Saturday, February 6, 2016

Between the Baskets, Mary and Me

One of my new friends, Paul, who is himself a convert to Catholicism, has been asking me whether I have ever been drawn to convert, given my devotion to the Virgin Mary. Presbyterians, after all, are not particularly famous for their devotion to the Virgin Mary, and even the Episcopalians with whom I now worship have proven amazingly resistant to my pleas that we pay more attention in our liturgy to the Mother of God. Wouldn't I be happier in the Roman Catholic or Orthodox church where Mary is given her appropriate due?

You would think, and I often have wondered why Mary chose me, someone who has never even come close to being a Catholic, as her particular servant. Wondered, that is, until this past summer when I realized that I actually was, in spirit, a Presbyterian, and suddenly her great wisdom in choosing me became clear. (I am not trying to be boastful here, she did choose me and will not let me go, even when I have tried to define my academic work in other ways so as not to seem "narrow.") What, after all, is the one thing that Presbyterians are famous for, other than being stuffy? Okay, having elders in charge of their congregations, which gives us the Scots model of representative democracy (or vice versa, not quite sure about this here). But, no, not that. Okay, they are big on the sovereignty of God (I am reading the Wikipedia entry now). Which is definitely a feature of my thinking. But let's get to item number three in the Wikipedia description: their focus on the authority of the Scriptures. Ah.

If there is one thing that I have struggled with throughout the years that I have been working on the medieval devotion to the Virgin Mary it is the expectation that what I was looking at ought or should or must have something to do with "popular" devotion, more particularly, the devotion of women. And the one thing that everybody knows about popular devotion in the Middle Ages is that it was illiterate. (Everybody is wrong, but that isn't quite my point here. See that book that I keep promising is going to be forthcoming.) Which means it must have had very little to do with Scripture. You get this all the time in our scholarship. How is it, my colleagues ask, that so much attention could be paid to the Virgin Mary when there is so little about her in Scripture? Well, because they are wrong here, too. It all depends on how you read.

Which has been the whole burden of all of the scholarship that I have ever written on devotion to the Virgin Mary, although until recently I kept trying to disguise it as something else because even I couldn't see that what Mary really wanted me to write about was right in front of me all the time: how she was figured in the Song of Songs (the subject of my dissertation), how the descriptions of her in the Song of Songs were at the heart of the development of ideas about her compassion for her Son (the overarching theme of my first book), how all of the psalms in her Office were really about her relationship to God, how to understand the power that she has had in Christianity we need to learn how to read the Scriptures as medieval Christians read them--as filled to the brim with references to her (the argument of my present book, which I plan to spend this next year revising, but of which you can get a preview here).

Ironically, of course, that Mary even needs me to make this argument is thanks above all to Protestants like the Presbyterians, who in their insistence on sola scriptura managed to erase a whole tradition of reading with one fell swoop of the pen: "Medieval Catholics were making it up." Do you see how very clever Our Lady is? If I were a Catholic insisting that we should revisit this interpretive tradition, I could simply be accused of not being sufficiently aware of how modern exegetes have rejected this devotional tradition or, conversely, of having confessional motives for trying to reintroduce it, as did Henri de Lubac with the four senses of Scripture. But here I am, a Protestant, and a Presbyterian at that, suggesting that maybe, just maybe the medieval exegetes knew what they were up to.

Of course, one could tell the story another way: I was drawn to the commentaries on the Song of Songs as the subject of my dissertation precisely because, as a Presbyterian born and bred, I was already attracted to the problem of how to read Scripture. And there is truth in that. Much of my formation as a scholar, not just a Christian, I credit to the courses that I took in New Testament as an undergraduate with Professor Werner Kelber at Rice, who taught us how to read the Gospels not just as collections of stories, but as works with particular narrative structures written to particular audiences with particular arguments in mind. This is the way in which I suggested we should read the commentaries, too, which (as I argue in my first book) is how the twelfth-century Marian commentators were reading the Song of Songs: as a kind of drama or narrative of Mary's relationship with her Son.

Would I have come to this way of reading the Scriptures about Mary if I had not been raised a Presbyterian, convinced that all the secrets of divinity lay hidden in the Book? Would I have taken the thirteenth-century Augustinian canon Richard of St. Laurent seriously when he insisted that Mary is the Book in which it is possible to read all the mysteries of God, if I did not already believe it were possible to find the whole of God's plan for creation therein? Would I have paid proper attention to the thirteenth-century Franciscan Servasanctus of Faenza when he said that Mary is the book of life containing all the creatures of Creation, who herself promises, speaking as Wisdom: "They that explain me shall have life everlasting" (Ecclesiasticus 24:31), if I were not already seeking Wisdom in the Word? Would I have noticed the twelfth-century Cistercian Amadeus of Lausanne insisting that Mary is the key to the mystery, the one standing between the two golden baskets filled with the flowers of the Old Testament and the fruits of the New (he is commenting on Song of Songs 2:5: "Support me with blossoms. Stay me with apples, for I am sick with love"), if I had not been attending to the way in which he commented on the Song of Songs? As Amadeus tells it, one basket stands on the left of Mary and one on the right, while Mary is seen standing in the middle, mediating between the promise and the fulfillment, and "like the tree planted in the midst of paradise, she raises her head to the height of heaven and, conceiving by the heavenly dew, brings forth the fruit of salvation, the fruit of glory, the fruit of life, and he who eats of it will live forever."*

Standing in the middle between the two baskets. That, I realized this past summer, is what I have been doing my whole life. Growing up in Greater Appalachia where, let's be frank, it was not easy being the (one of the) smartest one(s) in the class.** Going to graduate school in England as an American, then in New York City as definitely not an Eastcoaster. Spending my career in a discipline which, again, let's be frank, is not exactly a bastion of traditionalist thinking, although things are better for us ::cough::conservatives::cough:: in history than for colleagues in social psychology or anthropology. (My new friend Paul is an historian, too.) Competing as a woman in what is still a rather masculine sport (you should see some of my women friends flinch when I show them my foils). Being an academic watching reality shows about tattooing unironically, without however wanting to show off my ink. 

No wonder Mary chose me! Just like her, I am caught between worlds, called by her to be the one who mediates between the old and the new, between the medieval reading of the Scriptures and modern scholarly suspicion. Between devotion and understanding. Between affect and intellect. Between academia and faith. I might have had my doubts over the years, but she clearly knew what she was doing. She needed me standing between the baskets just as God needed her: to be the one standing in the shadows so that the light might shine. I suppose if she could do it no matter how hard it sometimes got, so can I.

