The ‘return of the Anglo-Saxon’?

The Return of David Hackett Fischer ‘ might be more apt for this piece, a piece for which I had high hopes, considering its title and the name of its author, ‘Hengest.’ Not to be too hard on the writer, it’s just that I had hoped that the article would offer a fresh take on the issue of America and her British Isles origins. I suppose I can’t fault the writer for essentially following the predominant school of thought, which enshrines the work of Fischer, Woodward, and others who hold the work of the latter two in the highest regard.

Is it to be the fate of this blog perpetually to try, if not to refute, then at least to provoke healthy questioning of the work of Fischer, Colin Woodward, and of others like McWhiney who promote the Celtic South idea? I had hoped to go beyond that but it seems these popular writers are now considered unimpeachable sources. And who am I? I am a mere anonymous blogger. However I don’t claim authority on my own account (though I am credentialed in history and have considerable experience in genealogy), asking only that those with open minds at least consult older sources, and weigh those against the more recent popular writers of history. I personally believe that history as it is at present practiced is not as rigorous as it once was, and that political correctness, including post-modernism, taints much of what passes as history and ethnology nowadays.

Back to the linked piece by Hengest at Faith and Heritage. I am a regular reader of Faith and Heritage, and I find the articles there to be worthy for the most part, often well-written and thought-provoking. The writer, Hengest, seems to be using the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ in a rather inclusive way, to describe British Isles people generally, a practice which I see is now becoming more widespread. However as I like to point out, most British people of Celtic origin (Welsh, Scots, and Irish), emphatically state they are not of English/Anglo-Saxon origin, so it seems dubious to use ‘Anglo-Saxon’ in such an inclusive way. There is such a thing as an English nationalist, and if you encountered one, he would also tell you that he is not ‘British’ by ethnicity, but English, or Anglo-Saxon. I like to use the terms precisely rather than as vaguely interchangeable.

In the United States, however, the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ or just ‘Anglo’, is often used rather carelessly to mean anybody whose first language is English, who has (maybe) an English surname or who is otherwise a sort of nondescript, generic White American. The sloppy usage of the term ‘Anglo’ in America is akin to the usage of the semi-slur term ‘WASP’, meaning ‘White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.’ Many people of mixed Northwest European ancestry think of themselves as more or less WASP as they grew up English-speaking and Protestant, and maybe even grew up in the older American culture which was heavily English-derived. Still, such people may not really be English-Americans, nor identify much with English history and culture, or most importantly, the English people who now live in England. So the terms are very imprecisely used. In that respect, ‘Hengest’ is only following imprecise American practice, I suppose, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

By the way, the term ‘WASP’ was apparently originated as a kind of slur, and here in a piece from way back in 1988, Edward Hoagland defends WASPs. Now when was the last time you read any kind of defense of WASPs in a major newspaper, especially the New York Times? You likely won’t see it anytime soon, and there are even precious few blogs which advocate for Anglo-Americans, Anglo-Saxons, or English nationalism. (By the way, if anyone knows of any such blogs, please send me links. There are too few people taking up this cause.)

As to whether those who follow Fischer, Woodward, et al are right and I am wrong, as I’ve said, I am merely asking that people who sincerely want to know the truth read as many older sources as possible. Confining our sources of knowledge only to those of our own generation and time is the worst possible temporal provincialism and narrowness. Hear all sides of the issue, including voices of other times — and consider that the people who lived farther back in time may have been closer to having the truth than those of us who are removed from it by many generations.


More on American identity

The recent article by Eunjung Han in Nature on the subject of American ethnic identity continues to generate discussion here and there on the Internet. I don’t think the article will end the little controversies surrounding the question, however, because mere facts don’t always settle political/ethnic disagreements these days.

