings' names and border warriors' names was unique to this regional culture.
The familiar features of Andrew Jackson are an image of aging in the back settlements... this was the face of power, strong in the habit of command. The marks of age deepened its air of authority. Old age also had another face in the back settlements. For every border chieftain who grew old in authroity and all the mountain grannies who bullied the young bucks of the neighborhood, there were other men and women for whom old age brought a kind of social death. This had long been the cruel rule of tanistry in the British borderlands, where the strong were treated with deference and the weak were despised and abandoned.
The rituals of dying also differed from those of other English-speaking people... Everyone in the neighborhood was expected to pay a visit, friend and foe alike. All were compelled to touch the corpse. This practice derived from an ancient belief that when a murderer laid hands upon the body of his victim, the corpse would begin to bleed again. Every "touching" was closely watched, for on the borders foul play was often suspected. The death watch was followed by a wake.
Many backcountry charms and potions showed a spirit of extreme brutality such as: The blood of a bat will cure baldness; For good luck, boil a black cat alive... These good-luck charms, whatever they may have done for their human users, brought very bad luck to large numbers of back-country cats, bats, frogs, owls, snakes, chicks and puppy dogs.
By comparison with other parts of the world, the backcountry was not illiterate. At a time when 20 to 30% of males in the southern highlands were unable to read or write, the proportion of illiteracy in Italy and Spain was 70 to 80%. Even so, the backcountry was an oral culture in which writing was less important than the spoken word. This culture was impoverished in its written literature, but it was rich in ballads and folktales which were handed down from one generation to the next.
In the southern highlands, many different sovereignties created a chaos of conflucting land claims.... Huge tracts were granted to a few great landowners with connections in London and colonial capitals. A majority of adult males in the southern highlands owned no land at all. The result was a system of landholding characterized by a large landless underclass of tenants and squatters, a middle class that was small by comparison with other colonies, and a few very rich landlords.
By far the largest individual holding in the backcountry was Granville District in North Carolina, which had been granted to John Carteret, Earl of Granville (1690-1763) in settlement of a propietary claim. The District was so vst that it was measured not in acres or miles but degrees of latitude and longitude... Granville was able to defend the title and by the 1760s he was collecting rents from backsettlers who had moved upon his land.
Throughout this great region where virgin land existed in abundance, most men were landless.
In 1983, the top 1% of owners possessed half of the land in Appalachia. The top 5% owned nearly two-thirds. This pattern of wealth distribution in the southern highlands in the 20th century was much like that which had existed two hundred years earlier.
Poor folks have poor
ways, and rich folk damned mean ones.
- Backcountry proverb
Despite an equality
of manners, a clear-cut system of social status existed in both the borderlands
and the backcountry, which differed from ranking customs in other parts
of British America. At the top of this system was the "ascendancy"... families
who had been highly placed in North British society, not at the very top,
but high enough to have a coat-of-arms on the silverware, or to send a
younger son to university, or to marry a daughter to a good family, or
at least to dress and act like a gentleman. In the American backcountry
this elite rapidly acquired a firm hold on wealth and power throughout
the region. They owned a large part of the best lands and held most of
the top military and political offices. Their manners tended to be very
rough, and were not much refined by their new environment. But they knew
who they were, and instantly recognized one another, and cemented their
status by ties or marriage and friendship.
The elite's eminence was always directly contingent upon its wealth and power rather than breeding, intellect or refinement. In the southern highlands one rarely finds the tattered respectability of old families in Massachusetts, or the threadbare gentility of tidewater Virginia. A backcountry family that lost its property fell instantly to a lower level of society, and disappeared from the ascendancy without a trace. The result was a highly materialistic system of social rank. Wealth alone become more important a determinant of status than in New England, Pennsylvania or Virginia.