*Amadeus of Lausanne, Eight Homilies in Praise of Blessed Mary, trans. Grace Perigo (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1979), p. 2.
**My sixth grade self wept over all of the entries in her yearbook: "To the Brain." I wanted to be pretty, sweet, somebody's best friend. Nope. I was the Brain.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Even Adam Smith Didn't Think It Was Possible to Work All the Time

The liberal reward of labour, as it encourages the propagation, so it increases the industry of the common people. The wages of labour are the encouragement of industry, which, like every other human quality, improves in proportion to the encouragement it receives. A plentiful subsistence increases the bodily strength of the labourer, and the comfortable hope of bettering his condition, and of ending his days perhaps in ease and plenty, animates him to exert that strength to the utmost. Where wages are high, accordingly, we shall always find the workmen more active, diligent, and expeditious, than where they are low; in England, for example, than in Scotland; in the neighbourhood of great towns, than in remote country places. Some workmen, indeed, when they can earn in four days what will maintain them through the week, will be idle the other three. This, however, is by no means the case with the greater part. Workmen, on the contrary, when they are liberally paid by the piece, are very apt to over-work themselves, and to ruin their health and constitution in a few years. A carpenter in London, and in some other places, is not supposed to last in his utmost vigour above eight years. Something of the same kind happens in many other trades, in which the workmen are paid by the piece; as they generally are in manufactures, and even in country labour, wherever wages are higher than ordinary. Almost every class of artificers is subject to some peculiar infirmity occasioned by excessive application to their peculiar species of work. Ramuzzini, an eminent Italian physician, has written a particular book concerning such diseases. We do not reckon our soldiers the most industrious set of people among us. Yet when soldiers have been employed in some particular sorts of work, and liberally paid by the piece, their officers have frequently been obliged to stipulate with the undertaker, that they should not be allowed to earn above a certain sum every day, according to the rate at which they were paid. Till this stipulation was made, mutual emulation and the desire of greater gain, frequently prompted them to over-work themselves, and to hurt their health by excessive labour. Excessive application during four days of the week, is frequently the real cause of the idleness of the other three, so much and so loudly complained of. Great labour, either of mind or body, continued for several days together, is in most men naturally followed by a great desire of relaxation, which, if not restrained by force or by some strong necessity, is almost irresistible. It is the call of nature, which requires to be relieved by some indulgence, sometimes of ease only, but sometimes too of dissipation and diversion. If it is not complied with, the consequences are often dangerous, and sometimes fatal, and such as almost always, sooner or later, bring on the peculiar infirmity of the trade. If masters would always listen to the dictates of reason and humanity, they have frequently occasion rather to moderate, than to animate the application of many of their workmen. It will be found, I believe, in every sort of trade, that the man who works so moderately, as to be able to work constantly, not only preserves his health the longest, but, in the course of the year, executes the greatest quantity of work.
--Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776), book 1, chapter 8 
That said, I hope to be able to keep blogging somewhat more consistently now that I have been "outed" as a dyed-in-the-wool believer in the Western Judeo-Christian tradition. I had been finding it difficult over the past couple of years to know what voice to assume with my new understanding of the significance of this tradition. I think I have found it, but will be anxious to learn whether it persuades. For the time being, I will be keeping comments closed on the blog, but I will be accepting letters to the editor, as it were, at my email address (see above).

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Check Your (Rhetorical) Weapons

Before quitting the subject of freedom of opinion, it is fit to take some notice of those who say, that the free expression of all opinions should be permitted, on condition that the manner be temperate, and do not pass the bounds of fair discussion. 
Much might be said on the impossibility of fixing where these supposed bounds are to be placed; for if the test be offence to those whose opinion is attacked, I think experience testifies that this offence is given whenever the attack is telling and powerful, and that every opponent who pushes them hard, and whom they find it difficult to answer, appears to them, if he shows any strong feeling on the subject, an intemperate opponent. 
But this, though an important consideration in a practical point of view, merges in a more fundamental objection. 
Undoubtedly the manner of asserting an opinion, even though it be a true one, may be very objectionable, and may justly incur severe censure. 
But the principal offences of the kind are such as it is mostly impossible, unless by accidental self-betrayal, to bring home to conviction. 
The gravest of them is, to argue sophistically, to suppress facts or arguments, to misstate the elements of the case, or misrepresent the opposite opinion. 
But all this, even to the most aggravated degree, is so continually done in perfect good faith, by persons who are not considered, and in many other respects may not deserve to be considered, ignorant or incompetent, that it is rarely possible on adequate grounds conscientiously to stamp the misrepresentation as morally culpable; and still less could law presume to interfere with this kind of controversial misconduct. 
With regard to what is commonly meant by intemperate discussion, namely invective, sarcasm, personality, and the like, the denunciation of these weapons would deserve more sympathy if it were ever proposed to interdict them equally to both sides; but it is only desired to restrain the employment of them against the prevailing opinion: against the unprevailing they may not only be used without general disapproval, but will be likely to obtain for him who uses them the praise of honest zeal and righteous indignation. 
Yet whatever mischief arises from their use, is greatest when they are employed against the comparatively defenceless; and whatever unfair advantage can be derived by any opinion from this mode of asserting it, accrues almost exclusively to received opinions. 
The worst offence of this kind which can be committed by a polemic, is to stigmatise those who hold the contrary opinion as bad and immoral men. 
To calumny of this sort, those who hold any unpopular opinion are peculiarly exposed, because they are in general few and uninfluential, and nobody but themselves feel much interest in seeing justice done them; but this weapon is, from the nature of the case, denied to those who attack a prevailing opinion: they can neither use it with safety to themselves, nor, if they could, would it do anything but recoil on their own cause. 
In general, opinions contrary to those commonly received can only obtain a hearing by studied moderation of language, and the most cautious avoidance of unnecessary offence, from which they hardly ever deviate even in a slight degree without losing ground: while unmeasured vituperation employed on the side of the prevailing opinion, really does deter people from professing contrary opinions, and from listening to those who profess them. 
For the interest, therefore, of truth and justice, it is far more important to restrain this employment of vituperative language than the other; and, for example, if it were necessary to choose, there would be much more need to discourage offensive attacks on infidelity, than on religion. 
It is, however, obvious that law and authority have no business with restraining either, while opinion ought, in every instance, to determine its verdict by the circumstances of the individual case; condemning every one, on whichever side of the argument he places himself, in whose mode of advocacy either want of candour, or malignity, bigotry, or intolerance of feeling manifest themselves; but not inferring these vices from the side which a person takes, though it be the contrary side of the question to our own: and giving merited honour to every one, whatever opinion he may hold, who has calmness to see and honesty to state what his opponents and their opinions really are, exaggerating nothing to their discredit, keeping nothing back which tells, or can be supposed to tell, in their favour. 
This is the real morality of public discussion; and if often violated, I am happy to think that there are many controversialists who to a great extent observe it, and a still greater number who conscientiously strive towards it.
--J.S. Mill, On Liberty (1859) 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