This piece at the Assistant Village Idiot blog points out some things that verify what I’ve believed and asserted. The writer tends to agree with both David Hackett Fischer’s and Colin Woodward’s assertions though as I’ve stated, I don’t hold those works as Holy Writ as some readers do. For instance the belief that broadly speaking the Northern colonies in early America represented distinct ethnicities in contrast to the Southern colonies. That’s an oversimplification, I know, but it is interpreted much that way by some who find it politically expedient to claim that the North and South represented disparate and incompatible peoples — both originally from Britain but irreconcilably different. There are also those who, following Fischer and/or Woodward, insist that the ‘Cavalier class’ in the South or the ‘Planter’ class represented a different people than Appalachia, or the Tidewater area, or the Midlands South, etc.

I think the differences, insofar as they exist or did exist are exaggerated, especially as they were scarcely mentioned as existing in earlier histories and commentaries from the literate classes in the pre-War South. They seem to have been discovered and emphasized only in recent times.

From the linked blog piece:

“Some things to note: Woodard’s Tidewater culture is not visibly distinct here, and the further distinctions of  Upland South, Midlands, and Greater Appalachia are visible, but not quite the same as any of the three authors have claimed.”

That much, at least, indicates at least a tiny chink  in the armor, but those partisans who see Fischer’s and Woodward’s works  as gospel won’t concur.

Another point of mine is that the ‘New England Yankee’ stock long ago migrated West en masse, though some did stay behind in isolated areas, and many ‘Yankees’  settled the Western mountain states, notably Utah, where many Mormon converts went in the 19th century. I know this in part because it’s documented in a couple of history books, but also from my own family genealogy researches.

Incidentally once settled in that area most of these emigrants held to conservative politics — except lately as they have become newish converts to multiculturalism and open borders universalism. The popular belief among many pro-South people is that the New England Yankees still hold sway in their original Northeastern stronghold, or that they mysteriously control the whole system, though I’ve repeatedly offered evidence that this is not so; New England is multicultural and the towns founded by my ancestors are mostly populated by upper-middle-class ethnic refugees from New York City, Boston and other urban towers of Babel. Most of my New England cousins, however, are probably in Utah or the Far West and they are hardly ruling America.

The blogger in the linked piece says this:

“That Utah was ultimately settled by people who were Yankees rather than one of the other American coastal nations has been noted before – first by their own extensive genealogies. Joseph Smith was a northeastern Yankee. Make of that what you will.”

Yes, there are stubborn misconceptions about the various branches of ‘Albion’s Seed’ and their interrelationships. Why are these canards still rife, and growing more stubborn, given the data that is available?

I don’t know the full answer; it seems America is becoming more balkanized ethnically, and I know that it doesn’t benefit us in this time of crisis for the house to be divided against itself. We rubbed along for a good while without these new internecine squabbles. Those of us who are of British Isles ancestry should be able to make common cause without exacerbating existing divisions or inventing new ones in the name of ethnic pride or revanchism.

Do I advocate for a particularistic cause myself?  Certainly I would like to see the English people, who are after all the core people of Britain regain a sense of identity that has been lost, suppressed by the globalist leaders of the UK. I’d like to see a resurgence of a healthy, non-divisive sense of pride in English achievements, rather than the English subsumed in the umbrella identity ‘British’. After all, can’t the Welsh be both British and claim their particularistic identity as Welsh? Don’t the Scottish claim their identity, and the Cornish? Why not the English?

‘British’ is a civic more than an ethnic category. Every immigrant in the UK claims to be ‘British.’

Regarding ethnic identity in America, the lines have been blurred even more, though the South retained more ethnic integrity until fairly recently because fewer immigrants settled in the South historically.

English colonial-stock Americans have more in common ethnically and culturally than today’s partisans want to admit.

People on the right often complain (justly) that those on the left are impervious to facts and that facts and data are immaterial to the leftist ideologues. There are such on the right as well. Too many postmoderns on both sides ignore facts in favor of ideology or politics.



‘Albion’s Gene’

At the Unz Review, on the iSteve blog, a post containing links and excerpts from a study on ‘IBD’, or ‘Identity-By-Descent’ connections in America, based on data from 770,000 genotyped individuals. Interesting, if you have the background and the savvy to decipher the data presented, as it is apparently not written for the layman.

