Albion's Seed: Four British. Folkways in America. InBoston's museum of fine arts, not far from the place where English Puritans splashed ashore in , there is. This fascinating book is the first volume in a projected cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time. In this sense, nearly all Americans are "Albion's Seed," no matter what their ethnicity may be. David Hackett Fischer is Warren. [PDF Edition] Albion's Seed Four British Folkways in America (America A Cultural History) COMPLETE Books. According to David Hackett Fischer, however, their day-to-day lives are profoundly influenced by folkways transplanted from Britain to the New World with the first settlers.
|Language:||English, Spanish, Hindi|
|Distribution:||Free* [*Register to download]|
The PDF file you selected should load here if your Web browser has a PDF reader plug-in installed (for example, a recent version of Adobe Acrobat Reader). Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. (America: A Cultural History. Volume I.) New York: Oxford University Press. Pp. xxii, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America is a book by David Hackett Fischer that . Print/export. Create a book · Download as PDF · Printable version .
Virginian recreation mostly revolved around hunting and bloodsports. Thus, every red-blooded male in Virginia was permitted to slaughter some animal or other, and the size of his victim was proportioned to his social rank.
The planter took it personally and sent his [relations] and ordered them to nail up the doors and windows of all the churches in which Kay preached. Originally condescension was supposed to be a polite way of showing respect those who were socially inferior to you; our modern use of the term probably says a lot about what Virginians actually did with it. In a lot of ways, Virginia was the opposite of Massachusetts.
Their homicide rate was sky-high, and people were actively encouraged to respond to slights against their honor with duels for the rich and violence for the poor. Their cuisine focused on gigantic sumptuous feasts of animals killed in horrible ways. There were no witchcraft trials, but there were people who were fined for disrupting the peace by accusing their neighbors of witchcraft.
Their church sermons were twenty minutes long on the dot.
The Puritans naturally thought of the Virginians as completely lawless reprobate sinners, but this is not entirely true. Virginian church sermons might have been twenty minutes long, but Virginian ballroom dance lessons could last nine hours.
They would encourage and reward children for being loud and temperamental, on the grounds that this indicated a strong personality and having a strong personality was fitting of a noble. When this worked, it worked really well — witness natural leaders and self-driven polymaths like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. More often it failed catastrophically — the rate of sex predation and rape in Virginia was at least as high as anywhere else in North America.
The Virginian Cavaliers had an obsession with liberty, but needless to say it was not exactly a sort of liberty of which the ACLU would approve. I once heard someone argue against libertarians like so: even if the government did not infringe on liberties, we would still be unfree for other reasons. If we had to work, we would be subject to the whim of bosses. The Virginians took this idea and ran with it — in the wrong direction. Needless to say, this conception of freedom required first indentured servitude and later slavery to make it work, but the Virginians never claimed that the servants or slaves were free.
Freedom, like wealth, was properly distributed according to rank; nobles had as much as they wanted, the middle-class enough to get by on, and everyone else none at all.
And a Virginian noble would have gone to his grave insisting that a civilization without slavery could never have citizens who were truly free. Where the Puritans seem like a dystopian caricature of virtue and the Cavaliers like a dystopian caricature of vice, the Quakers just seem ordinary.
He believed people were basically good and had an Inner Light that connected them directly to God without a need for priesthood, ritual, Bible study, or self-denial; mostly people just needed to listen to their consciences and be nice. And since the Quakers were among the most persecuted sects at the time, they developed an insistence on tolerance and freedom of religion which unlike the Puritans they stuck to even when shifting fortunes put them on top.
They believed in pacificism, equality of the sexes, racial harmony, and a bunch of other things which seem pretty hippy-ish even today let alone in Born to the nobility, Penn distinguished himself early on as a military officer; he was known for beating legendary duelists in single combat and then sparing their lives with sermons about how murder was wrong.
He gradually started having mystical visions, quit the military, and converted to Quakerism. Upon his release the King liked him so much that he gave him a large chunk of the Eastern United States on a flimsy pretext of repaying a family debt.
His recruits — about 20, people in total — were Quakers from the north of England, many of them minor merchants and traders. They disproportionately included the Britons of Norse descent common in that region, who formed a separate stratum and had never really gotten along with the rest of the British population.
They were joined by several German sects close enough to Quakers that they felt at home there; these became the ancestors of among other groups the Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish, and Mennonites. In a gang of pirates stole a ship in Philadelphia and went up and down the Delaware River stealing and plundering. The Quakers got in a heated but brotherly debate about whether it was morally permissible to use violence to stop them.
