We Brought the Sickness With Us

Submitted byFHMaster onFri, 01/06/2017 - 18:40

One of the most fascinating aspects of popular interpretation of American History, especially among the Christian nation believers, is the assumption that everything started fresh, that American history started when we got here and is not connected to anything that happened before. This leads to a dangerously simplistic and naive perspective that ignores and denies previous social reality.

Like many, I was taught that the Puritans left England, then Holland, because they were persecuted for their religion. Actually, while they were suppressed in England, that could hardly be called "persecution"; and they left Holland because they saw their children acculturating and did not like that. And the settlers who made Virginia a success - not the original incompetents - were refugees from the English Civil War, in other word, the losers in that conflict.

We did not start fresh.

Albion's Seed demonstrates convincingly that we brought our cultural traditions and perspectives with us, mostly from 4 specific regions in England: The Puritans into New England, the Quakers into Pennsylvania, the Cavaliers into Virginia and further South, and Borderlanders (mostly from the border between England and Scotland) through Pennsylvania into the Appalachians, Kentucky and Tennessee. While each of these four cultures adapted, the survival of cultural traditions remained strong and pervasive.

What is frequently forgotten in all this is that these cultural migrations were not isolated from a larger historical context but were in fact intimate descendants of a larger historical context. Both the European wars of religion and the English Civil War had lasting effects which underpin much of the future history of the American colonies and the eventual United States.

The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of conflicts over the way government in Great Britain would be handled. The outcome was to severely limit, for a time, the independent powers of the monarchy and the ability of the monarchy to impose religious orthodoxy. By the time of the American Revolution, the monarchy had regained much of this power, but in the early days of the American colonies, the issues of government control and religious imposition were of constant concern (God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution by Thomas Kidd).

The English Civil War had effects on colonial history that are usually forgotten. First, when the English Civil War started, many Puritan men from New England went back to England to participate - on Cromwell's side to be sure. Second, after the royalists (Cavaliers) lost the war, many of them migrated to Virginia, forming the wave of settlers that made Virginia successful, albeit on the model of landed and privileged gentry that they brought with them from England.

In retrospect, however, I think that the European Wars of Religion had an even greater and more lasting effect on Colonial history, one which disppears behind the facade of Puritan mythologies about creating a New Jerusalem in the New World.

Following the Reformation and the splintering of religious sensibilities into numerous denominations and cults, Europe experienced a series of conflicts between 1524 to 1648 that were primarily about religion or that included religious concerns as a major element of the wars. This included the 80 Years War in Holland and Belgium (the Low Countries), the French Wars of Religion (1562–1598), and numerous smaller conflicts. Even colonial conflicts included religion as a factor, such as fear of Catholics in Canada and fear of Anglican domination in Puritan New England (see God of Liberty).

By the time the Puritans migrated to New England, Europeans had gone though over 100 years of religiously-motivated or religiously-impacted conflict, resulting in great loss of life. The Puritan's concerns about religious liberty and the freedom to do their own thing were not isolated cultural events, but the result of decades of conflict and self-definition. Europeans took their religion very seriously, and they did not mind imposing wherever possible.

So colonial - American - culture was born in an environment of political and religious tension.

Aside from religious aspects, a number of cultural patterns were brought to the New World by European settlers, many or all of which still afflict us today:

The idea that property and money are more important than people, which developed into vulture capitalism and neo-liberalism.
Exceptionalism - an assumed superiority of European culture, which developed into white supremacy and religious extremism.
Calvinism - religion based on beliefs and metaphors with a mean-spirited totalitarian streak.
Liberty as the "right" of the privileged to oppress and abuse, which developed in the Deep South into chattel slavery and white supremacy.
No possibility of compromise, which we associate with the Deep South but which also afflicted Puritan/Yankee culture, Borderlander culture, and Quaker culture.
Others (outsiders, proponents of other religions, Native Americans) are not worthy and can be used or disposed of as needed to further the dominant culture's interests.
Cultural aggressiveness, in which violence and predation are considered not only normal but actually righteous.
Dominionism - it's our world and we can do with it what we want, which has developed into the modern insanity of Dominionism and Reconstructionism.

These patterns are with us today very strongly:

Global dominion (neo-liberalism and global corporations)
Perpetual war
Totalitarianism and authoritarianism
Exceptionalism (both American and Christian)
Media control and propaganda
Religious liberty being defined by the Religious Right as the ability to impose on others which claiming to be persecuted
White supremacy

In our early days, we developed numerous mechanisms for protecting individual freedom from government and religious tyranny, such as the Bill of Rights. But we have never been honest about the cultural sicknesses that we brought with us and have developed into modern myths. One has only to look at the suppression of rights for all others (minorities, women, etc.), the attitude of destructive righteousness that pervades much of the "religious right", and the utter selfishness of the financial elites to see the same patterns surviving and flourishing.

Unknown Object


Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer (http://smile.amazon.com/Albions-Seed-British-Folkways-cultural-ebook/dp…)
God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution by Thomas Kidd (http://smile.amazon.com/God-Liberty-Religious-American-Revolution-ebook…)

Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766

Submitted byFHMaster onSun, 01/29/2017 - 14:36

"In this engrossing narrative of the great military conflagration of the mid-eighteenth century, Fred Anderson transports us into the maelstrom of international rivalries. With the Seven Years' War, Great Britain decisively eliminated French power north of the Caribbean — and in the process destroyed an American diplomatic system in which Native Americans had long played a central, balancing role — permanently changing the political and cultural landscape of North America.

The Witches: Salem, 1692

Submitted byFHMaster onSun, 01/29/2017 - 13:14

"The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Cleopatra, the #1 national bestseller, unpacks the mystery of the Salem Witch Trials.

It began in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister's daughter began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, but not before 19 men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death.

Who Freed the Slaves?: The Fight over the Thirteenth Amendment

Submitted byFHMaster onSun, 01/29/2017 - 11:12

"In the popular imagination, slavery in the United States ended with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The Proclamation may have been limited—freeing only slaves within Confederate states who were able to make their way to Union lines—but it is nonetheless generally seen as the key moment, with Lincoln’s leadership setting into motion a train of inevitable events that culminated in the passage of an outright ban: the Thirteenth Amendment.

What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

Submitted byFHMaster onSun, 01/29/2017 - 10:46

"The Oxford History of the United States is by far the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. In this Pulitzer prize-winning, critically acclaimed addition to the series, historian Daniel Walker Howe illuminates the period from the battle of New Orleans to the end of the Mexican-American War, an era when the United States expanded to the Pacific and won control over the richest part of the North American continent.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

Submitted byFHMaster onSat, 01/28/2017 - 22:08

"In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history.

The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters

Submitted byFHMaster onSat, 01/28/2017 - 22:05

"More than 140 years ago, Mark Twain observed that the Civil War had "uprooted institutions that were centuries old, changed the politics of a people, transformed the social life of half the country, and wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations." In fact, five generations have passed, and Americans are still trying to measure the influence of the immense fratricidal conflict that nearly tore the nation apart.

The War Before Independence: 1775-1776

Submitted byFHMaster onSat, 01/28/2017 - 21:03

"The United States was creeping ever closer to independence. The shot heard round the world still echoed in the ears of Parliament as impassioned revolutionaries took up arms for and against King and country. In this captivating blend of careful research and rich narrative, Derek W. Beck continues his exploration into the period preceding the Declaration of Independence, just days into the new Revolutionary War.