English America In 1700

This is endlessly fascinating to me:

“Establishment of these new American colonies during the last half of the seventeenth century added greatly to the cultural diversity of the English overseas dominions. In addition to Ireland, there were by 1700 six distinctive cultural regions in colonial Anglo-America – the Chesapeake; Bermuda and the similar colony of the Bahamas, permanently established in 1718; New England, including Nova Scotia after it was acquired from the French in 1713; the West Indian colonies; the Middle Colonies; and the Lower South, which included Georgia after its founding in 1732. Within each of these cultural regions, moreover there was significant local diversity which, for instance, distinguished Rhode Island from Massachusetts and Connecticut, Barbados from Jamaica, and New York from Pennsylvania.

Notwithstanding these important regional and local differences, there was also a single broad fault line that, at least during their early histories, divided these colonies into two sharply different categories. First, there was puritan New England, by which I prefer principally to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Haven, and some of the early New Hampshire towns. With their strong religious orientation, communal impulses, perfectionist aspirations, sense of chosenness, belief in social and religious exclusivity and uniformity, suspicion of the modern market world, and modest economic opportunity, these contained and closely knit settlements constituted what Richard S. Dunn has correctly characterized as “a highly distinctive society.” They represented a deep commitment to an effort to recover a stable, harmonious, Christian, and traditional world which, if it had ever existed, was rapidly disappearing from England. Only such an intense commitment, along with the absence of strong and immediate environmental pressures to relinquish it, could, as John M. Murrin has observed, have overcome the powerful impulses, “obvious in all the secular colonial experiments of the period, to scatter through the wilderness in search of something better.”

During the early decades of settlement, in every one of the English colonies outside of New England except possibly for some communities in Ulster and to a large extent even in Rhode Island and New Hampshire, settlement patterns, sociocultural configurations, and individual priorities were shaped by the economic opportunities the colonists found, created, and manipulated in their new environments and by the ambitions and aspirations they thereby unleashed. Invariably, the societies they created tended to be individualistic, without much cohesion, permissive, secular, exploitative, differentiated, conflicted, even contingent. To one degree or another, they all represented a logical, if still greatly simplified, extension – and not in any sense a rejection – of the dynamic, fluctuating and increasingly “modern” world the settlers had known in England and upon which they mostly remained heavily dependent for capital, markets, finished goods, and manpower. …

Far from being normative then, at least in their earliest decades, were, in Nicholas Canny’s words, “totally exceptional by [British] colonial standards” and represented a deviant strain in English colonial history of which there were no other comparable examples except perhaps for a few villages in Ulster.”

In addition to Ulster in Ireland, there were six cultural hearths in the English America in 1700: New England, the Chesapeake, the West Indies, the Lower South, the Middle Colonies and the Atlantic Islands. It turns out that New England was unlike the all the other colonies which were more similar to the Chesapeake. Even New York and Pennsylvania were more like Virginia at the time.

The saints of New England thought of themselves as “exceptional.” They were perfectionists. The Puritan elect had a divine mission which required them to closely police the behavior of their neighbors. They were a “beacon” to the Old World. Their social order was based on a covenant with God. This was totally unlike the conditions in any other colony except for the “Holy Experiment” of the Quakers in Pennsylvania which was eventually overrun by the Germans and Scots-Irish.

It was the South which was in the “mainstream” of British colonial development. Normal Americans came here to improve their condition in life, not to create a religious utopia.

Note: Perhaps this is why President Trump resonated so strongly outside of the East which is less interested in economic opportunity than it is obsessed with condemning and stamping out the sins of racism, sexism, nativism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia and white privilege?

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  1. All of the weird cults which swept America (the Great Awakening, Abolitionism, Progressivism, Civil Rights movement) were largely the fault of Northeastern WASPs who believed they could perfect American society.

    • Was the Temperance movement also based in the North? I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it was.

      • The Temperance movement had proponents in the North and South. Kentucky still has many dry counties.

      • Southerners and drinking were in the old days were as inseperable as Huck Finn and his cane pole, Almost all of the early Southrons bordered on alcoholism at times a good example being Andrew Jackson. The Second Great Awakening brought the Baptists, who were a New England based bunch who never became very popular there, to prominence in the South as they sent many missionaries into Dixie. The Baptist Church got into the temperance act big league about the time of the War. Much of the Southern Aristocracy was Episcopalian, therefore they accepted traditional norms which included drinking. The first state to ban alcohol was Maine in 1851 but it was repealed in 1856. Vermont was completely dry from 1853-1902

        Following the war, the temperance movement boomed as alcoholism and drug abuse namely morphine was pretty bad among the veterans Union and Confederate. The Anti Saloon League founded 1869 and the Womens Christian Temperance Union was founded in 1873. The first Southern State to declare itself dry was Oklahoma that was the year it entered the Union 1907. The only two Confederate States not to pass Prohibition Laws was Missouri and Louisiana and in Missouri it was because of the Saint Louis Germans.

