Albion's Seed and much more

Approaching Infinity

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
The connection to the Puritans is completely news to me though. I was always under the impression that the Puritans claim that they moved to the Americas to escape oppression. However, I have also heard that they moved there so that they could more freely practice their repressive ways. I would like to think that the latter is nearer the mark and that the Nor folk gave them a good kick as they went out the door!
Yeah, I think you could say it was both. Essentially the Puritans wanted freedom from oppression in order to practice their own form of oppression. They were basically theocratic totalitarians in New England. The way they treated Anne Hutchinson, for example, was reprehensible. And she was just one of many.

I haven't read "Albion's Seed" yet, but I've been reading a book that Jonathan Haidt has recommend several times: Colin Woodard's "American Nations". Fischer was an inspiration for the book, which focuses not just on the 4 British cultures that contributed to U.S., but on what he identifies as the current 11 "nations" that make up the U.S., Canada, and northern Mexico: Tidewater, Yankeedom, the Midlands, Greater Appalachia (these four correspond to Fischer's four), New France (which Fischer covered in a more recent book, "Champlain's Dream"), as well as El Norte (Spanish/Mestizo), the Deep South, New Netherland (New York), and the nations that developed later on: the Far West, the Left Coast, and First Nation (both the oldest and newest, in northern Canada).

He covers their histories, conflicts, and development from their origins to the present day, and how the culture of the original colonists has contributed down to the present day. So far, I've gotta agree with Laura: the Quakers were the best of the bunch. But each seems to me to have had at least 1 good feature, even if it was marred by other features, e.g., the Puritans' focus on citizen involvement and self-government, though in a totally authoritarian manner. The Midlanders have a healthy distrust of big government, Greater Appalachia a focus on personal sovereignty, New France its egalitarian, consensus-driven approach, El Norte's self-sufficiency and hard work, etc. But yeah, the nations with the least going for them, in my view, are Tidewater, the Deep South, and Yankeedom (and the Yankees' influence on the Left Coast). Tidewater and the Deep South, with their essentially British aristocracy and feudalism and all its attendant cruelty, and Yankeedom with their aggressive social engineering.

Looking forward to reading Fischer after this!
 
Last edited:
My understanding of US history is cursory at best. Those two books look like a very good way to rectify that or at least to start it. I imagine it would help to understand the US as it is now too with all its disparate elements with conflicting interests. With the way the world is going I wonder if we might see some states try to break free from the union of states because they no longer feel that it serves their interests. Presumably government would bring the military in to impose order. That may be why they are staging mass shootings to get the populace to voluntarily give up their weapons. We'll see. I wouldn't put much past the STS bunch.
 

Laura

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
My understanding of US history is cursory at best. Those two books look like a very good way to rectify that or at least to start it. I imagine it would help to understand the US as it is now too with all its disparate elements with conflicting interests. With the way the world is going I wonder if we might see some states try to break free from the union of states because they no longer feel that it serves their interests. Presumably government would bring the military in to impose order. That may be why they are staging mass shootings to get the populace to voluntarily give up their weapons. We'll see. I wouldn't put much past the STS bunch.
Well, you can't do better than "Albion's Seed" because it is an intensely interesting read! It's practically a page turner!
 

Dirgni

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
The joke is that someone may move to Norfolk and live there for twenty or more years before being accepted as 'one of us'. There is quite a lot of truth to that!
You guys are fast. The joke in rural Bavaria used to be that your Greatgrandmother had to be part of the village otherwise you are not 'one of us'. The migration within German parts of our country after WWII put an end to that. But many of the first generation of newcomers were suffering not to be really accepted by many of the country folks.

Those are exactly the points that Fischer makes. Early Americans began their culture formation in a "conservative mood" in respect of their different English origins, conserving speech, family ways, ideologies, ways of rearing their children, cooking, concepts of freedom, etc.
It seems to me that the more extreme parts of European people had an tendency to emigrate to Amerika to be able to live their extreme ways. This especially seemed to be with religious extreme groups and their ways seem still to stick in US society

I did not hear much about the Puritans but I have got the impression that among them you had the freedom to believe what they believe and live the life their community/ elder say you have to live and your are not allowed to stray from that way one millimeter. Some freedom. I agree that I have seen similar when looking at 'religious acting' missionaries of veganism, anti smokers, equal rights people, climate warming, etc.
 

Maat

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
That makes sense and is something I have assumed for many years. I heard a linguist being interviewed on the radio once and they were discussing the differences between (British) English and (American) English. The linguist said that the latter is much more like the English the settlers came with but the former had evolved the language over the years in the way that language tends to. That made a lot of sense to me because people would naturally want to cling to what they know and feel secure in when they have transplanted themselves to an environment that is alien to them and lacks the social structures that they are used to. By contrast, the people who live in a culture that has been existent for hundreds of years are far more likely to stomach subtle changes in language or cultural norms.
And we can observe the same trend between french language in France and in Quebec as well.
 