Below the ascendancy was a middle class which has sometimes been called the "yeomanry" of the southern highlands. Most were small farmers who owned their own land... Below this comparitively small middle class was a large rural proletariat, who owned no land and few personal possessions. Most were either tenants or squatters. Their property ran on four legs — consisting mostly of cattle and swine which they raised in the woods. Their pride was heavily invested in these animals.
Personal relations between backsettlers were often brutally direct. The mother of President Andrew Jackson prepared her son for the world with some very strong advice. "Andrew, never tell a lie, nor take what is not your own, nor sue anybody for slander, assault and battery. Always settle them cases yourself."
In the absence of any strong sense of order as unity, hierarchy or social peace, backsettlers shared an idea idea of order as a system of retributive justice. The prevailing principle was lex talionis, the rule of retaliation. It held that a good men must seek to do right in the world, but when wrong was done to him he must punish the wrongdoer himself by an act of retribution that restored order and justice in the world. This backcountry idea of order rested upon an exceptionally strong sense of self-sovereignty.
Every man is a sheriff
on his own hearth.
- Backcountry proverb
Backcountry proverbs did not glorify fighting for its own sake, but fighting for the sake of winning. Here was an ethic of violence which had been formed in ambuscades and border-raiding... The classical example of an instrumental attitude toward violence was Andrew Jackson. A friend who knew him well for forty years said that "no man knew better than he when to get into a passion and when not."
Andrew Jackson always remembered the stories that his mother told him about aristocratic oppression and the cruelties of rack-renting landlords in the old country. The result was a very strong tradition which John Roche has called "retrospective radicalism". The folk memory operated as a powerful political amplifier when triggered by symbolic events.
This region never developed anything like the ethnic politics of Pennsylvania. For many generations, backcountry politics were mainly a collision of highly personal factions and followings, rather than ethnic blocks or ideological parties or social classes.
Throughout his political career, Patrick Henry consistently defended the principles of minimal government, light taxes, and the right of armed resistance to authority in all cases which infringed liberty... Patrick Henry's principles of natural liberty were drawn from the political folkways of the border culture in which he grew up... This idea of natural liberty was not a reciprocal idea. It did not recognize the right of dissent or disagreement. Deviance from cultural norms was rarely tolerated; opposition was suppressed by force. One of Andrew Jackson's early biographers observed that: "It appears to be more difficult for a North-of-Irelander than for other men to allow an honest difference of opinion in an opponent, so that he is apt to regard the terms opponent and enemy as synonymous."
Backcountrymen moved west in search of that condition of natural freedom which Daniel Boone called "elbow room"... This libertarian idea of natural freedom as "elbow room" was very far from the ordered freedom of New England towns, the hegemonic freedom of Virginia's country oligarchs, and the reciprocal freedom of Pennsylvania Quakers.
"Colonies then are
the seed of Nations, begun and nourished by the care of wise and populous
- William Penn (1681)
Independence did not mark the end of the four British folkways in America, or of the regional cultures which they inspired. The history of the United States is, in many ways, the story of their continuing interaction... Every presidential election shows their persistent power in American politics. Every decennial census finds that cultural differences between America regions are greater in some ways than those between European nations. The persistence of regional culturein the United States explains many things about American history.
In the beginning there was a neglected half-century of Anglo-American history, which preceded the four great migrations. From 1580 to 1630 more than 30 English settlements were planted in what is now the eastern United States. Many survived, and a few remain culturally distinctive even today... In Massachusetts Bay, an eccentric Devon family called Maverick settled the present town of Chelsea and an island in Boston harbor that still bears their name. They had trouble with the Puritans and moved away, keeping one jump ahead of the larger cultures that threatened to engulf them. By the 19th century, the Mavericks had found their way onto the western plains. Their name was given to range cattle that bore no man's brand, and become a synonym for an independent eccentricity in American speech... Altogether these earliest English settlers... were the reconaissance parties of British America.
