Settler colonialism of the North American continent during the 17th and 18th centuries demonstrated the desire of European peoples to increase the quality of their lives by “voting with their feet.” The common theme of fleeing religious persecution provides both the most important motive as well as the essential cultural glue within a particular wave of migration. It could easily be said that the Eastern seaboard of colonial British America was composed not of one, but four, different nations.
This anthropological study of various immigrants from the British Isles is fascinating for the simple reason that its thesis maintains that such migrants do not stem from one homogenous pool. Aside from the fact that all of them speak English as their native tongue, their respective values and customs are uniquely different (including even their idioms and pronunciations of certain words). The author examines the Puritans in Massachusetts, the cavalier Anglican Virginians, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, and the Scots-Irish (who lived more in the mountainous inland areas) according to their speech habits, architectural styles, family structures, marriage customs, gender dynamics, sexual behavior, child-rearing philosophies, onomastic traditions, attitudes towards their elderly, religious theologies, magical tendencies, educational standards, culinary flavors, fashion designs, recreational pursuits, work ethics, perspectives on time, accumulations of wealth, hierarchies, and political ideologies.
Massachusetts Puritans were a very religious people who were primarily interested in their own salvation. To that end, everything from exposing their children very directly to their own mortality, to having a penchant for baking, reflects their devotion to God. While in several ways the Puritans were egalitarian in many respects, they were more than happy to persecute anyone who deliberately defied their own conception of God, as evidenced by their inhumane treatment of the Quakers. Such brutality mars what would otherwise be considered a civilization unto itself, especially considering how their legalistic practices greatly resembles the authoritarian nature of Sharia jurisprudence. As a form of theocracy, puritanical Massachusetts political theory held to the notion of ordered liberty, that is, the collective liberty to worship God in a specific way without the interference of outside forces; it was also understood to be that individually, specific persons held different amounts of non-universal liberties.
Anglican Virginians, while expounding the virtues of nobility, created the very culture that enabled race-specific slavery based on the Ancient Egyptian model. Their notion of hierarchy was carried to the extreme end of justifying the slave-master relationship as being somehow morally acceptable. Don’t worry…..the Virginians got their comeuppance when they habitually indulged in what we would now consider to be the consumerist culture, with the concomitant high levels of debt that accompanies such an irresponsible lifestyle. The best products of this culture (being the value of leadership and fried foods) are tempered by their sexually predatory behavior that, like their other domineering habits, are explained by their political theory of hegemonic liberty, that is, the liberty to enslave and be enslaved without the interference of outside forces (this is encapsulated by the term of laisser asservir).
Quaker Pennsylvanians were a very religious people, who like the Puritans, were primarily interested in their own salvation. Unlike the Puritans however, the Quakers were very cosmopolitan in their attitudes and treatment of others who lived amongst them that had a different conception of God. They enacted the religious toleration (aka the “liberty of conscience”) that Sir Thomas Browne and others had tirelessly promoted amongst the Europeans. Aside from their distaste of sex, the Quakers otherwise had a proper civilization where people were treated even more fairly than the Puritans, especially in the arena of criminal justice. This stems from their political theory of reciprocal liberty, that is, they contracted their liberties into existence; the “consent of the governed” can be observed on everything from short-term taxation to jury trials to abolitionist sentiments.
The Scots-Irish Presbyterians were composed of a very heterogenous ethnic soup that also included the English who lived in the northern border lands on the southern side of Hadrian’s Wall. This potpourri of mostly rural folk inhabited the frontier areas of the various British colonies, stretching everywhere from western Massachusetts to the Appalachians to southwestern Pennsylvania and even the Carolinas. Cultural values such as ascendancy and the rule of tanistry were absolutely paramount, since this conglomeration of Celtic peoples had survived a very violent region in Britain, and they carried this conception of hierarchy (based on merit instead of on bloodlines) with them to the North American continent. They took the sheepdog concept of self-defensive violence incredibly seriously by extending the Virginian idea of “a man’s home is his castle” to the degree where they were the sheriffs of their own homes (pursuant to lex talionis). Their perspective on being able to deal with violence is rooted in their political theory of natural liberty, that is, they are already free, and if you don’t like it (by being willing to infringe upon them), they are willing to kill you in the interest of jealously safeguarding their freedom.
While entire reviews of this anthropological study can focus on various different aspects, I would like to compare and contrast these four nations’ conceptions of Liberty, which I think is most pertinent and applicable to our own situation. Hegemonic liberty is inherently contradictory to reciprocal liberty, as well as being contradictory in and of itself; all it is is an ex post facto justification for being a tiny tinpot dictator without regard for the dignities of your fellow countrymen (the values of leadership are unjustly expressed as an oligarchical tyranny based on an eugenicist obsession with bloodlines instead of more appropriately based on earned respect that is inherent with natural liberty). Ordered liberty is a sad excuse for imposing upon others your own misconceived subjective notions of morality without their consent, which is ironically what conservative statists accuse the worst Muslim stereotypes of doing, completely neglecting the fact that they themselves follow the concept of ordered liberty, which in principle is exactly the same thing as Sharia “law.”
Reciprocal liberty is literally based on the virtue of consensual contract. Negotiations leading to agreements as to the restraints upon government impose upon the citizenry their duty to obey the government so long as the State does not violate the contract (such as in the form of a constitution); if they do so, the liberty of the consenting populace has been violated and therefore they are outside the scope of protection that they were supposed to receive from the other party, at least until such time that the systematic violations are either permanently reigned in or the current government is abolished. Natural liberty is not based on other people’s agreement that you should be free to the degree they consent to; existentially speaking, you exist in a “state of nature” and already have whatever rights, freedoms, and liberties you innately possess (if there are any). Regardless of the metaphysical realities, natural liberty is maintained by the willingness to use physical force (that is, self-defensive violence) to both deter and repel the initiation of aggressive coercion by tyrants.
David Fischer’s Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America is a terrific anthropologic examination into early American colonialism and its ultimate manifestation into the current conditions of our own situation. In terms of utility, this is a history textbook, so expecting anything useful other than the knowledge of what other people did way, way back when is virtually useless, unless you are planning on implementing some of what they did, or at least accepting some of their philosophical precepts (especially in terms of political theory). It should be kept in mind that this is an approximately 900 page book, so not every dissident needs to read this, unless you are trying to pass the time for some reason.