That makes sense and is something I have assumed for many years. I heard a linguist being interviewed on the radio once and they were discussing the differences between (British) English and (American) English. The linguist said that the latter is much more like the English the settlers came with but the former had evolved the language over the years in the way that language tends to. That made a lot of sense to me because people would naturally want to cling to what they know and feel secure in when they have transplanted themselves to an environment that is alien to them and lacks the social structures that they are used to. By contrast, the people who live in a culture that has been existent for hundreds of years are far more likely to stomach subtle changes in language or cultural norms.
And we can observe the same trend between french language in France and in Quebec as well.
I've read the same about Portuguese, speech patterns that are archaisms in Portugal have been maintained in Brazil.
 

Approaching Infinity

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
That's really interesting about how the Puritans became the Liberals. They still like to burn those witches, don't they?
Yep, their chief feature seems to have been (and continues to be) to impose their own morality onto others. They're utopians of the communist/Borg type. This is how Woodard put it: "For more than four centuries, Yankees have sought to build a more perfect society here on Earth through social engineering, relatively extensive citizen involvement in the political process, and the aggressive assimilation of foreigners." They saw themselves as God's chosen people with the mission to impose their ways on everyone else, and continue to see government as the best way to enforce morals and better society. It's from the Puritans that we get the first seeds of American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny. Whereas the Catholic French made it their goal to establish fair dealing and relations with the Indians, for example, the Puritans didn't see things that way (not that they were alone in this, however) - they'd often attack neutral or friendly tribes while warring with some other group. Here's one example that Murray Rothbard relates in Conceived in Liberty. In 1636, some Block Island Indians had murdered a man, John Oldham, which set off a war and led to the extermination of the Pequot tribe:

...immediately after the death of Oldham, a party of whites under John Gallop shot at and rammed the unarmed Indian crew that had committed the crime, until all but four of the Indians were drowned. Of the four, two surrendered and one of them was promptly thrown overboard by Gallop.

But this swift punishment of the actual criminals was of course thought insufficient. Governor Vane of Massachusetts Bay quickly outfitted the tough John Endecott with an armed troop to slaughter more Block Island Indians. Now the Block Islanders had nothing to do with the Pequots. But somehow even the relatively liberal Vane concluded a priori that the Pequots must be harboring some of the murderers and he ordered Endecott to include the Pequots in the rigors of collective "punishment." Specifically, Endecott was instructed to massacre every male Indian on Block Island whether guilty or innocent of the crime, and to kidnap all the women and children - in short, to depopulate Block Island of native Indians. He also instructed to demand from them a thousand fathoms of wampum and to seize a few Pequot children as hostages for their good behavior.
The Puritans also had the first compulsory public schools. On the one hand, it was a positive: the Yankees had high literacy and were "well-educated". But it was really a system of indoctrination to create an elite ruling class. Rothbard again (you can tell where he stands on the subject!):

There would be no point to government schools for indoctrinating the masses, if there were no masses to be indoctrinated. Vital to the system, therefore, was a law compelling every child in the colony to be educated. This was put through in 1642 - the first compulsory education law in America - and was in contrast to the system of voluntary education then prevailing in England and in the Southern colonies. Parents ignoring the law were fined, and wherever government officials judged the parents or guardians to be unfit to have the children educated properly, the government was empowered to seize the children and apprentice them out to others.

One of the essential goals of Puritan rule was strict and rigorous enforcement of the ascetic Puritan conception of moral behavior. But since men's actions, given freedom to express their choices, are determined by their inner convictions and values, compulsory moral rules only serve to manufacture hypocrites and not to advance genuine morality. Coercion only forces people to change their actions; it does not persuade people to change their underlying values and convictions. And since those already convinced of the moral rules would abide by them without coercion, the only real impact of compulsory morality is to engender hypocrites, those whose actions no longer reflect their inner convictions. The Puritans, however, did not boggle at this consequence. A leading Puritan divine, the Rev. John Cotton, went so far as to maintain that hypocrites who merely conform to the church rules without inner conviction could still be useful church members. As to the production of hypocrites, Cotton complacently declared: "If it did so, yet better to be hypocrites than profane persons. Hypocrites give God part of his due, the outward man, but the profane persons giveth God neither outward nor inward man."