  2. Here in the heart of Yankeedom I have encountered numerous Trump supporters, mostly White middle and working class homeowners in the suburbs and rural areas. I have also seen more than a few Rebel flags waving from poles in people’s yards or from their pickup trucks. So we are not all bad, I assure you.

    • “Here in the heart of Yankeedom I have encountered numerous Trump supporters”

      Probably Northeastern Irish, Germans, and Italians, and not WASPs.

      • I’m looking forward to that project. I don’t know what New Englanders were like in the mid 1800s but I imagine William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and those other Abolitionist/Transcendentalist types were the exception, not the norm (I do like Thoreau, despite his anti-Southern hostilities).

    • The state where I saw the most Confederate Battle Flags was Ohio. Some people had four to five in their front yards.

    • The state where I have seen the most Confederate Battle Flags was Ohio. Some people had four to five in their front yards. Pretty interesting.

  3. New England and Greater New England includes everything above the 41st Parallel all the way to the Dakotas and of course there were enclaves throughout Illinois, Ohio, and of course all the original cities of Kansas, Lawrence, Manhattan, Topeka, were all New England towns. Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa were all a part of Greater New England.

    When the Northwest Territory was opened for business in 1787, the Commonwealth of Virginia, although it was paying its soldiers in land in Kentucky and Ohio between the Scioto and Little Miami Rivers the so-called Virginia Military District, paid little attention to the Northwest Territory. The Jeffersonians believed investing money in subsidizing western immigration was a waste. A group of Massachusetts Revolutionary War officers in Boston at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern happened onto the land next to Fort Harmar, which sat on the south bank of the Muskingum River where it emptied into the Ohio River. These men set out for Ohio in the winter of 1787-88 arriving there on April 7 1788 and they built their fort, Campus Martius on the North bank opposite Fort Harmar up from the Ohio River where it would be safe from flooding. This settlement was part of a large parcel of land that stretched almost all the way to present Huntington, West Virginia. In fact these Yankee officers were some of General Washington’s best friends and strangely enough Washington said if he ever left Virginia, he’d move in with them. Odd to say the least.

    The Yankee settlement in that mountainous region largely was isolated in the main towns Marietta and Athens where Marietta College and Ohio University are today and the hundreds of Yankee farm families they envisioned joining them was but a trickle Slowly over time Scots Irish and Southrons from Virginia came looking for cheap land and the Yankees began selling it to them for pennies on the dollar. Today that region, across from Parkersburg W Va is an impoverished coal mining area almost a twin of West Virginia. The Colleges are what little remains of their settlement,,

    Pennsylvania and Connecticut fought two wars over Northern Pennsylvania, where Scranton is today, because both colonies claimed it. Congress traded the Connecitcut folks Northern Ohio above the 41st Parallel all the way to the swamplands in exchange for recognizing the Pennsylvanians claims and they took it. After the War of 1812 and the big freeze of 1816, this area was filled with people from New England, who later spread along the 41st Parallel Line all the way to the present state lines with the Dakotas.

    The Yankees increased their power this way. Number 1 they eschewed farming over the long run, preferring to be an urban people of trade. Number 2 they were educated and tended to become Ministers Teachers Writers and Newspapermen. Number 3 they concentrated in large urban areas. Although in neither OH IN or IL were they ever the majority, their financial urban centers allowed them to exert a great deal of control. By controlling the schools, the press etc, they were able to propogate their ideals among everyone else.

  4. ” Perhaps this is why President Trump resonated so strongly outside of the East which is less interested in economic opportunity than it is obsessed with condemning and stamping out the sins of racism, sexism, nativism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia and white privilege?”

    I believe you are right. Two points to make: the First, is that what you mention above, is the “another gospel” that St. Paul accused the Galatian Christians of following, 2000 years ago. This is New England’s modern ‘another gospel.’ It is heresy, as well as anti-Christian.

    Secondly what Cambria wrote this week talks about this very thing – here is the URL


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