That Old Time Religion

I have not, until very recently, tended to identify as Presbyterian. Christian, yes, but not Presbyterian. Sure, I was baptized in the Presbyterian church--in fact, this one--and some of the strongest really good memories that I have from growing up are of the youth group at Springfield Presbyterian Church in Louisville (ah, slow dancing with him at the Valentine's Day dance...he never knew...). But being Presbyterian rather than simply Christian? I could take it or leave it--and leave it, I pretty much did.

When I was in graduate school in New York City, I attended services at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, rather than Emmanuel Presbyterian Church around the corner (I didn't even know it was there, I had to look it up just now. Maybe it wasn't there--they have some things on their site about a tenth anniversary?). I was a medievalist after all, and I had been studying for several years in England. Episcopal, Anglican, it was all the same to me--and much, much more interesting that those stuffy Presbyterian services that I had grown up with.

Have you ever been to a Presbyterian worship service? Or inside a Presbyterian church? No crucifixes, no actual communion, no sense of mystery at all--or so I thought. (Plus, I hadn't seen some of the Gothic revival Presbyterian churches, like Fourth Presbyterian here in Chicago; ours in Louisville and Amarillo were fairly plain.) I wanted smells! I wanted bells! I wanted some sense of something at communion other than little pieces of stale bread and a shot glass-worth of grape juice. (Again, my mother's church in Amarillo now has much, much better bread. Maybe it was just during the 1970s that we had to have the bread cubes.)

My thirteen-year-old self was particularly disappointed when I was at long last allowed to take communion (only offered once a month, and something only for the grown-ups), and--let's be honest here--nothing happened. Really? That was it? A little cube of Wonder Bread? No heavens opening? No angels? Even worse, and very much the real reason I ended up in medieval studies, no theological explanation for why we were eating little cubes of bread in the first place? Because we are remembering Jesus? But I can do that watching Franco Zeffirelli's mini-series on TV! (I still love that scene with Robert Powell.)

Medieval Christianity was much more appealing to me, although it is interesting that I have never seriously considered converting to Catholicism. The Anglicans all say that the Church of England is the actual True Church anyway, and besides the echoes of the Sarum rite are still strong, even in the more recent versions of the Book of Common Prayer. At least, they seemed so to me. (I haven't actually done the proper comparison, although I think Alan Jacobs talks about it in his book.) (Ah, yes, he mentions that the Scots used the Sarum rite--which pretty well fits my latent Presbyterianism. Hmmm....)

Anyway, when Anglicans or Episcopalians pronounce the Preface for the Sanctus, the heavens open and there are angels, whole choirs of them: "Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying..." Again, I have no idea how the Preface in the Presbyterian service reads, maybe there are angels in it, too (this post is really making me want to do some more research!). But in the Anglican services, angels seemed to be a big deal.

Likewise, the possibility that the bread and wine were really, you know, the body and blood, not just a remembrance thereof. Not that I have ever managed actually to, you know, believe that it is somehow Christ's body and blood that I am receiving--somehow all those miracle stories my colleagues and I have been quoting for decades simply won't take--but I like the effort at trying, and it feels much more solemn and celebratory to go up to the altar (ours is in the middle of the nave, and we receive communion in the round) and be handed the bread by a priest saying, "The body of Christ."

No, I haven't been much interested in being Presbyterian for a very long time. Until, that is, I read David Hackett Fischer's description in Albion's Seed (pp. 703-8) of what Presbyterian services were like back in the day.

According to Fischer (and if you're wondering why I have embraced his work with the enthusiasm of a convert, this is partly why), "backcountry Christianity" (a.k.a. Scots Irish Presbyterianism) was marked at once by "its intense hostility to organized churches and established clergy on the one hand [see, I get my contrariness and utter inability to go along with the crowd honestly!], and its abiding interest in religion on the other [pretty much my life-long obsession].... On both sides of the British border [of Scotland and England] there had been a strong antipathy to state churches, religious taxes and established clergy [ahem]. Throughout the backcountry and borderlands, Anglican priests were held in special contempt for their lack of personal piety, and for their habit of subservience to landed elites [::cough cough::].... There was, however, no hostility to learned and pious ministers of acceptable opinions. Presbyterian settlers sent home to Scotland and Northern Ireland for their own college-trained clergy who came out to serve them.... These Presbyterian ministers were proud of their learning [::grin::].... These ministers were valued for their skill at preaching, which combined appeals to reason with strong emotions. In the backcountry, before the end of the eighteenth century, a familiar form of evangelical religion was the camp meeting.... Many historians have mistakenly believed that the camp meeting was invented on the American frontier. In fact it was transplanted to America from the border counties of Britain... Presbyterian emigrants such as the Witherspoons introduced field meetings to the American backcountry as early as 1734, probably earlier.... Here were the major ingredients of backcountry religion: the camp meeting, the Christian fellowship, the love feast, the evangelical preacher, the theology of Protestant fundamentalism and born-again revivalism.... Altogether, this form of reformed religion--intensely emotional, evangelical and personal [but highly learned]--was a central part of backcountry culture.... This form of Christianity was not invented on the frontier. It was an adaptation of religious customs which had long existed on the borderlands of North Britain."

Well, that didn't sound boring at all! In fact, it sounded down-right exciting--and spookily familiar. As I commented to my Facebook friends: "I think this pretty much explains my teaching style: I got it from my Presbyterian ancestors." Or, if not from my ancestors directly (although the Fultons were most definitely Presbyterian), somehow from the spirit of the churches in which I had grown up. Who knew? All this time, I had thought I was chasing something other than my roots, going back to the Middle Ages trying to find the spirit that I lacked. And all the while, it was inside of me already, bestowed upon me at my baptism.