I have a longstanding layman’s interest in genetics and HBD but I admit to finding the information hard to follow.

On blog posts such as this ‘Albion’s Gene’ example, invariably the book Albion’s Seed, by David Hackett Fischer, is invoked.  And as usual it is invoked in the same spirit as a quote from the Holy Bible is cited by a believing Christians.  I’ve made my views of the book known, at some length, on the subject of Fischer’s book. It certainly is impressive in its (physical) weight and size, but I don’t consider it Holy Writ as do many who follow the subjects of HBD or American History and demography. Too often there are political axes being ground, especially amongst those who want to champion their own ethnic group (usually Celtic or German or both) at the expense of the original majority, the English colonists of this country.

Refreshingly, though, commenter ‘Halvorson’ says what I myself feel:

I’m apparently the only guy on the Internet who really hates Albion’s Seed and so it’s my sacred duty to fight back against it at every opportunity.

Hackett Fischer goes through a huge number of pages on the Scotch Irish before giving his readers any sense of just how many of them there are in the South. Most readers in the isteve comment section walk away from the book thinking Appalachia or even the entire South is predominantly SI. This is an urban legend. If you dig through Fischer’s sources on Scotch Irish numbers the one study he gives most credence to is a colonial surname analysis done by Purvis. Here are his results:

The chart he links to above is interesting. It appears that some of the ‘evidence’ in favor of a Scots-Irish majority in certain places is nothing more than assessing the national or ethnic origin of surnames, which can be tricky. Some surnames are obviously used in various parts of the British Isles (Jones, Jackson, Johnson, and many others) and are often claimed as ‘Welsh’ or ‘Scots’ when they are not originally Celtic but English. So if that’s the best the proponents of the Celtic majority have, it isn’t exactly solid proof.

Now, if only most people in America were DNA-tested, that would at least provide some evidence beyond unreliable family lore or ‘oral history’ [as an example, see: the Cherokee princess myth] as to people’s actual origins. But even DNA testing is apparently not precise enough to distinguish amongst the various strains of ‘British Isles’ ancestry, which again says something: the Celt cult says that there is a world of difference between ‘fiery, passionate Celts’ and phlegmatic, cold-blooded Sassenachs. I don’t dispute the evidence showing close connections between the groups. Differences are real but not as stark as some would make them.

I notice that a couple of other comments to the article second what Halvorson says and also that commenter ‘FKA Max’ links to this blog. I appreciate the link.

Will we ever really know which side is correct in this ongoing dispute between those of English/Anglo-Saxon origin and the ‘Celtic’ proponents? Does it even matter? Well, yes it matters because the truth matters. Presumably only the left subscribes to the nonsense which asserts that ‘there is no truth, only competing narratives.’

And it does matter to me, personally, because it seems a crying shame that the people who founded the colonies which became the United States of America should be denied pride of place, or be forced into the background of history while later groups usurp their place of honor. If that happens and the English ethnicity is slowly expunged from the history of this land, it will just be a foreshadowing of the later erasing of White people generally from their rightful place in our national story.


Albion’s Seed, again

David Hackett Fischer’s book on Anglo-American origins continues to exercise inordinate influence on most discussions of American history and culture.

Of course the thesis of the book is that although the British Isles were the source of most of the colonists who settled this country (though Fischer, I think, unduly emphasizes other European colonists) there is not a unified culture nor a single people as the source of the American nation. There are, according to Fischer, several cultures which are at odds. From there, it’s an easy progression to making the claim that the South and the North, for example, constitute two distinct peoples, with their accompanying cultures — an  idea that has caught on for political reasons amongst some Southrons.

Other modern writers have used Fischer’s book as a jumping-off point for their own pet theories about the various “nations” contained within America. All this can only contribute to more dissension and animosity; some Southern nationalists find Fischer’s writings justification for a new-found hatred of “puritans” and Yankees generally. Some people, based on Fischer’s writings tend to blame not just those long-dead Puritans but Christians in general, or Protestants or Calvinists.