One requisite for the efficient enforcement of any code of behavior is always an effective espionage apparatus of informers. This apparatus was supplied in Massachusetts, informally but no less effectively, by the dedicated snooping of friends and neighbors upon one another, with detailed reports sent to the minister on all deviations, including the sin of idleness. The clustering of towns around central villages aided the network, and the fund of personal information collected by each minister added to his great political power. Moreover, the menace of excommunication was redoubled by the threat of corollary secular punishment.

Informal snooping, however, was felt by some of the towns to be too haphazard, and these set up a regular snooping officialdom. These officers were called "tithing men," as each one had supervision over the private affairs of his ten nearest neighbors.

One Puritan moral imperative was strict observance of the Sabbath: any worldly pleasures indulged in on the Sabbath were a grave offense against both church and state. The General Court was shocked to learn, in the late 1650s, that some people, residents as well as strangers, persisted in "uncivilly walking in the streets and fields" on Sunday, and even "travelling from town to town" and drinking at inns. And so the General Court duly passed a law prohibiting the crimes of "playing, uncivil walking, drinking and travelling from town to town" on Sunday. If these criminals could not pay the fine imposed, they were to be whipped by the constable at a maximum rate of five lashes per ten-shilling fine. To enforce the regulations and prevent the crimes, the gates of the towns were closed on Sunday and no one permitted to leave. And if two or more people met accidentally on the street on a Sunday, they were quickly dispersed by the police. Nor was the Sabbath in any sense a hasty period. Under the inspiration of the Rev. John Cotton, the New England Sabbath began rigorously at sunset Saturday evening and continued through Sunday night, thus ensuring that no part of the weekend could be spent in enjoyment. Indeed, enjoyment at any time, while not legally prohibited, was definitely frowned upon, levity being condemned as "inconsistent with the gravity to be always preserved by a serious Christian."

Kissing one's wife in public on a Sunday was also outlawed. A sea captain, returning home on a Sunday morning from a three-year voyage, was indiscreet enough to kiss his wife on the doorstep. For this he was forced to sit in the stocks for two hours for this "lewd and unseemly behavior on the Sabbath Day."
You could be fined for failing to go to church, for falling asleep in church, for gambling (but government lotteries were permitted), for wearing nice clothes, for having your hair too long... "Also prohibited, however, were games of skill at public houses, such as bowling and shuffleboard, such activities being considered a waste of time by the people's self-appointed moral guardians in the government."

Idleness, in fact, was not just a sin, but also a punishable misdemeanor - at any time, not only on Sunday. If the constable discovered anyone, singly or in groups, engaged in such heinous behavior as coasting on the ice, swimming, or sneaking a quiet smoke, he was ordered to report to the magistrate. Time, it seems, was God's gift and therefore always to be used in His service. A sin against God's time was a crime against the church and state.
 

Yupo

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
So what to do on the Sabbath? Sit home and pray before and after services? I imagine people feared even the idle talk of their children regarding private, domestic matters. I remember a childhood book about Puritan society, showing the implement used in churches to knock people on the head for their various sins there. Nothing changes. Always some kind of totalitarian thinking. Are we creeping toward this today?

I'm including here the opening scene from The Witch (an excellent film that I recommended on another thread).
In this scene, a very devout family is expelled from their village by the community judges. I've read that the script for this film was put together mostly from period journals and other historic records.

 

genero81

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I'm including here the opening scene from The Witch (an excellent film that I recommended on another thread).
In this scene, a very devout family is expelled from their village by the community judges. I've read that the script for this film was put together mostly from period journals and other historic records.
Yup, I watched it and was thinking of it as I read through this thread. I thought it was interesting how the extremism of the Puritan religion itself provided the opening and opportunities for the evil depicted in the movie to do it's 'thing.'
 

1peacelover

Jedi Master
Indeed, that's something people often forget. Interestingly, MLK's father was a lifelong Republican, but JFK made him him vote for Democrat for the first time in his entire life. To be honest, most black people are generally very conservative, more so in my opinion than some other race.
Ethnicity & Race Relations are very complicated and it depends on the perspective and experience(s) of the observer & the experience(r).

A conversation with Dr. Cornel West that discusses the way in which the black prophetic tradition has been supplanted by black elitism and individualism.
The Betrayal by the Black Elite
 

etezete

Jedi Master
You guys are fast. The joke in rural Bavaria used to be that your Greatgrandmother had to be part of the village otherwise you are not 'one of us'. The migration within German parts of our country after WWII put an end to that. But many of the first generation of newcomers were suffering not to be really accepted by many of the country folks.
Hahaha, just a side note: I am from Bavaria and I know exactely what you are talking about here (bolded part). But I think this was the pattern in many european rural parts for a long time; one edition of the ASTERIX Comix series jumps to my mind, with Methusalem saying: "I don't have anything against foreigners, but these foreigners are not from here."
 
Top Bottom