I guess I am Presbyterian after all.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Founding Freedoms Four-Square

Those who tend to look at our current political culture from my side of the fence (safely segregated in academia in little pens, somewhat more free-range out there in think-tank land) often talk about the need to return to the ideals of our Founding Fathers as a way out of our nation's contemporary woes. "If only," they remark wistfully, "we could recover the commitment to liberty that our Founding Fathers shared. Then, we could make this country great again."

David Hackett Fischer must be tearing his hair out. Because, you see, as Fischer has shown over and over again, there never was a time at which all Americans shared the same conception of liberty, not even in the colonial period when they were all "English." Okay, even then they weren't all "English," some of them thought of themselves as "not-English" or "Scots." But that is precisely Hackett's point: the four major British folkways brought with them not only different ideas about how to pronounce English or how to build a house or what colors to wear or how to treat old people. They also brought radically different ideas of order and freedom and the proper exercise of power, and it was the tension between these four freedom ways that made our country strong, whereas each individually left unchecked had a tendency to go to self-destructive extremes.

Let's try a little test. Which of these statements do you find most congenial as an answer to our current political debates?
  1. Government should just get out of trying to control everything.
  2. People should be willing to give up a little more in order to help the community.
  3. People need to respect the order of things as they have developed over the history of the country.
  4. People should live and let live, no need for everyone to sing from the same hymnal.
Answer, and I will tell you where your family is from and/or where you grew up.*

1. Government should just get out of trying to control everything. This is the freedom way of the backcounty, the Borderlanders who came to North America fleeing the devastation of their homelands by the incessant wars between the English and the Scots and following the clearances of the Highlands by the Scottish lords after the Union. These Scots Irish Presbyterians brought with them a strong sense of "natural freedom." As the German traveler Johann Schoepf observed in the late eighteenth century: "[The backcountry folk] shun everything which appears to demand of them law and order, and anything that preaches constraint. They hate the name of a justice, and yet they are not transgressors. Their object is merely wild. Altogether, natural freedom...is what pleases them" (p. 777). In Fischer's words: "The backcountry idea of natural liberty was created by a complex interaction between the American environment and a European folk culture. It derived in large part from the British border country, where anarchic violence had long been a condition of life. The natural liberty of the borderers was an idea at once more radically libertarian, more strenuously hostile to ordering institutions than were the other cultures of British America" (p. 777). Patrick Henry was a descendent of British borderers and consistently championed the principles associated with this idea of freedom: "minimal government, light taxes, and the right of armed resistance to authority in all cases which infringed liberty" (p. 778). In 1788, he led the opposition to the new national constitution, on the grounds that "strong government of any sort was hostile to liberty" (p. 780).

2. People should be willing to give up a little more in order to help the community. This is the freedom way of the East Anglian Puritans who came to New England to establish their perfect society. For the Puritans, "'liberty' often described something which belonged not to an individual but to an entire community," and they wrote of "the liberty of New England" or "the liberty of Boston" or "the liberty of the Town." "This idea of collective liberty, or 'publick liberty' as it was sometimes called, was thought to be consistent with close restraints upon individuals" (pp. 199-200). New Englanders willingly accepted these restraints as long as they were "consistent with written laws which they called the 'fundamentals of the commonwealth'" (pp. 200-201). New Englanders also spoke of individual liberties in the plural, in the sense of "specific exemptions from conditions prior constraint," of the liberty of the soul as "freedom to serve God" and "to order one's own acts in a godly way--but not in any other," and of freedom from "the tyranny of circumstance," for example, the "freedom from fear" or "freedom from poverty"(pp. 201-205). New Englanders accepted the restraints of their ordered freedom for the sake of the freedoms from circumstance which they looked to the community to provide. 

3. People need to respect the order of things as they have developed over the history of the country. This is the freedom way of the gentry Anglicans who came to Tidewater Virginia to recreate the landed aristocracy they had left behind at home. The ruling class in Virginia saw itself as belonging at the top of a natural hierarchy, and freedom "mainly as the power to rule, and not to be overruled by others." The opposite of this hegemonic freedom was "'slavery,' a degradation into which true-born Britons descended when they lost their power to rule." This dominion extended not only over other human beings but also over oneself and one's passions. As the English traveler Andrew Burnaby observed: "The public and political character of the Virginians corresponds with their private one: they are haughty and jealous of their liberties, impatient of restraint, and can scarcely bear the thought of being controlled by any superior power" (p. 411). As Fischer remarks: "It never occurred to most Virginia gentlemen that liberty belonged to everyone. It was thought to be the special birthright of free-born Englishmen--a property which set this 'happy breed' apart from other mortals, and gave them a right to rule less fortunate people in the world. Even within their own society, hegemonic liberty was a hierarchical ideal. One's status in Virginia was defined by the liberties that one possessed. Men of high estate were thought to have more liberties than others of lesser rank. Servants possessed few liberties, and slaves none at all. Many years later, John Randolph of Roanoke summarized his ancestral creed in a sentence: 'I am an aristocrat,' he declared, 'I love liberty; I hate equality'" (p. 412).

4. People should live and let live, no need for everyone to sing from the same hymnal. This is the freedom way of the Quakers from the Midlands of England who came to the Delaware Valley fleeing the persecutions of the Puritans and Anglicans. Unlike the Puritans and Anglicans, Quakers were also welcoming of other ethnic groups; many of the Delaware colonists came from Ireland, Wales, Holland, and the Rhineland. By the late seventeenth century, within a two-mile stretch of Germantown north of Philadelphia there were churches built by Lutherans, Mennonites, Moravians, Quakers, Dunkards, and Calvinists. The bell that now hangs in Independence Hall in Philadelphia was originally a Quaker bell. For the Quakers, the most important liberty was "liberty of conscience": "This was not the conventional Protestant idea of liberty to do only that which is right. The Quakers believed that liberty of conscience extended even to ideas that they believed to be wrong. Their idea of 'soul freedom' protected every Christian conscience'" (p. 597). As with religious confessions, the Quakers insisted that "taxes could be imposed only by the consent of the governed" and "that no taxes should be levied upon the people except those which they were willing to impose on themselves" (p. 600). They extended this right, along with the "rights of an Englishman" identified by the colony's founder William Penn, to all members of their community: "first, a 'right and title to your own lives, liberties and estates; second, representative government; third, trial by jury'" (p. 599). Quakers were particularly important in calling for the abolition of slavery as a way of extending this reciprocal freedom to all human beings.