When the government finally decided to take action, contrarian minister George Keith dissented and caused a major schism in the faith. Fischer argues that the Quaker ban on military activity within their territory would have doomed them in most other American regions, but by extreme good luck the Indians in the Delaware Valley were almost as peaceful as the Quakers.
As usual, at least some credit goes to William Penn, who taught himself Algonquin so he could negotiate with the Indians in their own language. But they were such prudes about sex that even the Puritans thought they went too far. Quakers had surprisingly modern ideas about parenting, basically sheltering and spoiling their children at a time when everyone else was trying whip the Devil out of them. He broke in upon them like an avenging angel, stopped the dance, anddemanded to know if they considered Martin Luther to be a good man.
The astonished youngsters answered in the affirmative. William Penn wrote about thirty books defending liberty of conscience throughout his life. The Quaker obsession with the individual conscience as the work of God helped invent the modern idea of conscientious objection.
Quakers were heavily and uniquely for their period opposed to animal cruelty.
When foreigners introduced bullbaiting into Philadelphia during the s, the mayor bought a ticket supposedly as a spectator. When the event was about to begin, he leapt into the ring, personally set the bull free, and threatened to arrest anybody who stopped him. On the other hand, they were also opposed to other sports for what seem like kind of random reasons. The Pennsylvania Quakers became very prosperous merchants and traders. They also had a policy of loaning money at low- or zero- interest to other Quakers, which let them outcompete other, less religious businesspeople.
They were among the first to replace the set of bows, grovels, nods, meaningful looks, and other British customs of acknowledging rank upon greeting with a single rank-neutral equivalent — the handshake.
Pennsylvania was one of the first polities in the western world to abolish the death penalty. The Quakers were lukewarm on education, believing that too much schooling obscured the natural Inner Light. Pennsylvania was very successful for a while; it had some of the richest farmland in the colonies, and the Quakers were exceptional merchants and traders; so much so that they were forgiven their military non-intervention during the Revolution because of their role keeping the American economy afloat in the face of British sanctions.
But by , the Quakers were kind of on their way out; by , they were a demographic minority in Pennsylvania, and by they were a minority in its legislature as well.
In Quakerism was the third-largest religion in the US; by it was the ninth-largest, and by it was the sixty-sixth largest. What happened? The Quakers basically tolerated themselves out of existence.
They were so welcoming to religious minorities and immigrants that all these groups took up shop in Pennsylvania and ended its status as a uniquely Quaker society. The most famous Pennsylvanian statesman of the Revolutionary era, Benjamin Franklin, was not a Quaker at all but a first-generation immigrant from New England.
Finally, Quakerism was naturally extra-susceptible to that thing where Christian denominations become indistinguishable from liberal modernity and fade into the secular background.
But Fischer argues that Quakerism continued to shape Pennsylvania long after it had stopped being officially in charge, in much the same way that Englishmen themselves have contributed disproportionately to American institutions even though they are now a numerical minority.
The Pennsylvanian leadership on abolitionism, penal reform, the death penalty, and so on all happened after the colony was officially no longer Quaker-dominated.
In the middle of the Puritans demanding strict obedience to their dystopian hive society and the Cavaliers demanding everybody bow down to a transplanted nobility, the Pennsylvanians — who became the thought leaders of the Mid-Atlantic region including to a limited degree New York City — were pretty normal and had a good opportunity to serve as power-brokers and middlemen between the North and South.
Although there are seeds of traditionally American ideas in every region, the Quakers really stand out in terms of freedom of religion, freedom of thought, checks and balances, and the idea of universal equality. It occurs to me that William Penn might be literally the single most successful person in history. He started out as a minor noble following a religious sect that everybody despised and managed to export its principles to Pennsylvania where they flourished and multiplied.
Pennsylvania then managed to export its principles to the United States, and the United States exported them to the world. None of this makes sense without realizing that the Scottish-English border was terrible.
In response to these pressures, the border people militarized and stayed feudal long past the point where the rest of the island had started modernizing. Life consisted of farming the lands of whichever brutal warlord had the top hand today, followed by being called to fight for him on short notice, followed by a grisly death. The border people dealt with it as best they could, and developed a culture marked by extreme levels of clannishness, xenophobia, drunkenness, stubbornness, and violence.
By the end of the s, the Scottish and English royal bloodlines had intermingled and the two countries were drifting closer and closer to Union. The English kings finally got some breathing room and noticed — holy frick, everything about the border is terrible.