I have read Fischer’s book though it’s been some years since I waded through it.

This recent review of Albion’s Seed seems to emphasize many negative ‘facts’ about our colonist ancestors. Fischer, in my opinion, uses the usual post-modern, politically correct standards by which to judge the colonists. Once upon a time, historians actually did try to exercise some kind of objectivity in writing about history; no longer. Every history of America today seems to have to lean over backward to chastise the Southern colonists especially — the Cavalier class, specifically — for slavery/racism and elitism. Every history of today has to give blacks undeserved credit for some cultural accomplishment. For instance, did you know that the English spoken by my cavalier ancestors actually resembled so-called ”ebonics”, and that Elizabethan English sounded like African-American dialect?

1. Virginian cavalier speech patterns sound a lot like modern African-American dialects. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out why, but it’s strange to think of a 17th century British lord speaking what a modern ear would clearly recognize as Ebonics.

Really, how could Fischer or anyone else back up such a statement? Can we exhume an English lord (English, not British; the Union did not exist till the next century) and compare his speech to that of an ”African American”? Until then, Fischer is just talking through his hat, just making things up.

10. Our word “condescension” comes from a ritual attitude that leading Virginians were supposed to display to their inferiors. Originally condescension was supposed to be a polite way of showing respect those who were socially inferior to you; our modern use of the term probably says a lot about what Virginians actually did with it.

In a lot of ways, Virginia was the opposite of Massachusetts. Their homicide rate was sky-high, and people were actively encouraged to respond to slights against their honor with duels (for the rich) and violence (for the poor).

Fischer seems to have thrown in such examples of good old class-warfare propaganda. Jacobinism by any other name.

From yet another blog post on Fischer’s book:

Among Cavaliers and corporatists, there is no morality beyond might makes right. There is no law — and no honor — beyond their own desire to expand their own sphere of power. There is no equality, no justice, and no universal freedom as we understand it. Theirs is the ancient plantation mentality we Americans have spent over 220 hard, bloody years trying to put behind us. It’s an outdated social system that has no place in a modern technological society — yet, in almost every detail, it’s the very world our new corporate royalists want to drag us back to.

In the back of their minds, they’re just Virginia gentlemen, taking the liberties such gentlemen have always rightfully enjoyed at the expense of others. It’s true that we owe a handful of Cavalier gentlemen a tremendous debt for so clearly articulating the principles of American liberty during the Revolution. But we should also remember that when these first men asserted their God-given right to life, liberty, and happiness, they had no intention of sharing those blessings with anyone else.”

Oh, if only we could go back in time and share our superior wisdom with those benighted ignoramuses! Wouldn’t this world be perfect if only David Hackett Fischer and his fan club could enlighten us all.

This Biblical passage comes to mind:

And Job answered and said,
No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.”

Fischer’s book, I think, impresses people simply because it is so very long and so extensively footnoted and bibliography-ed. The sheer size and weight of the book intimidates people.

An old history prof/mentor of mine in college informed me, when I was a naive and idealistic history student, that all historians have some agenda, whether they are aware of it or not; nobody can be completely bias-free, but today even a pretense of objectivity and impartiality is missing. Fischer, though seemingly regarded as the Voice Of Authority on early American history now, is human like the rest of us, prone to his own biases (which seem to be the PC, egalitarian biases of our time) and also prone to human fallibility. I only wish that people would stop the uncritical acceptance of everything Fischer writes, as if he is the last word.

Similarly with lesser-known writers like Colin Woodward. Even many Southern readers skeptical of ‘Yankees’ still accept Woodward’s writings as absolutely true, and even very right-wing readers seem oblivious to the fact that Woodward is a liberal with a liberal’s presuppositions.

As always, my advice is to read mostly older sources. Today there are a good many old (and sound) books on history which are available online, free. Unfortunately our politically corrected public libraries are purging the old books and replacing them with inferior, dumbed down, ideologically correct ‘history’,which is invariably tainted by today’s PC shibboleths and cliches.

We should learn about the past from people of the past. Their books are still there to be found and used.