When I asked my students which of the four answers they preferred, the vast majority chose either #2 or #4, although one or two were almost willing to concede #1. Nobody went for #3. I have a few Facebook friends that might still plump for #1 (Go, Rednecks!), but to judge from my news feed, I am guessing that almost everyone else believes either #2 or #4 is the answer, and that to go with either #1 or #3 would be an unmitigated disaster. The problem, as Fischer has shown, is not only that are #2 and #4 at odds with each other (remember what the Puritans did to the Quakers), but that either by itself would be (and was) impossible to sustain. If the Puritans gave us the Salem witch trials, the Quakers left to their own defenses would have been massacred en masse. And if the drawbacks of the Scots Irish and Tidewater Virginian freedom ways are all too obvious to the present-day descendants of the Quakers (roughly, those who tend to think of themselves as "liberal") and Puritans ("progressives"), their virtues are important not to forget. This is the lesson that Fischer would have us learn: the American tradition of liberty is not singular, but four-square, and it is this diversity that has made us who we are as a model to the world.

In Fischer's words (pp. 897-99):
The persistence of regional cultures in America is more than merely a matter of antiquarian interest. Regional diversity has created a dynamic tension within a single republican system. It has also fostered at least four different ideas of liberty within a common cultural frame. 

These four libertarian traditions were not forms of classical republicanism or European liberalism--even as those alien ideologies were often borrowed as rationales. American ideas of freedom developed from indigenous folkways which were deeply rooted in the inherited culture of the English-speaking world.

Considered in ethical terms, each of these four freedom ways began as a great and noble impulse, but all at first were limited in their expression and defective in their operation. The Puritan idea of ordered freedom was no sooner brought to Massachusetts than it became an instrument of savage persecution [see the Salem witch trials, among other things--FB]. The cavalier conception of hegemonic freedom, when carried to Virginia, permitted and even required the growth of race slavery for its support [basically: slaves were imported to take the place of English serfs in the system--FB]. The Quaker version of reciprocal freedom was a sectarian impulse which could be sustained only by withdrawal from the world [both Puritans and Anglicans persecuted Quakers in England and the colonies, but the Quakers refused to fight back; they only survived in the colonies because the other three groups fought the British elites' attempt to take over all four cultures in the 1760s and 70s--FB]. The backcountry belief in natural freedom sometimes dissolved into cultural anarchy [as every stereotype about Appalachia shows--FB].

But each of these four libertarian [as in "about liberty"--FB] traditions proved capable of continuing growth. New England's Puritan faith in ordered freedom grew far beyond its original limits to become, in Perry Miller's words, "a constellation of ideas basic to any comprehension of the American mind." Virginia's cavalier conceit of hegemonic freedom transcended its association with inequalities of rank and race and gender to become an ethical idea that is relevant to all. Pennsylvania's Quaker inspiration of reciprocal freedom developed from a fragile sectarian vision into a libertarian creed remarkable for toughness of mind and tenacity of purpose. Border and backcountry notions of natural freedom evolved from a folk tradition into an elaborate ideology [which we invoke every time we claim people "naturally" want to be free--FB].

Each of these four freedom ways still preserves its separate existence in the United States. The most important fact about American liberty is that it has never been a single idea, but a set of different and even contrary traditions in creative tension with one another. This diversity of libertarian ideas has created a culture of freedom which is more open and expansive than any unitary tradition alone could possibly be. It has also become the most powerful determinant of a voluntary society in the United States. In time [writing hopefully in 1989--FB], this plurality of freedoms may prove to be that nation's most enduring legacy to the world.  
*All quotations from David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Progressive is the New Puritan

Joseph Bottum has offered a weak (in the sense of historically shallow) version of this argument in his An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and Spirit of America (New York: Image, 2014), where he attempts to account for the decline of the mainline Protestant churches in America over the last half century or so. As Bottum tells it, it was above all the new social gospel preached by the Baptist theologian Walter Rauschenbusch around the turn of the twentieth century that was ultimately responsible for the loss of confidence among American Protestants in themselves as Christians, if not in themselves as cultural elites. The story is complicated and involves lots of different currents in American culture from the late nineteenth century to the present, but the result, as Bottum convincingly shows, has been a profound transformation in the way in which American elites identify as religious or (mostly) not. The real question, left to a certain extent unanswered, is why they were so susceptible to this change in the first place.

In Bottum's telling, Rauschenbusch's great innovation was to replace the supernatural agents--the demons and angels, ghosts, blessed relics, priestly powers, sacramental realities, and prayers for the dead--of the older Christian worldview (there was a deep strain of anti-Catholicism at play in much late nineteenth-century discussion of "real" religion) with a new set of metaphysical realities against which Christians were enjoined to fight. These realities, Rauschenbusch announced in his Theology for the Social Gospel (1917), were bigotry, power, the corruption of justice for personal ends, the madness of the mob, militarism, and class contempt. In Rauschenbusch's telling, it was these six social forces or sins which had come together to crucify Jesus and which continued to wage war against the world to the present day. As critics at the time pointed out, and what Rauschenbusch never clarified, was what role Jesus, never mind the Church, had in combating these forces, given that all of the sins had been already clearly revealed in Jesus' death. Rather, as Rauschenbusch would have it, the real battle between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of Evil took place in each individual soul, to win which one needed above all to concentrate on transforming one's own view of the world so as to be able to perceive the realities of social injustice. In Rauschenbusch's words: "The fundamental contribution of every man is the change of his own personality."