Sometimes absentee landlords would just evict everyone who lived in an entire region, en masse, replacing them with people they expected to be easier to control. Many of the Borderers fled to Ulster in Ireland, which England was working on colonizing as a Protestant bulwark against the Irish Catholics, and where the Crown welcomed violent warlike people as a useful addition to their Irish-Catholic-fighting project. But Ulster had some of the same problems as the Border, and also the Ulsterites started worrying that the Borderer cure was worse than the Irish Catholic disease.
So the Borderers started getting kicked out of Ulster too, one thing led to another, and eventually , of these people ended up in America. By contrast, the great Puritan emigration wave was only 20, or so people; even the mighty colony of Virginia only had about 50, original settlers. Except, of course, the Quakers. The Quakers talked among themselves and decided that these people were also Children Of God, and so they should demonstrate Brotherly Love by taking them in.
At the time, the Appalachians were kind of the booby prize of American colonization: hard to farm, hard to travel through, and exposed to hostile Indians.
The Borderers fell in love with them. They came from a pretty marginal and unproductive territory themselves, and the Appalachians were far away from everybody and full of fun Indians to fight.
Soon the Appalachian strategy became the accepted response to Borderer immigration and was taken up from Pennsylvania in the north to the Carolinas in the South a few New Englanders hit on a similar idea and sent their own Borderers to colonize the mountains of New Hampshire. So the Borderers all went to Appalachia and established their own little rural clans there and nothing at all went wrong except for the entire rest of American history.
Some Borderers tried to come to America as indentured servants, but after Virginian planters got some experience with Borderers they refused to accept any more. The Borderers were mostly Presbyterians, and their arrival en masse started a race among the established American denominations to convert them.
Borderer town-naming policy was very different from the Biblical names of the Puritans or the Ye Olde English names of the Virginians.
The overall aesthetic honestly sounds a bit Orcish. One of the first Borderer leaders was John Houston. On the ship over to America, the crew tried to steal some of his possessions; Houston retaliated by leading a mutiny of the passengers, stealing the ship, and sailing it to America himself. The great family feuds of the United States, like the Hatfield-McCoy feud, are a direct descendent of this tradition.
This led to the modern stereotype of Appalachians as inbred and incestuous. Although the Borderers started off Presbyterian, they were in constant religious churn and their territories were full of revivals, camp meetings, born-again evangelicalism, and itinerant preachers.
Eventually most of them ended up as what we now call Southern Baptist. Also, blacksmiths protected themselves from witches by occasionally throwing live puppies into their furnaces. Other beverages were regarded with contempt. Other traditional backcountry sports were sharpshooting and hunting.
The justice system of the backcountry was heavy on lynching, originally a race-neutral practice and named after western Virginian settler William Lynch. This may be the origin of the popular slur against Americans of Borderer descent, although many other etiologies have been proposed. Andrew Jackson became the first Borderer president, behaving exactly as you would expect the first Borderer president to behave, and he was followed by almost a dozen others.
The Borderers really liked America — unsurprising given where they came from — and started identifying as American earlier and more fiercely than any of the other settlers who had come before. They also also played a disproportionate role in westward expansion.
It was the Borderers who were happiest going off into the wilderness and fighting Indians, and most of the famous frontiersmen like Davy Crockett were of their number. This was a big part of the reason the Wild West was so wild compared to, say, Minnesota also a frontier inhabited by lots of Indians, but settled by Northerners and Germans and why it inherited seemingly Gaelic traditions like cattle rustling.
Other than numbers, what separated this group from the prior three were desires for material and social betterment; not religious experiments or replications of the motherland. When exploring how to classify this fourth group of immigrants, Fischer chose to label them not as Ulster Irish as some historians have, but rather as simply as a mixed people to be fair to all portions of the immigrant wave.
They already had a joined culture and history from the many wars that ravaged the borderlands in the British Isles, so there were few significant distinctions between them.
The Quaker solution to their mass exodus was to encourage the new squatters to settle lands further to the west, the Appalachian Borderlands. The mixed people of the backcountry built their log cabins along architecture already employed in the British borderlands. The family structures changed little from their homes abroad. They maintained strong familial ties and built clans although not as many were so violent as they were in Britain.
Marriage between clans was sometimes difficult as wives would be cut from their former clans so this enforced their strong belief that blood ties were much stronger than marriage ties. The majority of the families and clans in this folkway were protestant which tied, yet also separated them from the Atlantic seaboard colonies.
The vast array of material is organized thoroughly and the monograph is well-written with plenty of details and first hand accounts to please the most discerning yet uninformed student.