Each of the four folk cultures in early America had a distinctive character which was closer to its popular reputation than to many academic "reinterpretations" in the 20th century. The people in Puritan Massachusetts were in fact highly puritanical. They were not traditional peasants, modern capitalists, village communists, modern individualists, Renaissance humanists, Victorian moralists, neo-Freudian narcissists or prototypical professors of English literature. They were a people of their time and place who had an exceptionally strong sense of themselves, and a soaring spiritual purpose which has been lost beneath many layers of revisionist scholarship. The first gentlemen of Virginia were truly cavaliers. They were not the pasteboard protagonists of Victorian fiction, or the celluloid heroes of "Gone with the Wind". But neither were they self-made bourgeois capitalists, modern agro-businessmen, upwardly mobile yeomen or "plain folk". Most were younger sons of proud armigerous families with strong Royalists politics, a devout Anglican faith, decided rural prejudices, entrenched manorial ideas, exalted notions of their own honor and at least the rudiments of an Aristotelian education.
The more we learn by empirical research about these cultures of British America, the more distinctive they appear from one another, and the closer to historical "myths" which they inspired.
The idea of a region creates few practical problems for American historians, who tend normally to think in regional terms without reflecting very much about them. In English historiography, however, region remains an alien concept. The history of English is highly developed on national and local levels, but a third level is missing in between. So little has been written about the history of English regions that in a formal sense there is no regional historiography at all — that is, no established set of regional problematiques. Regional history has long flourished in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and even in smaller countries such as Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden and even the Netherlands. England is unique in the exceptional riches of its national and local historiography and the poverty of its regional research. This has been not to much because England is more uniform than other nations, but because its internal differences are more complex.
Of all the determinants which shaped the cultural character of British America, the most powerful was religion. During the 17th century, the English-speaking people were deeply divided by the great questions of the Protestant Reformation. These divisions in turn created a broad spectrum of English denominations in the New World — Anglican Episcopacy, Calvinist Presbyterians, Puritan Congregationalists, Separatists, Anabaptists and the Quakers.
Because religion touched so many parts of life in the era of the reformation, these denominational divisions created deep cultural differences which have survived in American regions long after their original purposes have been lost.
Another determinant of cultural differences in British America was the social rank of the colonists. This factor worked in two ways. First, the founders of America's various regional cultures came from different strata of British society. Second, major changes occured in England's ranking system during the era of colonization. Emigrants in the early 17th century had one way of thinking about social status; those who arrived in the mid-18th had another. This process of change added another dimensions to regional differences in America.
England's system of
social rank at the beginning of the 17th century was a complex set of orders,
degrees, estates or conditions which were more rigid than modern classes.
It was a way of thinking that persisted through the period of the English
Civil War... By the late 17th century, however, new ideas of social ranks
were stirring in England... social orders were less distinct than those
a century earlier. Rank was defined increasingly not by origins, but by
possessions. One finds this new ranking system in the writings of Daniel
Defoe, who used the word "class" in its modern sense as early as the year
1705. In 1709, Defoe described English society as follows:
(1) The great, who live profusely.
(2) The rich, who live very plentifully.
(3) The middle sort, who live well.
(4) The working trades, who labour hard, but feel no want.
(5) The country people, farmers etc who fare indifferently.
(6) The poor, that fare hard.
(7) The miserable, that really pinch and suffer want.
The founders of the Quaker colonies and especially the back settlements came from a later era in which orders and estates were yielding to social classes.
In every region, English colonists met an indigenous population of American Indians. The collision of these groups was a cultural process of high complexity, which can only be discusses here in summary. In brief, the Indian populations of North America were not a cultural monolith... The founders of the British colonies were aware of this diversity, and deliberately selected the sites of their own settlements in part because of the special character of the Indians in the vicinity. This was very much the case among New England Puritans and Delaware Quakers. All four major British groups also invented their own distinctive policies toward the Indians. They tended to treat the Indians in profoundly different ways, and were treated differently in their turn.
The backcountry became a cockpit of international rivalry, and was ravaged by major wars in every generations from 1689 to 1815.
