Traditional dances

I was just reading an interesting thread at another blog, in which the topic was ‘modernism’ and within that context, dancing in different eras. The discussion on the thread was about the degree to which modern-style dancing contributed to the deterioration of our culture. But traditional music is a different story.

Someone posted links to ‘New England dances’, and though I couldn’t access the ones that were posted there, I did find this video of a dance from the 1960s. In a way that’s better because New England was more, well, English then than now, I think — depending on where or when (late 1960s in this case). Where it was filmed I don’t know, but it’s enjoyable to watch.

The dancing is much like any square dance from whatever part of the U.S., though in the South the music might not be as sedate as the music in the video; Southern music as played for square-dances was pretty lively, but otherwise the dances aren’t much different in differing regions.

And having been in the UK and Ireland, they have similar traditional dances.

I really enjoy writing or talking about culture, about folkways, music, and so on than about the politics. I don’t know about those of you who are reading this. What say you?

Claiming the ‘WASP’ label

It’s so seldom done these days; it caught my eye when I saw the title of a blog post from The Propertarian Institute blog. The post is titled ‘I’m a WASP.‘ How often do we hear anyone just saying it matter-of-factly, like that?

It’s a brief post but makes a point about the attitudes in some quarters towards Anglo-Americans or ‘WASPs.’

I won’t put words in the blogger’s mouth or try to speak for him ; everyone’s experiences differ, but so often WASPs are either disparaged for having been the cause of every ill of our country, or criticized for having “deserted” our American sinking ship and shirked our responsibility.

Some people talk of us in the past tense as if we are all ghosts, or as if we are an extinct species. Somewhat like Dr. Seuss’s ‘Who’ people, who were invisible because they were too small to be seen, we might need to do what the ‘Whoville’ people did to make their presence known by shouting ”We are here!”

We are here, but there are still people who insist that ‘nobody in America is pure English or pure anything, we’re all mixed.’ That makes us irrelevant, I suppose, to those people.

Despite this, we do have a heritage, and we have ancestors in whom we should have a healthy pride. That can’t be taken away.


The Last American


The picture above, which was passed on to me by a reader on my old blog I think, depicts the Life Magazine artist’s idea of a future (1976) wherein the ‘sole surviving Yankee’ is surrounded by strangers. I guess the artist was a little off on the timing of this but make of it what you will. Needless to say the subject matter is politically incorrect and might trigger some sensitive soul, but I don’t think the ‘Yankee’ New Englander is going to be allowed to disappear completely. He’s needed as a scapegoat and whipping boy.

But the fact remains that old-fashioned Yankees are pretty thin on the ground in the area they settled 400 years ago and they are hardly dominant in that area.

Some reading material

I apologize for being missing over this past week or so, and that there is not a regular post from me.

For those who are interested in colonial history and ancestry I have a few links that might be worth reading. If you haven’t come across them already; I think you (my readers, if you’re still there) are a well-read group of people.

Incidentally, on the first link, I actually found a colonial relative, who unexpectedly turns up in Connecticut though he was a resident of Massachusetts.

Anyway, here are the links.

Early Puritan Settlers of Connecticut

The Puritan Republic of Massachusetts Bay

On the Contributions of New England to America

The Puritan Remnant

A Family Quarrel — An Allegorical Study in American Origins and Principles

The Story of New England

Anglo-Saxon surnames

I hope there is something here of interest.

The early settlers of New England

From the book Makers of the American Republic, by David Gregg:

“For one hundred and fifty years after the Puritan exodus, from 1640 to 1790, New England received very few by means of immigration. Its increase came from its own families; it enjoyed a remarkable seclusion. There were only three exceptions to this. In 1652, after his victory at Dunbar and Worcester, Cromwell sent two hundred and seventy Scotch [sic] prisoners to Boston as a punishment. They grandly bore the punishment; they rather liked it, I imagine, for their descendants are there to this day. In 1685, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, one hundred and fifty families of the Huguenots came to Massachusetts; their names are perpetuated in Bowdoin College and Faneuil Hall. In 1719 several Presbyterian families from the north of Ireland settled in New Hampshire; their descendants are still in that state. Londonderry, N.H., marks their settlement. These were the three exceptions, and they were very small. When the hour of Revolution struck, there was no county in old England itself that had a purer English blood than New England. The homogeneity of population accounts for the oneness of belief and action in New England in the matter of the American Revolution. The people of New England were one people, and they struck like a trip-hammer when they struck. It was this unity and homogeneity which made them the power they were in the formation of the American Republic, and which helped New England to stamp itself upon the whole country for the country’s good.

It was only after the American Revolution that New Englanders began to move into the Western part of our land and there form new States; but this they did so effectively that there is a Portland to-day on the Pacific as well as a Portland on the Atlantic. They now number one fourth of the entire population of our sixty millions, and are a beneficial force in every state in the Union.

While the Puritans were diligent in building up New England, let no one suppose that they were indifferent to what was going forward in the motherland; they were one with the progressives there. it has been said that the English Revolution virtually began in Boston, where Sir Edmund Andros, King James’s representative, was arrested and put in prison. New England was the first to hail the enthronement of William, Prince of Orange. During the Cromwellian conflict Cromwell’s strongest friends were in New England. The pen of New England, fertilized by freedom, became marvelously prolific. Cromwell, Hampden, Sidney, Milton, Owen, were scholars of teachers mostly on this side of the Atlantic.”

David Gregg, Makers of the American Republic, ‘The Puritans’, 1896. pp. 90-91.

Gregg’s account of the ethnic makeup of the early New Englanders contradicts today’s popular assertions that the early colonies were already ‘very diverse’. Gregg asserts, too, that the early colony was in touch with events back in the home country, and that they especially had close ties with the Puritans in England. So often some of the simplistic textbooks emphasize the supposed rift between the New England colonists as a whole, as though they were not of the same blood and descent, as if the colonists felt as though they were a separate people long before the Revolution.

Puritans and principles

Edwin Hall, in his book Puritans and Their Principles (1846) wrote mainly to give the history of the Puritans, focusing on the religious differences in British history which led to the emerging of the Puritans in the context of the Catholic-Protestant conflict, and later the measures against the Puritans specifically. But in the first chapter, Hall emphasizes the importance of the Puritans’ beliefs and the principled stand they took, and he traces the development of a trend towards the freer societies which eventually developed in Britain and the English colonies.

However, even in 1846, the Puritans (who no longer existed as a recognizable group as in 17th century New England) were already in disrepute. ‘Freethinking’, irreligious people despised what they thought of as the narrowmindedness and intolerance of the Puritans, and the Puritans were already derided by nonbelievers as well as those of other religious denominations. Hall believes this was undeserved and he seeks in part to rectify some misconceptions or outright lies.

To descendants of the Puritan colonists, who were the ancestors of many old-stock Americans, this purposeful smearing of the memories of our forebears is important. After all, truth matters, and those who have spread, or are still spreading, these warped viewpoints and lies should be answered.

Hall is mostly concerned with religous issues, but he does address the popular misconceptions about, and slanders of, the Puritans. Obviously those lies still persist. Hall speaks of the religious leaders who persisted in ‘with boldness’ attacking the memory of the Puritans:

“...[D]enouncing us and our Puritan fathers as rebels and schismatics; our churches as no churches […] and all people who do not submit to some Prelatical Hierarchy as …out of the pale of Gospel grace.”

Incidentally, in some places on the Internet, all Protestants in general are liable to being told similar things. According to some who think Protestants are ‘rebels and schismatics’, our ancestors are likely in Hell and we ourselves are headed there. Inter-faith differences motivate at least some of the anti-Puritan rhetoric.

However most of it is due to people simply repeating what ‘everybody else knows’, that Puritans were severe, grim ‘killjoys’ who opposed any kind of recreation or ‘harmless fun’, and they were asexual, opposed to natural human urges for companionship or procreation, especially outside marriage. In our libertine age in which seemingly anything goes, as the left dismantles — no, demolishes, with a vengeance, all rules of morality, even the common-sense ones — the Puritans are, more than ever, an object of contempt.

