Southern History Series: Liberty: Its True Meaning In Carolina

Here’s a very important excerpt about the culture of the Deep South 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 classical liberalism.

The “liberty” that South Carolina was fighting for in the American Revolution had nothing to do with classical liberalism, modern liberalism, libertarianism, etc. American independence in the Deep South meant the liberty to grow and to get rich without the British boot on our necks. As a Slave Society, our republican idea of “liberty” also obviously didn’t apply to all the slaves.

Occidental Dissent is a Deep South blog. I’m writing largely for my own people who are natural authoritarians and social conservatives – a product of the origins of our own culture in slavery and the old plantation complex – who aren’t interested in creating some utopia and whose vision of the good life is and always has been largely being left alone to get rich and enjoy our lives.

As I thought about what “liberty” meant to me and why it used to be such a powerful animating idea, it occurred to me that this isn’t a bad idea. It is “liberty” as it is presented by mainstream conservatism and lolbertarianism that I dislike. I agree with all of the indigenous Southern conceptions of liberty whether it is liberty as being left alone to prosper and get rich or liberty as I’m good leave me alone f**k off or liberty as the economic independence to enjoy a life of leisure as a gentleman.

What has happened here? If I had to speculate, it is that these abstract conceptions of “liberty” derived from Enlightenment philosophy have grafted themselves onto older Southern conceptions of liberty which are rooted in our own organic culture, environment and historical experience. There is also a clever sleight of hand in which republican conceptions of liberty have been presented to modern day Southerners as meaning essentially the same thing as liberal or democratic conceptions of liberty.

The Old South was inspired by ancient Greece and Rome. Their idea of republican liberty was let’s style ourselves as the Greeks and Romans who were Slave Societies in which “liberty” was so valuable precisely because some people had it while other people were not allowed to enjoy it. The Greeks and Romans also thought liberty and slavery and social hierarchy were fully compatible and would have thought our idea of “liberty” as the freedom of every individual to become a tranny highly strange.

If we are serious about rescuing and resurrecting our proper Southern tradition of liberty from the conservatives and lolbertarians whose shitty ideas are currently hegemonic here, then we must approach the subject in the same way that an archaeologist would study and speculate about fossils.

Note: The idea that “liberty” meant fighting “the state” or “the government” is retarded. “The state” actually had any number of responsibilities in colonial and later South Carolina in the Early Republic. The vast majority of people in South Carolina were also excluded from voting long after the democratic ideal had triumphed out West in Tennessee and Kentucky.

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  1. HW,
    I’m not trying to stir any pots, because I think you’re doing a fine job expounding on these ideas lately, but I am interested in some clarification here. How is the stated Low Country/ Carolina conception of liberty as “being left alone to prosper and get rich” not the same thing in spirit as libertarianism? After all, it is just that, presumably, the free Carolinians would use their liberty in ways that make more sense to us and seem more natural than the “trannies and instagram for everyone!” universal Yankee liberty. After all, what was the British Empire if not the super state telling the American colonists to stop being so individualistic and to keep paying their taxes like good subjects? I’m not saying I believe in any of that, I am just asking the question. Thank you for all your hard work tackling the tough questions that any Southern movement needs to answer before it can genuinely get off the ground.

    • Esoteric Du30ist,

      1.) Lolbertarianism is an abstract philosophy that was largely created in the 20th century. It had nothing to do with the founding of South Carolina and the Deep South. The only similarity between the two is the word “liberty,” but the meaning was different. At that time, it was associated with classical republicanism and Greece and Rome, etc.

      2.) If you want to imagine how it is different from lolbertarianism, just imagine as a thought experiment a time machine that sends Jeffrey Tucker back to the world of 18th century South Carolina in which the majority of the population were slaves.

      • Than you for taking the time to answer my question. I guess I am still confused though. It seems to me as though the core idea of “liberty” – whether in the historical, traditional sense of “aristocratic equality” (see the excellent interview with Ricardo Duchesne over at Counter Currents or in the 20th century libertarian sense – is the desire to do as one pleases. The only difference to my mind, other than the historical/theoretical perspective is that the one reserves the “right” to do as one pleases to the upper crust of society with the “noblesse oblige” assumption in full force, while the other system gives such “rights” to everyone in society.

        As such, it seems to me that libertarianism is essentially a defense mechanism on the part of natural aristocrats or those who see themselves as being or aspring to be a sort of nobility of the spirit (that’s probably the majority of us, in the sense of Evola’s radical traditonalist/men amongst the ruins mindset) who don’t want to appear to be “unfair” given that in today’s time liberal ideas about universal equality are almost everywhere in the white world assumed to be the truth. In the mind of the libertarian, their system must be the only way they see of getting what they want, which is independence of life, property and so forth, but in practice libertarians are calling for, more often than not, the unlimited license of everyone, including those without any good sense, to do as they wish, which is usually degenerate, immoral, or just plain bad.

        I guess my question is this: how do we get to the point where we can argue for our own southern rebranding of liberty in our traditionalist understanding and on what grounds do we ourselves deserve it?

        • 1.) It has occurred to me that virtually no one currently sees or understands “liberty” in the sense that I do in that it is particular and embedded in time, place, culture and tradition. Instead, they think of “liberty” as being a universal principle which is part of their abstract ideological system.

          2.) I have a historicist take on liberty which is uncommon in the Anglosphere. The main thing that needs to be done here is writing a critique of libertarianism from a historicist perspective. Unfortunately, no one has even thought of producing content like that online, so I will have to do it myself.

          3.) What is the proper grounding of liberty and why do we deserve it? It is simply a part of our tradition and way of life which is a product of the unique historical experience of our people.

  2. “who aren’t interested in creating some utopia and whose vision of the good life is and always has been largely being left alone to get rich and enjoy our lives.”

    I want to enjoy my vegetable garden and home in the Post Oak, Piney Woods and Black Belt prairie of Northeast Texas. I may haf to yield to the authority of the law on the county roads and in town. But on my property, I’m sovereign, right up to the fence line. For me, that’s utopia.

  3. In the modern sense, the difference between North and South boils down to:

    Yankees: “Government happens FOR us.”

    Southrons: “Government happens TO us.”

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