American Nations – A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America – by Colin Woodard – A Book Review – Part 2

(The first part of this review is found here)

 

In the second and third parts of the review I’ll go in depth about how the characteristics of the more important “nations” influenced how the political and social divisions in the later history of the United States would align.

Although the Spanish, French and even the English at Jamestown colonized earlier than the New England colonists, the Pilgrims and the Puritans were the biggest influence on early American life.  The Puritans left England, en masse, from mostly East Anglia to found a populous religiously intolerant Calvinist “heaven on Earth’ that they could run their own way.  They despised the aristocratic Norman noblemen and believed that a tightly knit town life run by selectmen who all agreed with the Puritan values would give them the social cohesion and resources needed to flourish and spread their way of life to the surrounding communities and eventually the other nations.

The abiding characteristic that marks the Yankee is his desire to interfere with anyone else who does not live life the way the Puritan thinks it should be lived.  They are inveterate busybodies who cannot abide anyone enjoying life except on their terms.  This was notable in the 1600s and is equally true today.  Even with the demise of their belief in God they have turned their social justice proclivities into a cult that invests much of their time and energy in policing everybody else’s business.

As a practical consequence of their numbers and their organized approach to life they quickly spread in all available directions.  They spread north and east into New Hampshire, Maine and even the Canadian Maritime Provinces.  They went west and south into Connecticut, Long Island and eventually most of New York State.  Later when the western areas of the continent became accessible, they migrated to the Great Lakes region essentially colonizing all of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and parts of Ohio and even northwestern Pennsylvania.  And much later, in the mid to late 1800s, they even colonized the Pacific Northwest forming the core of Oregon and Washington and even areas of northern California.

One very exceptional branch that emerged late from Yankeedom (as Woodard names the New England founding) was the Mormons.  They were a radical sect founded by a Yankee from New York state named Joseph Smith.  Their extremely unorthodox beliefs and community couldn’t hope to be accepted in the confines of orthodox New England so they eventually fled the United States for Utah.  But it is interesting that their New England heritage of religious communalism is probably the only way that they were able to survive the high desert of the Far West.  Their cooperative lifestyle allowed farming in an area where all other small farmers eventually failed and left.

Diametrically opposed to the culture and the approach of the Puritans of Yankeedom were the landed gentry who colonized Virginia and later the Carolinas.  These men were landed gentry who utilized indentured farmers and later on, black slaves to become wealthy from tobacco, rice and sugar estates that they were given by their aristocratic connections in England.  In Virginia, the Carolinas and later in Georgia, the local government was a closely held enterprise of the wealthy few who did not even permit the common men to vote and certainly not hold office.  And once the system of farming was worked out, these men accumulated great wealth and lived more sumptuously than their patrons back in England ever dreamed of.  The colony of Virginia never expanded much beyond its original borders but the deep south plantations of the Carolinas moved steadily west through the gulf state areas of Alabama, Mississippi, and eventually into Florida.  Later when cotton became the great cash crop, areas of Tennessee, Arkansas and even Texas were also included in this plantation society.  These aristocrats were the spiritual descendants of the landed nobility of England and felt that they were owed obedience by the common people and should answer only to themselves in the way they transacted business and lived their lives.  Woodard compares the rivalry between the Puritans of New England and the Cavaliers of the Deep South as an analogue to the sides of the English Civil War where the puritan roundheads under Cromwell fought to the death against the cavalier gentlemen of King Charles.  And indeed, the documents of the time show that both sides saw it in the same terms.

At all times and even during the American Revolution when these opponents were allies and even countrymen a rivalry and a bitter hatred existed between these two “nations.”

In the next installment I’ll talk about how the other nations and especially the Appalachians figured into this wrestling match for control of North America.

American Nations – A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America – by Colin Woodard – A Book Review – Part 1

This book has several faults.  One is that the author is an enormous progressive bigot.  He allows his sympathies with the progressive areas of the country to shade almost every aspect of the descriptive and critical content of the book.  Another fault is that he has subsumed the work of earlier authors and glossed over any ideas that don’t fit his world view.  But despite these ugly qualities the book provides a lot of very important information that can be valuable if carefully interpreted.

The thesis of the book is that the foundational cultures that colonized North America along with the remaining older cultures (Native American and Hispanic) account for the regional differences that still determine how people think, live and vote.  And that I think is a remarkable fact and taken along with an understanding of the motivations and psychology of these regional groups provides us with a better understanding of why things are happening the way they are and what best to do to influence the outcome of political and social struggles.

The clearest way to start thinking of what this book can tell us is to look at a map that divides most of North America by how it was colonized.  https://www.twincities.com/2013/11/16/which-of-this-writers-11-american-nations-do-you-live-in/

As a list, the Nations of the title are

  • Yankeedom
  • New Netherland
  • The Midlands
  • Tidewater
  • Deep South
  • New France
  • Greater Appalachia
  • El Norte
  • The Far West
  • The Left Coast
  • First Nation

What you’ll see is that the original Massachusetts colony has spread into an area that encompasses New England, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, parts of the surrounding states like Illinois (Yankeedom).  And to a slightly smaller degree Washington, Oregon and Northern California were its result (The Left Coast).  And the founding of Pennsylvania produced a discernible legacy that extends from the Atlantic in a relatively narrow band through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, then spreads into a larger area that includes virtually all of Iowa, northern Missouri, and large parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and both Dakotas.  And in fact, the strip then hooks around to include the majority of non-French eastern Canada.  All of this is denoted as the Midlands.