It is this version of Christianity that, Bottum argues, has become dominant in American (post-) Protestant culture since. In Bottum's words:
Freed from the stultifying churches, freed from any theological requirement for faith in Jesus, freed even from the need for any particular action, [American Protestants] found that salvation demands only the sense that, in personality, one has chosen the right side of the almost Manichean division between the supernatural entities of the coming Kingdom of Heaven and the present Kingdom of Evil. All that is necessary for self-esteem, for the certainty of individual salvation, is possession of the class markers of social suspicion that indicate one belongs to the fellowship of the redeemed....
In the end, for the members of the new class--and for their post-Protestant descendants, their heirs and assigns--what matters is not what one does but how one perceives oneself to have rejected the metaphysical evil of bigotry, power, militarism, the groupthink of the vulgar mob. To let go of belief in the actual, all-determining existence of these evil things would mean, for the new class, the loss of self-esteem--indeed, the loss of all sense of the moral self. It would mean the end of confidence and the return of anxiety about salvation. What imaginable motive, what possible change in the world, could ever be sufficient to make them abandon their faith in the social sins of civilization?
This vision of themselves, Bottum further argues, is what has driven "conservatives to distraction and earned the scornful modern use of the word elites":
In their moral and spiritual certainty, the post-Protestants captured the credentialing machinery of American culture as a class fiefdom--and formed a new class that rent-seeks, hoards privilege, self-righteously congratulates itself, and arrogantly despises other classes as thoroughly as any group in American history ever has.
Bottum himself is Catholic, so I am willing to forgive him the tendency to lump all Protestants together--Baptists and Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Episcopalians. The problem, of course, is that these post-Protestant elites look down on everybody who does not adhere to their vision of the world, most particularly, Bottum argues, their sense of cultural relativism, according to which every culture other than their own is judged by its own standards, whereas theirs is taken to be the font of all evils (which, come to think of it, is judging their own culture by its own standards, but these standards cannot be applied elsewhere). The result, still in Bottum's words, is an inflexibility indistinguishable from intolerance for anyone who would dare challenge their "class-marking manners."

It used to be, Bottum remarks, that "you could pretty much tell the Americans who had begun the descent into the post-Protestant air simply by asking them to name something they thought was beautiful--to which they would invariably respond, not with any particular object, but with a quick and pious declaration that 'Different cultures think different things are beautiful,' or 'Everyone has a right to their own opinion.'" Now, however, the post-Protestant elites have done such a thorough job of training
every school child in America...in the deferential gestures of relativism [that] the effort it takes to get any of them to use their self-proclaimed right to an opinion can be almost comic....  What remains most interesting, however, is the moral fervor with which such implacable relativism is spoken--and the lack of deference actually present in the language of deference. Bonnie Paisley, my friend in Oregon, felt genuinely offended when I asked her to name something, anything, beautiful. Aesthetic topics almost never occur to Reynard Jones [who lives in Cleveland] on his blog. Gil Winslow in Upstate New York, Ellen Doorn [who grew up in Michigan] in Texas: They want, they need, to feel a kind of superiority to the backward types who lack their class-marking manners. And the strong expression of the tenets of relativism seems often to provide the feeling.
This is why I say Bottum's argument is historically weak. Throughout, Bottum speaks of his friends (his primary examples of the post-Protestant worldview) as if they are generically American, but in fact, if you listen carefully, you realize they are nothing of the sort.

Bottum needs to look at a map. More particularly, this map:

Map by Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011)

What his friends all have in common is not that they are post-Protestants. It is that they are Yankees. (The Left Coast, including Oregon, is effectively a Yankee outpost, "New England on the Pacific." Bottum himself lives in eastern South Dakota, exactly on the edge between Yankeedom and the Midlands. He says that his friend Bonnie grew up Presbyterian in Iowa, but the point about Woodard's eleven nations is that they are cultural, not strictly ethnic regions. Fischer has noted how his own "Protestant stereotypes about the culture of Judaism were utterly exploded by his Brandeis students who have included Yankee Jews, Philadelphia Jews, southern Jews and, most startling of all, backslapping Texas Jews in cowboy boots and ten-gallon hats." Cleveland, Michigan, and Upstate New York are both squarely in Yankeedom.)

Which means, they are Puritans. In Fischer's words, talking about the reform movements of the early twentieth century (Albion's Seed, p. 867):
Regional cultures also defined the reach of reform impulses during this period. Two very different reform movements developed in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century--Populism and Progressivism. Both were national in their aspirations, but regional in their appeal. The Populist movement was strong in the south and west, but weak in the north and east and nearly nonexistent in New England. The emotional violence of its rhetoric, the intensity of its agrarian reforms and the flamboyant individuality of its leaders brought success in one region and failure in another.
The Progressive movement was very different from Populism in its political style and cultural base. Progressivism developed mainly in the northern and northeastern states. A large proportion of its leaders were men and women of Yankee stock, who traced their ancestry to the Puritan great migration [1630-41]. Progressivism tended to be rationalist and moralist. Its approach to social problems was intellectual; its solutions were institutional. Generally it adopted an idea of ordered liberty which was consistent with New England's Puritan past. The cultural style of the Progressive movement made it strong in one part of America, and weak in others.
Think of everything you have ever heard about the Puritans. How they left England (more specifically, East Anglia) to come to the New World in order to found the perfect society, a Zion in the wilderness that would be a model for the world, "a city upon a hill" purified of the compromises and failings of the Anglican Church (technically, Puritans were Anglicans) they had left behind. How they first went to Holland because the Dutch were actually tolerant of religious diversity, but left because they found the Dutch too tolerant, and so they struck out for the wilderness across the Atlantic instead. How they persecuted the Quakers who tried to settle in their midst, cutting off their ears, slitting their nostrils, and branding their faces with the letter H ("heretic"). How they made adultery, blasphemy, idolatry, sodomy, and even (in Woodard's words) "teenage rebellion" punishable by death. How they valued education, establishing some of the earliest schools in the colonies so as to teach their children Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. How they valued community and established the town meeting as a core of their government. How they disdained the aristocracy of the Virginia gentry and purposefully divided their lands in a way that (again, Woodard) "was surprisingly egalitarian." How although intolerant of difference, their communities were nevertheless "shockingly democratic" in their suffrage, and "the rich and the wellborn...given no special privileges either in politics or before the law." How they believed not merely "they were God's chosen people," but that
God had charged each and every one of them to propagate his will on a corrupt and sinful world. All Yankee Calvinists were thought to have a "calling," a vocation through which they would, priestlike, further God's work. They had to be constantly vigilant in the performance of their calling, be it as a missionary, a merchant, or a cobbler. Idleness was ungodly. Personal wealth was expected to be reinvested in one's good works--professional or philanthropic--to bring the world in closer accord with the divine plan. Other societies and cultures would presumably see the "light on the hill" and wish to conform; woe be to those who did not (Woodard, American Nations, pp. 61-62).
Sound familiar? We tend to think first about the Puritans' purported squeamishness about sex (they weren't actually), so it is easy to miss how constant the cultural forms have remained. It is true that Yankees no longer talk about American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny in the way they once did. But they still talk about how we need to "share the wealth around" and how it "takes a village" to make a world. And such talk still seems just as oppressive to those who do not share their vision of ordered liberty as it did back when the Yankees called themselves Puritans. The names have changed, but the cultural patterns remain. And the Scots Irish still want to be left alone.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Conservative is the New Redneck

This one's a no-brainer, right? Of course conservatives are rednecks, Mr. Obama told us so all the way back in 2008 when he was first running for president. As he told his supporters at a San Francisco fundraiser:
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations. 
With the implication that they should (or would) be clinging to government instead, if only the government worked?