Hall notes the other common stereotypes of the Puritans: they had no sense of humor, allegedly. They were said to be ignorant and rigid-minded, bigoted, fanatical. However there is no evidence of this; many Puritans were highly intelligent, well-educated in the best schools, and they read widely, having had what we (unfortunately) call a ‘liberal education’. Nowadays a ”liberal education”, sadly, makes us think of those indoctrination centers, which we laughingly call ‘institutions of higher learning’, which do in fact produce ‘narrowminded, rigid, and ignorant’ people who are now self-named ‘progressives.’ Maybe this, in part, explains why some on the right try to identify the Puritans of old with the pig-ignorant, faux-pious ‘progressives’, with their fanaticism. And this is not new; it calls to mind figures like the homicidal John Brown, so moved by ‘compassion’ that he killed some of his own folk. The Puritans were not known for such fanaticism or bloodshed.

At this point someone inevitably brings up ‘Salem.’ That’s a complicated story, being made more complicated by the fact that most Western people, being unbelievers in the ‘supernatural’, think anyone who would accuse others of witchcraft, is by definition crazy. So the Salem folk, per popular belief, were not only ‘crazy’ but fanatical. This is not an easy issue, so I’ll leave it, except to say that, contrary to popular belief, in Salem not one person was ‘burned’ as a witch, or for any other crime. Hanging was the only capital punishment in Salem then, as far as I’m aware. Incidentally some of my maternal ancestors lived in Salem then, and I have read the official papers on the Salem witch trials.

The past truly is another country, and it is almost impossible for us to put ourselves in our ancestors’ shoes, though we are expected to live amongst people with beliefs far different to our own, more different than the ways of our ancestors of 3 or 4 centuries ago.

But it is vital, I think, for anyone truly educated, to read old books rather than having our knowledge come at a remove via modern (post-modern?) ‘historians’ with biased viewpoints and axes to grind. For such people everything is politicized, and subject to the fashion of the ‘culture of critique’, being torn apart and judged by today’s twisted standards. So the old books are superior for geting a fuller picture of the past, minus the craziness of the current year.

One of the principal critics of the Puritans was Scots philospher David Hume. An article in the American Conservative, from 2011, says this:

The Puritans, and the even more radical sects in orbit around them, did not seek reform but total transformation. And “every successive revolution became a precedent for that which followed it.” [Emphasis mine].

I gather that the writer of that piece, Donald W. Livingston, is paraphrasing Hume’s point of view, rather than offering his own opinion. Hume obviously thought the Puritans wanted, or intended, to ‘transform society’. Hume thought the Puritans to be the English analogue, in the context of the English civil war, of the Jacobins. The Puritans were not revolutionaries in that sense, much less destroyers of society as the neo-Jacobins of our time are. Most people don’t get that the Puritans did not want to force their Christianity on others or to conquer anyone or rule over anyone; they simply wanted the freedom to live and worship as their faith required. They were, plain and simple, separatists. Had they not been so desirous of following their faith, they would not have left their beloved England and endured the hardships of crossing the Atlantic, fighting hostile Indians, and for a time, starving and living in primitive conditions.

They never tried to dictate to those who were not of the same convictions.

However, dissent inevitably inserted itself in the original colonies, eventually, but that’s the way of the world, and it’s another story for another time.

There is so much more to be said about the Puritan issue, and I may revisit it. For those interested, I would advise reading some of the many old sources, old books which are available on the Internet, especially on or other e-book sites. I would recommend reading diaries or letters from some of the earlier colonists, including those of Winthrop or Bradford. They are not hard to find online.

It’s always important to counter lies on subjects like this; it’s too rarely done, and that’s the way the lies always seem to win out.

#history, #massachusetts-colony, #new-england, #puritans, #salem-massachusetts