And in a similar way we can also see the results of the Virginia colonies (Tidewater) and the Deep South spread.  Because of the intervention of outside factors Virginia was prevented from spreading west, whereas the Carolinas went on to extend their way of life all the way down the Gulf coast to eastern Texas.

New Netherland is the Dutch founding in what is now New York City.  It is hemmed in by its neighbors to the North and South but is an extremely densely populated area with enormous commercial and financial clout.

A little less familiar is the origins of the Appalachian region.  This area was settled by lowland Scots, northern Britons and the Scots-Irish who fled poverty, oppression and civil strife in their homelands and spread out mostly from the Pennsylvanian, Virginian and Carolinian colonies to find freedom and autonomy in the mountains and forests of Appalachia and later go on to populate a wide band from western Virginia and the Carolinas to Northern Texas.  The states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and most of Illinois, Indiana and half of Oklahoma Missouri and Arkansas are the area called on this map Greater Appalachia.  More or less directly, the Appalachians, by cutting off access to the west, were responsible for the fact that the Virginia colonies never gained as much widespread power as its neighbors.

In a similar way the book goes to describe the founding and spread of the other “nations.”  New France and “El Norte” (the Mexican colonies in the southwest) are the most unfamiliar to most American readers but the information is easily digested and the way that these areas developed is relatively clear.

The Far West is the mountainous and high plains areas between the mid-west and the Left Coast that were populated in the wake of the railroads.  This area is defined by its relation to the federal government and its improvement programs.

First Nation describes the area in the north of Canada and Alaska and Greenland that are inhabited by the Inuit and other aboriginal peoples of the region.

In the next installment of this review I’ll discuss how the characteristics and ways of life of these different foundations set them in motion and how they collided with the outside world and each other over the course of several hundred years.

 

(The second part of this review is found here.)

10MAR2019 – OCF Update

I’m finishing up the book “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America,” and without exaggeration it has been an eye opening book.  Dividing the country by the origin of the founding stock in each geographical area explains many things that weren’t previously understandable.  Now granted, the writer is firmly in the lefty camp but information is still information.  I should start writing something early next week.

I’m starting to post a bunch of butterfly shots I took a week ago at a conservatory.  That should break up the winter monotony of white snow.

I haven’t been very inspired by the political news lately.  Everything seems to be about the 2020 election.  Seems a little early for everything to grind to a halt.  I’m sure something will break soon.  Mueller for instance.  But I did find myself thinking about who the actual Dem candidate would be.  For all the talk about women of color, I think the candidate will be either Creepy Uncle Joe or Bernie Sanders.  But without a doubt the VP will be Kamala Harris.  She’s the female Obama and needs the grooming for her own run in the future.

Either way it should be an hilarious campaign.  The debates should be the stuff of legend, a veritable blooper reel of comic goodness.

It’s been insanely busy at work so things have had to slow down on the site.

 

post script:  First tests using the Orion 10010 Atlas Pro AZ/EQ-G Computerized GoTo Telescope Mount with my Sony A7 III and the 90mm f\2.8 macro lens were very promising.  With only the minimum of calibrating the polar axis 30 second shots were completely usable.  But I can tell the post processing stuff will be an enormous learning curve.  This will be a very long story.  I’ll revisit this in late spring.

 

Reflections on the Political Landscape

A while back I put Colin Woodward’s book, “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America,” in my wish list based on the Z-Man’s description of its importance.  I’m about twenty percent into it and I’ve got an idea of where it is going.  I also can tell that Woodward is a thorough going lefty but that there is a lot of useful information in the book.  The beginning of the book describes the origins of the various “nations” that he contends still underly the current political and cultural reality of the United States and its surroundings in North America.

As I said, there is a lot of slant to his description of the character of the various populations and you can tell where his sympathies lie and who he is virtue signaling to but there is also valuable information that actually helps to explain some general behaviors that can be observed at work today.

For example, Woodward waxes poetic about the New England characteristic of local autonomy and small-town democracy.  This is presented as a contrast to the feudal rule of aristocratic Virginia where great landowners lorded it over the common men and monopolized the government and the courts.  Supposedly this is still the reality today.  But anyone living in New England knows that any community that imposed any policies out of synch with the smothering regulation existing at the state level would be assaulted with the full force of the state’s judicial and administrative might and quickly the offenders would find themselves in prison and their families dispossessed and harassed out of the state.

One of the features of New England was its early adoption of universal education and the establishment of higher education as the basis of elite status.  This is also touted as a democratic virtue as opposed to the wealth-based basis of education in Virginia.  Looking at the present day it’s instructive to see that the educational situation is much changed.  The educational state of the poor even in New England has degraded to the point where claiming universal education is very debatable.  And the status of higher education has likewise changed to the point where elite status is more of a legacy condition than any kind of meritocratic status.  In other words, the state and poorer colleges have been degraded to where their degrees are approaching a worthless status whereas the high-status Ivy League schools are the domain of elite families and the affirmative action minorities that they include for the sake of appearances.

What seem to be happening is that the supposed egalitarian impulses of the New England nation and their descendants in the other Left dominated areas of the country have abandoned the pretense of equality and now embrace the model of an elect elite directing the lives of the rest of society as some sort of latter-day serfdom.  This conforms more closely to the Marxist model than any puritan world view.  And this of course makes sense.  As the New Englanders shed their Christianity, they reached out for what replaced it in their environment, the fashionable socialism of nineteenth century intellectuals.

I’ll have a full review at some point and other discussions of the ideas and the applications of these ideas to the present condition we find ourselves in.  Z-Man was right. There is useful information in this book overlaid with leftist smugness.