The growth of regional folk cultures in British America was also fostered by a unique political environment which was very different from other European colonies. New France and New Spain were more closely controlled by imperial authorities than were England's American provinces, which had more freedom to manage their own affairs. This condition did not develop by design. English statesmen looked upon the empires of France and Spain with admiration, and even with envy. The authorities in London often tried to impose similar controls upon their own colonies. But for many years these efforts failed and regional cultures of British America were left to go their own way.
After the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the new Protestant regime of William and Mary tried to bring the colonies to heel, and at last succeeded in doing so. It created a new body called the Board of Trade, and a complex machinery of imperial government. But the delicate relationship between King and Parliament prevented either from asserting itself as forcefully as did imperial authorities in France and Spain. After 1714, Britain was ruled by German kings who cared little about America, and English ministers who knew less... Throughout the empire, colonial assemblies continued to claim parliamentary status, even though officials in London regarded them as comparable to municipal councils. This constitutional question was not resolved before 1775. While it continues, England's American provinces remained more nearly autonomous than other European colonies, and regional cultures developed with less interference from above.
British America also differed from other empires in another way. It was settled mainly by voluntary migration. Most British men and women made their own way to the New World. Many raised their own price of passage, and freely chose to settled in a colony which was congenial to their culture. This voluntary migration was unique to the British colonies. In New France, a large part of the population was descended from conscripts, soldiers, sailors, basket women, "king's girls", civil servants, priests, nuns and others who had been ordered to America, sometimes much against their own will. Once arrived, these immigrants tended to be more closely controlled, except on the fringes of the colony.
The peculiar texture of life in New York City today still preserved qualities which existed in 17th century New Amsterdam — and Old Amsterdam as well.
The Revolution was
not a single struggle, but a series of four separate Wars of Independence,
waged in very different ways by the major cultures of British America.
The first American Revoluition (1775-6) was a massive popular insurrection
in New England. An army of British regulars was defeated by a Yankee militia...
Most able-bodied males served in the war, and the fighting was cruel and
bitter. So powerful was the resistance of this people-in-arms that after
1776 a British army was never again able to remain in force on the New
England mainland. An honest Yankee veteran, when asked to explain why he
had fought in his own words, answered simply that New Englanders had always
managed their own affairs, and Britain tried to stop them, and so the war
The second American War for Independence (1776-81) was a more protracted conflict in the middle states and the coastal south. This was a gentlemen's war. On one side was a professional army of regulars and mercenaries commanded by English gentry. On the other side was an increasingly professional American army led by a member of the Virginia gentry. The principles of this second American Revolution were given their Aristotelian statement in the Declaration of Independence by another Virginia gentleman, Thomas Jefferson, who believed that he was fighting for the ancient liberties of his "Saxon ancestors".
The third American Revoluition reached its climax in the years from 1779-81. This was a rising of British borderers in the southern backcountry against American loyalists and British regulars who invaded the region. The result was a savage struggle which resembled many earlier conflicts in North Britain, with much family feuding and terrible atrocities committed on both sides.
The fourth American Revoluition continued in the years from 1781 and 1783. This was a non-violent economic and diplomatic struggle, in which the elites of the Delaware Valley played a leading part. The economic war was organized by Robert Morris of Philadelphia. The genius of American diplomacy was Benjamin Franklin. The Delaware culture contributed comparitively little to the fighting, but much to other forms of struggle.
The loyalists who opposed the revolution tended to be groups who were not part of the four leading cultures — imperial elites from the colonial capitals and also various ethnic groups who lived on the margins of the major culture: notably the ployglot population of lower New York, the Highland Scots of Carolina and African slaves.
In 1789, the coexistence of the regional cultures was further protected by the Bill of Rights. A case in point was the first sentence of the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This deceptively simple statement was another regional compromise of high complexity. Its intent was to preserve religious freedom in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and at the same time to protect the religious establishments of New England from outside interference. As time passed its meaning was enlarged; a measure which was written to protect regional pluralism became a basis for national libertarianism.
