Liberty: Its True Meaning In Carolina

Here’s a very important excerpt from David Hackett Fischer’s Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas:

“In 1776, a powerful British fleet entered the broad reaches of Charleston harbor in South Carolina. Its mission was to return the wayward colony to obedience. Standing between the great ships and their goal were two small palmetto-log batteries called Fort Moultrie and Fort Johnson. The British commanders studied the forts through their telescopes and discovered a strange flag flying above the ramparts. It was the color of indigo, one of the leading crops of the Carolina lowcountry. In the upper corner of the flag was a large white crescent of distinctive shape. Here was yet another emblem of liberty in the American Revolution, and a symbol unique to the Carolina lowcountry …

The heraldic emblem of the younger son had a personal meaning for Carolina families, many of which were founded by younger sons. William Moultrie himself was the younger son of an armigenrous Scottish family. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, who wore an increscent on his helmet, also came from the line of a younger son who came to America in search of land that was denied to him because of his birth …

The flag itself also made the crescent a symbol of liberty. In South Carolina, this was an idea with a special meaning. It had nothing to do with equality. Like the otium of Virginia’s ruling elite, it was hierarchical and hegemonic. It existed in a world where highborn people had many liberties and defended them fiercely. “Baseborn” folk had few liberties, and slaves had none at all. There was no contradiction if one accepted an assumption of inequality.

The Carolina increscent had another significance. The Latin crescens meant growing or increasing. Like the crescent of a waxing moon, it was a symbol of prosperity and growth. More than that, these meanings were also associated with opportunity and fortune. It became an emblem of success in the present and optimism for the future. It implied that better times laid ahead. The expansive image of Carolina crescent-liberty was a little different from Virginia visions of a Cavalier utopia. But, as we shall see, a symbol of optimism would become a common American association with liberty and freedom …”

In other words, it WAS NOT the “liberty” of liberalism.

The “liberty” that South Carolina was fighting for in the American Revolution had nothing to do with classical liberalism, modern liberalism or libertarianism.

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  1. This is a very good little piece. It shows that America’s Founding Fathers were not libertarians; that is something that the modern patriot movement in America has lost grasp of. They advocate for a liberty that will eventually lead to racial chaos and self-destruction. The concept of an aristocracy, even a Jeffersonian “natural aristocracy”, was not abhorrent tot he Founders. Even though they swept away monarchy and brought into existence a representative Republic (with only white males voting), they certainly maintained racial hierarchy and separation. They were bound to their ethnic identity, first and to politics second. I am likewise. I love the Founders and the Boys in Gray; I am an Amerikaner.

    • Nor were they fascists as moderns use the term, never the less you see the fasces used frequently in imagery, meant to conjure the strength of many separate sticks when placed together, and their weakness when separated.

      “Join or die”, applied to rebellious colonies.

      • They were White Nationalists. Looking through the whiney list on the Declaration of Independence they cite the Crown encouraged the Indians to attack whites and that the Crown foisted more niggers on them.

        Just a matter of degree from Larouche rhetoric or

        • Lord Dunmore’s Emancipation Proclamation and the British Quebec Act allowing Indians to attack White settlements in Kentucky. Those two things sealed the deal

        • The passage about the Crown’s role in the slave trade didn’t make it to the final draft.

  2. Small point, but “armigenrous” should be “armigerous.” The “ger,” I believe, is from a Latin verb “gerere,” meaning “to bear”; thus the word means “arms-bearing,” i.e., entitled to a coat of arms or something like that. A similar form is “cruciger,” i.e., “cross-bearing,” which shows up in “globus cruciger,” the term for the cross-topped globe in the following image, of Elizabeth I …

  3. The Deep South would have remained with England, if not for Lord Dunmore’s Emancipation Proclamation of slaves in Virginia. Everyone talks about Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation but forgets Lord Dunmore’s Emancipation Proclamation. That one thing changed the entire war and made the South jump into line. People dont even remember that Dunmore single handedly caused slave revolts and whites to be raped and murdered after that, it was in some ways even worse than Lincoln’s.. Sadly by 1860 most had forgotten what Dunmore did and the disaster it created then

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