Book Review: “Albion’s Seed” by David Hackett Fischer

AlbionsSeedThumb2by Brad Nelson
As one review at put it, “Albion’s Seed is seminal in understanding the USA.” Well…kinda-sorta.

This may be one of those books that everyone has claimed to have read but few actually have. And I didn’t read it all either. By the time I was finished with the full description of the four main groups who emigrated to America from England/Scotland/Ireland, there was still the “conclusions” section of the book at the end which was a quite extended epilogue of sorts. I just couldn’t do it.

But I did read through the hundreds of pages regarding the four main groups (in order of their emigration), which were the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay area, the Anglican aristocrats in and around Chesapeake Bay, the Quakers in and around the Delaware River, and finally the Scots-Irish-North Englanders who settled in the backcountry.

There is far more information presented in Albion’s Seed than you’ll likely want to know. Thankfully, descriptions of each of the four groups is split into subchapters. If minute information on the style of dress of the Quakers doesn’t interest you, you can skip ahead to their styles of architecture, for example.

Each cultural “way” is described for all four groups include their food ways, housing way, language way, marriage ways, sex ways, religious ways, their belief in regards to freedom, their family ways, etc. I found most of it to be interesting but did tend to skip ahead a bit every once in a while. It is that kind of book.

And I wish this book did give me a seminal understanding of America. It did indeed give me some understanding of the people who first settled America. But the author draws few parallels with modern-day America. This book is somewhat impoverished because of that. I was hoping for a lot of “Oh, so that’s why we do that this way now.”

But you do get a bit of that as Fischer has a subchapter on words that were unique to each group. And I give my tip of the cap to the Quakers for having some of the best words….many of which I had never heard before (and have gone out of style) but are so pleasantly whimsical that we really should bring them back. And one of my favorites was the Scots-Irish word, “bumfuzzled,” which means “confused.” And if some of you in the Appalachian region still use that word, then it’s news to me.

But as how these various early traits show up in our present culture, this book is deficient in making that connection. But if you want to learn in enormous detail how those four immigrant groups lived, this is the book for you.

I read Albion’s Seed for the purposes of obtaining a kind of “deep background” understanding of America. And that is how I recommend this book. But I’m not sure what deep insights I’ve gained from it other than that some of the stupid shit that we quibble over in our times as some supposed gross offense on liberty wouldn’t even be on the radar for any of these groups except perhaps the anarchy-oriented Scots-Irish-North-English.

My general impressions of these four groups are that the Puritans do not quite fit the popular image we have for them. Actually, in many ways, they were pretty cool and ordinary people. And certainly I would want to live amongst them before coming within a country mile of the dirty, backward, and violent Scots-Irish. But even so, the Puritans are a little constraining for my taste.

The Anglican oligarchies of the Chesapeake Bay area hold little appeal. Aside from Washington, Jefferson, George Mason, Madison, and a few others, this really was a quite un-American (to modern ears) way of being. And most of the oligarchy were various shades of despicable. And this society was hardly what we have come to think of as egalitarian America. You were either one of the arrogant elite or you were a dirt poor farmer who most likely didn’t even own the land that you farmed. You stayed in the station that you were born into. It was a stratified society, and quite even before the introduction of African slaves. These were people that we would see today as being walking caricatures of pompous asses.

I’d already mentioned the Scots-Irish. The author is pleased to allow you to draw your own conclusions about this backcountry culture. He merely describes and doesn’t judge. But few of the “ways” or cultural attributes of these people are pleasant. Many are barbaric or, at best, dirty and primitive.

That leaves the Quakers. And although we might see the makings of modern libtard Christians in some of their beliefs, the Quakers were generally people who desired to live a good life and to become good people. They were fair and mild. Yes, by today’s standards (and even by the Puritan standards of their day) they were pretty suffocating in some of their religious beliefs. And they weren’t above bloodying a few noses in regards to law-and-order, although the popular perception of them today is probably as complete pacifists (that came later). But they were by far the closest in makeup — in both their attitudes to industry and to freedom — to what me might recognize as normal and desirable today. I had affection for the Puritans, but I ended up quite liking the early Quakers (the later ones truly did become a bunch of libtard peaceniks).

All in all, Albion’s Seed does give you a good look at how these four different immigrant groups lived and where they got their traits. These traits came almost completely intact and unchanged from the various regions of their origin. But I have to say, the book did not give me any great insights on the makeup of Americans today. But perhaps that is just a quibble. • (8190 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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50 Responses to Book Review: “Albion’s Seed” by David Hackett Fischer

  1. Kung Fu Zu says:

    Sowell has a book called “Black Rednecks and White Liberals”. I have not read it, but I heard him speak about it and I believe he basically says redneck culture came from your beloved Scots-Irish and the mentality does not belong only to whites, but permeated a large part of the country. There was, and still is, a large degree of anti-education in the culture.

    You never heard “bumfuzzled”? I guess I am showing my age and having been born in the Southeast.

    • Ed Cottingham says:

      Does anyone contemplate the word “bumfuzzled” without contemplating another word beginning with the same first five letters, both being focused on the “bum” and how it might be put into “disarray” (to resort at the last moment to a decorously dodgy word)?

      My bum-word does not appear in my 4.0 electronic OED although I did read about the popular British word “bum,” which is suspected of being a corruption of words like “bump.”