The balkanization of British North America (as happened in Latin America) would have been a catastrophe for the cause of freedom in the modern world.
The war fever of 1798 marked the beginning of a consistent pattern in American military history. From the quasi-war with France to the Vietnam War, the two southern cultures strongly supported every American war no matter what it was about or who it was against. Southern ideas of honor and the warrior ethic combined to create regional war fevers of great intensity in 1798, 1812, 1846, 1861, 1898, 1917, 1941, 1950 and 1965. Here is another subject that remains to be studied in detail.
During the decade of
the 1850s, a revolution of parties occured in American politics. The Whig
party disintegrated after the election of 1852, and eight years later the
Democratic party came to piece as well. The crucial factor was the emergence
of a new issues which shattered both the Whig and the Democratic omnibus
strategies and polarized sectional opinion — slavery.
In presidential politics, revived regional and sectional patterns first clearly emerged in the election of 1856. The pattern of Republican support in 1856 was a map of greater New England. Every state that voted Republican had been colonized by descendants of the Puritan migration. But the support of one cultural region was never enough to carry a national election.
One by one, national institutions of the republic divided on sectional lines. In 1860, the Democratic party disintegrated. At the same time, a new coalition of northern regional cultures began to form — the first time since Washington's administration that the north had been firmly united. In the election of 1860, the Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln was himself a fitting personal symbol of this new coalition. On his father's side, Lincoln was descended from New England Puritans who had intermarried with Pennsylvania Puritans and migrated to Appalachia and the Ohio Valley. He represented every regional component of the Republican coalition. The election of 1860 was carried by this new sectional alliance... even though Lincoln lost every electoral vote in the southern states. This pattern became the basis of a Republican coalition that dominated American politics from the Civil War to the New Deal.
With the success of the Republican coalition in 1860, the southern regions lost control of the Senate, House of Representatives and presidency altogether for the first time since the 18th century. New England had often been in that position before, but its culture had discouraged violent responses. Southern folkways caused a different reaction. The Republica victory was seen not only as a challenge to southern interests, but as an affront to southern honor and a threat to southern freedom.
In defense of their different cultures in the Civil War, the two sections also fought differently. At first, the armies of the north were very much like those of Fairfax in the English Civil War; gradually they became another New Model Army, ruthless, methodical and efficient. The Army of Northern Virginia, important parts of it at least, consciously modeled itself upon the beau sabruers of Prince Rupert. At the same time, the Confederate armies of the southwest marched into the battle behind the cross of St Andrew, and called themselves "Southrons" on the model of their border ancestors.
The greatest figure of the war, Abraham Lincoln, perfectly represented the Republican coalition of regional cultures. Lincoln's abiding sense of morality in politics, his lifelong defense of ordered liberty, the simplicity and strength of his biblical prose, his plain style and egalitarian manner were all derived from the folkways of his Puritan and Quaker ancestors, and personified the high moral ideals that lent power and seriousness to the Union cause. Below the Mason-Dixon line, the leaders of the Confederacy were also products of their regional folkways. Their ideals were personified in the character of Robert E Lee — himself the direct descendant of an English gentleman who had moved to Virginia in the mid-17th century. Lee's nobility of conduct symbolized an ethic of honor which had existed in his region for many generations. The symbolic qualities of Lincoln and Lee were often far removed from the sordid realities of the Civil War. But symbols themselves became realities of high importance in this great and terrible strife.
As the casualty lists grew longer, northern war aims changed from an intention not merely to resist the expansion of southern culture to a determination to transform it. As this attitude spread through the northern states the Civil War became a cultural revolution. The results were mixed. The southern armies were broken by the north, and southern slavery was abolished. But southern culture survived the war, and so did its animus against the north... Radical reconstruction was an attempt to impose by force the cultures of New England and the midlands upon the coastal and highland south. This cultural revolution continued in some parts of the south until 1876. It succeeded for a time in modifying many southern institutions — its labor system, its politics and its schools. But with the exception of slavery itself, most of these effects lasted only as long as they were supported by northern bayonets. In the end, Radical Reconstruction was a revolution that failed... Such a truly radical reconstruction of southern culture was impossible in 1868, for it would have required acts of a sort that were forbidden by the culture of the north.