Let me tell you a story. Way back in 1637, the King of England wanted a new prayer book. And not just for himself or for England, but for Scotland, too, because he was the King of Scotland and Ireland as well as England and he wanted all of his realms to be using the same prayers. (At least, I am assuming he did, I don't actually know about what happened with the prayer book in Ireland, it hasn't come up in any of the reading I have done.) So the king convened a group of churchmen to write a prayer book for the Kirk (a.k.a. the Church of Scotland), without however consulting either the Scots Parliament or the Kirk. And on July 23, 1638, the first Sunday on which the clergy of the Kirk had been commanded to begin praying from the new Book, riots erupted across Edinburgh. One woman, Jenny Geddes, was so angry, that she stood up in the church of St. Giles where the Dean of Edinburgh was presiding and threw her stool at the minister's head, with the fearsome cry:
"De'il gie you colic, the wame o’ ye, fause thief; daur ye say Mass in my lug?"  
"Devil cause you colic in your stomach, false thief: dare you say the Mass in my ear?"
As Alan Jacobs remarks in his The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), p. 73: "Presumably this story got around quickly, because when Bishop Whitford of Brechin read his first service from the prayer book he did so with two loaded pistols placed on the desk before him, in plain sight of the restive congregation."

But it was already too late. The Scots were roused, and they did not take kindly to the king trying to interfere in their worship of the Almighty. Already in February of the same year, a large group of them had assembled in the churchyard of Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh and pledged or covenanted to resist the "superstitious and papistical rites" of the English. Some of these "Covenanters" went so far as to sign the covenant that that they made in their own blood, tying red scarves around their necks as a symbol of their steadfastness against the imposition of the king's religion. By the next year, the Scots had raised an army and marched against the king. Although the king had capitulated to the grievances brought by the Scots Parliament the following year, his actions had so alienated the English Parliament that soon he found himself embroiled in a civil war, by the end of which he had lost his head, literally.

Fast forward to 1688, when William of Orange had assumed the throne of England by arrangement with Parliament, and the Scots Presbyterians settled in Ulster began worrying about a Catholic response. On December 7, 1688, Londonderry found itself under siege by the ousted monarch James II. When in April, the king approached the city gates and offered terms of surrender, the Ulsterfolk cried as the Covenanters had done: "No surrender!" Although eventually the English sent warships, for six weeks in the summer, the ships stood idly by, as the city endured its greatest battering and the people began to die. At long last, in late July, the relief force pushed through and the siege was lifted, but by that point all trust had been lost. As far as the Londonderry Scots were concerned, the Anglicans both inside and outside the city had abandoned them. When the Anglican Reverend George Walker published his True Account of the Siege of Londonderry in September that same year, he failed to mention any of the services of the Presbyterian ministers or the leadership of the Scots in sustaining the siege.

The resentment would linger for generations. As Jim Webb notes in his Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America (New York: Broadway, 2004), p. 109: 
For the Presbyterian Scots who stayed in Ulster, the insults at the hands of the principally English Anglicans would burn for more than a century. For those who eventually left Northern Ireland to settle in America, the slighting of their contribution at the Londonderry siege would become simply one more piece of evidence that it was time to move on. And they brought with them a far greater antipathy toward the English hierarchy than they ever could have felt toward the ordinary Irish.
What were these Scots Irish Presbyterian settlers in America like? For starters, there were more of them than any other British group. As David Hackett Fischer has shown in his Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989) in exhaustive--but exhilarating--detail (really, if you haven't read his book and you read only one book ever again, make it this book--it will change everything about the way you see America), colonial Britain was the product of not one but four great migrations, of which the East Anglian Puritans who settled in New England were only the first. They came over largely in the 1630s fleeing Charles I's tyranny, and there were about 21,000 of them. The next major wave of immigrants was the Anglican Royalists fleeing the Cromwellian Commonwealth in the 1650s. They numbered about 45,000 and settled in Virginia. The third major wave was the Quakers, fleeing the persecutions during the Restoration. About 23,000 came over from the North Midlands of England between 1675 and 1695 and settled in the Delaware Valley. And then there were the Scots Irish following the Union of England and Scotland in 1707. They came over by the hundreds of thousands, perhaps as many as a quarter million people, between 1715 and 1775. Some came to Maine, but the Puritans there didn't like them and pushed them on (my ancestor David Fulton seems to have been one of these). Some settled in Delaware, but the Quakers feared them. Most settled in the backcountry along the Appalachians where nobody else wanted to live.

And rightly so. According to the Puritans who had settled with their towns in New England, the Quakers who had settled with their farms in the Delaware Valley, and the Anglicans who had settled with their landed estates in Virginia, the Scots Irish were savages, violent barbarians, little better than animals. As one Anglican preacher reported after trying to convert the Scots Irish in the Carolina mountains: "They delight in their present low, lazy, sluttish, heathenish, hellish life and seem not desirous of changing it" (Arthur Herman, How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything In It [New York: MJF, 2004], p. 237). As Webb recounts, the Scots Irish of the backcountry flocked to hear sermons, hungry for intellectual stimulation and the social opportunities presented by such gatherings. But despite their enthusiasm, all the Anglican minister Charles Woodmason could see, preaching in the Carolina backwoods in the 1760s, were "Ignorant, mean, worthless, beggarly Presbyterians, the Scum of the Earth, and Refuse of Mankind." As Webb comments (p. 157): "Such invective is not unheard of in modern days. If a sensitive ear would substitute 'redneck' for 'Irish Presbyterians,' he might have a pretty accurate picture of how many modern-day New Englanders [a.k.a. Puritans, although they call themselves "Progressives" now--FB] and European elites still characterize rural Southerners."