After the elections of 1876, a weary north finally gave up its attempts to transform the south, and Union troops were withdrawn. Southern whites quickly recovered control of their regions and rapidly undid the reforms of Reconstruction.
In every presidential election from 1880 to 1908, the south voted a single bloc, casting virtually all of its electoral ballots for Democratic candidates. The expression "solid South" was popularized in this period.
The spirit of Harry Truman's campaign in 1948 was captured in a rallying cry, "Give 'em Hell, Harry!" Its substance appeared in its slogan, "Vote your own interests!" Truman managed to be liberal on race and conservative on property, pro-union and pro-farm, pro-producer and pro-consumer. His combination of strong words and moderate acts had powerful appeal in the American midlands.
In 1952 the Republicans adopted the omnibus strategy so often used by conservative parties, and nominated a folksy military hero with few discernable opinions on controversial questions. In 1952 and again in 1956, Eisenhower carried every American state outside the south. The success of the Republican omnibus dealt a crushing blow to the New Deal coalition.
Dyring the decade of the 1960s, a revolution occured in regional voting patterns. For a century, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan had voted Republican in nearly every presidential election except when Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt had drawn them away. In the same period, the coastal and highland south had gone Democratic in every presidential contest except during Reconstruction. This general pattern had persisted from 1856 to 1956. During the 1960s new trends of great strength and stability began to appear. The leading tendency was the growth of a new Democratic voting bloc in New England and New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. These states had been the core of the Republican coalition in the 19th century. Now they became the new base of the Democratic party. At the same time, southern states turned toward the Republican party. A new conservative coalition united the coastal and highland south, the mountain states, the great basin and the far southwest. In 1964, the candidate of this alliance was Republican Barry Goldwater. Many conservative Democrats throughout the south changed parties to vote for him.
Regional voting patterns came apart when one party nominated a candidate from the regional base of the other. The Democrats had tehir strongest successes in this period when they ran Texan Lyndon Johnson and Georgian Jimmy Carter. Carter's southern strength divided the conservative coalition and carrued the election.
Regional ties were also disrupted when the conservative coalition put up an omnibus candidate. In 1980 this device was tried again in a novel form. No victorious general had emrged from the Vietnam War, but the Republican party discovered that a professional actor made a highly acceptable substitute. Ronald Reagan proved to be a perfect omnibus candidate. In the election of 1980 he carried every cultural region and all but six states. In 1984, Reagan won and even more commanding victory when Democrats made the fatal mistake of nominating Walter Mondale, a candidate from their only strong region.
Regional antipathies had appeared long before the Civil War and remained remarkably strong in the 20th century... During World War II three German submariners escaped from Camp Crossville, Tennessee. Their flight took them to an Appalachian cabin, where they stopped for a drink of water. The mountain granny told them to "git". When they ignored her, she promptly shot them dead. The sheriff came, and scolded her for shooting helpless prisoners. Granny burst into tears, and said that she would not have done it if she had known they were Germans.The exasperated sheriff asked her what in "tarnation" she thought she was shooting at. "Why," she replied, "I thought they was Yankees!"
In ecological terms, homicide rates throughout the United States correlate more closely with cultural regions of origin than with urbanization, poverty or any material factor... At an early date, each regional culture developed its own institutions of order and violence which have persisted powerfully through time. The laws of New England have always given little latitude to violence... In contrast, the principle of 'lax talionis' is still part of Texas law, which allows a husband to kill his wife's lover in flagrante delictu.
The persistence of American regionalism also appeared in every federal census, which continues even today to yield evidence of greater differences between American regions than among European nations.
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