Why "redneck"? Because, according to Fischer, "redneck" as it was originally applied to this "rural proletariat" meant "Presbyterian": "It had long been a slang word for religious dissenters in the north of England"(p. 758)--possibly, although Fischer does not mention it, because of the red scarves that the Covenanters had tied round their necks to symbolize their refusal to bow to the king in matters of religion. Nor, as the preachers learned, would they bow to the king's Anglican missionaries in the backcountry of America either. As why should they? Those Scots Irish who came from the Border counties of their ancestral island had had little reason to trust kings ever since the Romans built their wall to keep their savage ancestors at bay. Kings of England had fought with the kings of Scotland over the borderlands for centuries, once every generation or so laying it waste as the English king came north or the Scots king went south to try to assert his power over his rival. As the Scots learned in 1637, the English king's ministers could not be trusted to confer with the Kirk, and as the Highlanders learned following the Union with England (in fact, voted for by the Scottish Parliament--see Herman, How the Scots, for details), neither could they trust their own lords. To the Puritans, Quakers, and Anglicans of the older colonies in British America, the Scots Irish may have looked like savages (as, indeed, they themselves acknowledged--see Ferguson), but as Colin Woodard puts it in American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011), p. 101, a better name for them might be "refugees."

As Woodard summarizes Fischer's and Webb's arguments (pp. 101-2):
The founders of Appalachia came from the war-torn borderlands of northern Britain: lowland Scotland, the adjacent Marches of northern England, and the Scots-Irish-controlled north of Ireland. Their ancestors had weathered 800 years of nearly constant warfare, some of them fighting in (or against) the armies of William "Braveheart" Wallace or Robert the Bruce. By the time America was being colonized, the borderlands were in ruins. "The country is so stored with infinite numbers of begging and vagrant poor, why by reason of their extreme want and misery are very bold in their behavior and impudent," an English spy said of Scotland in 1580. The north of England, a foreign diplomat wrote in 1617, "was very poor and uncultivated and exceedingly wretched...from the perpetual wars with which these nations have savagely destroyed each other."
Woodard's map: The Borderlanders settled in Greater Appalachia
Under such conditions, Borderlanders learned to rely only on themselves and their extended families to defend home, hearth, and kin against intruders, be they foreign soldiers, Irish guerrilla fighters, or royal tax collectors [or Yankee carpetbaggers or Progressive do-gooders--FB]. Living amid constant upheaval, many Borderlanders embraced [you can tell Woodard's sympathies here, he almost said "clung to"--FB] a Calvinist religious tradition--Presbyterianism--that held that they were God's chosen people, members of a biblical nation sanctified in blood and watched over by a wrathful Old Testament deity [I don't know about this, I need to learn more about seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Presbyterianism; this is certainly the caricature description I have always heard, but it is nothing like what Fischer describes of the Scots Irish's religious ways, which were much more exuberant, as the Anglican preachers in Carolina knew--FB]. Suspicious of outside authority of any kind ["Get off my land!"--FB], the Borderlanders valued individual liberty and personal honor above all else, and were happy to take up arms to defend either [or, as Jim Webb shows, their country when called--FB]. When Queen Elizabeth I and her successors needed tough, warlike people to settle Northern Ireland and crush native resistance, they turned to border Scots who, in Ulster, became the Scots-Irish [and then were betrayed, as they saw it, at Londonderry--FB]. A century later, many Americans would value their willingness to hold down frontier lands against restive Native Americans, creating a protective buffer for more docile settlers [i.e. the Puritans, Quakers, and Anglicans--FB] near the coast.
In other words, they were what we now call conservatives, jealous of their independence and distrustful of government, clinging to their guns and religion because they knew that if they didn't defend their homes and way of worshipping God, no one would. As Fischer puts it (p. 782): "This libertarian idea of natural freedom as 'elbow room' was very far from the ordered freedom of New England towns, the hegemonic freedom of Virginia's county oligarchs, and the reciprocal freedom of Pennsylvania Quakers. Here was yet another freedom way which came to be rooted in the culture of an American region, where it flourished for many years to come."

The burden of Fischer's book is to describe in detail each of the four folkways, including their speech ways, building ways, family ways, marriage ways, gender ways, sex ways, child-rearing ways, naming ways, age ways, death ways, religious ways, magic ways, learning ways, food ways, dress ways, sport ways, work ways, time ways, wealth ways, rank ways, social ways, order ways, power ways, and freedom ways, as they were translated from Albion to America. Like Woodard, who depends heavily on Fischer for his description of the four British folkways, Fischer also attempts to show how these folkways have continued to shape American culture all the way to the present. Webb takes the story in more detail from the Scots Irish perspective, and Herman includes a chapter on the way in which the Scots influenced American history more generally. But the most important takeaway from all four books (surrounding me here on the couch as I write) is that even with the waves of immigration to America since the colonial period, the regions have sustained their particular character, the Puritan Yankees just as much as the gentry Virginians, the Midlander Quakers as much as the Scots Irish Appalachians. And in all that time, almost nothing has changed. The Puritans still want everybody to live one way, the Quakers all just want to be left alone, the Virginians think that society works best when it is hierarchical, and everybody hates the Scots Irish (who, by the by, don't think of themselves in these terms because as far as they're concerned, they're "Americans").

I pointed this out to my uncle (his middle name is "Alexander," a good Scots Highlander name, although I don't know my ancestry on my mother's side as well as my father's*) at Christmas this year: "Do you realize that there is only one insult that anybody still thinks is okay to use? Redneck! Which means us Presbyterians!" He thought for a moment and then shot back: "That's okay. We can take it!"

Our Covenanter ancestors would be proud.

*Full disclosure: I do have some gentry Virginians on my father's side of the family (including a line going back to none other than the Elizabethan Admiral John Hawkins), as well as some New Amsterdam Dutch, which means we were New Yorkers before it was New York. David Fulton's son Robert Fulton (both my father and my brother are named Robert) married Eleanor Wynkoop, the daughter of Cornelius Wynkoop and Helena Van de Grift. Cornelius Wynkoop's great-grandfather had been born in 1627 in Wyckerom bei Eeden, Gelderland. He died in Kingston, Ulster Co, NY, in 1676, having married Maria Janse Van Langedyck on January 29, 1656/67, in New Amsterdam. David Fulton had been born in Ireland. His son Robert Fulton married Eleanor Wynkoop on August 20, 1755, in Christ Church, Philadelphia, PA. They lived in Loudon County, VA, which is where my grandfather's grandfather was born. I could go on, there's more--lot's more! My grandfather Fulton was a real ancestry hound.