      It does seem to be a word that would naturally be a favorite of my Scots-Irish neighbors and perhaps cousins (as so richly depicted in Deliverance). A life-long North Carolinian, I used to think of my tribe as being hopelessly, deep-rooted Americans, who rarely show consciousness of any specific European ancestry. St. Pat’s Day, for example, just another day in NC, although we have a lot of Irish in our genes beyond doubt. Only in the mountains do you find this kind of consciousness in NC and mostly associated with “highland” Scots. (Is that a better lot than Scottish swamp critters?)

      I recently acquired this book (stimulated by a mention here, I think). Now I am a little discouraged at Brad’s report of the extraordinary depth of the treatment. Perhaps I should try the Sowell book as I know the good doctor to be focused and not excessively wordy in his books.

      (I am now sadly aware that Google and NSA have a record of “my interest” in bumfu… This is a joke…sort of. It is hideous to make these sorts of presumptions about a person. “But I am just interested in etymology,” I protest, as the Google geeks and NSA spooks fall on their bums laughing.)

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        I only heard of the other “bum” word after having lived among many English expats.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I recently acquired this book (stimulated by a mention here, I think). Now I am a little discouraged at Brad’s report of the extraordinary depth of the treatment.

        Well, Ed, for the most part I found it interesting enough to slog through. Most of this stuff I had little idea of, so it held my interest in that regard. But my reviews are not meant to sell books. I try to give the real-world skinny as to what to expect. And you do have to be somewhat motivated to keep going with this. But there are several of the “ways” that are interesting.

        But I didn’t the “ways” regarding architecture, clothing, and a few other things to be that much of interest. And sometimes it was just a factor of Fischer going on and on. He needed to cut a little bit. But he did the research so I guess he gets the last word.

        But parts of the book were utterly fascinating, especially the section on Quakers and much of the section on the Scots-Irish. Good god, what a contrast in “styles,” if you will. The Scots-Irish were the “Give me liberty or give me death” people. That’s who Patrick Henry was. He makes Rand Paul look like a sissy boy in regards to radical libertarianism. And yet there’s a place for that too.

        There’s also much mention of Andrew Jackson as the epitome of the backcountry Scots-Irish man. Good god, what a brute at times, but also definitely not a RINO. I may read a biography on him because of this book.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Just for the record, Ed. I’ve never had my bum fuzzled…[Seinfeld]…not that there’s anything wrong with that.[/Seinfeld]

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I haven’t read that book by Sowell either, Mr. Kung. But Mr. Fischer does mention the origin of the term “red neck” in Albion’s Seed:

      The earliest American example known to this historian was recorded in North Carolina by Anne Royall in 1830, who noted that “red-neck” was “a named bestowed upon the Presbyterians.” It had long been a slang word for religious dissenters in the north of England.”

      No, never heard of bumfuzzled. But I plan on helping to bring that word back:

      Regarding anything decent or American, the Left is bumfuzzled.

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        Don’t forget bumfuddled.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Is “bumfuddled” the past present participle incipient of “bumfuzzled?” I can never keep that straight, Mr. Kung.

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        As to redneck, I always thought it came from the fact that poor white farmers in the South were bent over the plow, thus the sunburned neck.

        I looked quickly into the religious side and see that certain Presbyterians who rejected rule by bishops wore red scarves around their necks back in Britain. There appears to be a strong anti-ruling class sentiment involved.

        You learn something new everyday.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Indeed. And which one of us guys is going to read that book by Sowell? As I remember, I think it’s another collection of his articles. That’s not a bad thing. But that’s what I think it is.

      • Ed Cottingham says:

        >>Regarding anything decent or American, the Left is bumfuzzled.
        And regarding the Left’s cultural dominance, we are bumfu–ed.
        I probably would have bought this book regardless of my perception about how much you did or didn’t like it, Brad. This stuff is just right in my wheelhouse. For better or worse, I tend to think about people as parts of ethnic/religious/cultural conglomerates. Not that anyone is irredeemably stuck with what he is born from and born into. But — on the average — most of us do not stray too far from home. Makes for intensely politically- incorrect thinking from me at times. (i.e., I am not down with the “blank slate” thingie. And even if I were in a genetic sense, your friends and neighbors and cousins are furiously writing all over it from the day you are born with their Sharpie permanent markers. The Left would probably agree with that part…but they believe that government agents can write “correct” messages on it. Actually, they have had a lot of success with such efforts although we conservatives would argue furiously about whether those messages that they have infected recent generations with are “correct” messages.)

        • Kung Fu Zu says:

          Basically, we are all tribal, trite but true.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Ed, I hope you read it and enjoy it at least as much as I did, if not more. I learned a LOT. But I’m just saying that this is the kind of knowledge that isn’t going to win you any bar bets or arguments with libtards. A lot of this stuff is just not happening anymore outside of, say, the Pennsylvania Dutch….not that I wouldn’t want to bring flogging back, mind ya. LOL.

          But I really did grow to like the Quakers. And a biography of William Penn may be in order. But I think this book really works as an excellent biography of the Quakers themselves. More than any of the other three sets of immigrants, the Quaker chapter really does seem to work as a story, if only because so much of the Quaker experience was indeed scripted…by William Penn.

  2. RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

    I hope this doesn’t draw out your ire…

    I’d recommend not writing disparaging terminology like ‘libtard’ even though I know you bless their little hearts Brad.

    I’m thinking if the articles (comments should be immune from pejorative censors) alienate otherwise open minded viewers, we’ll lose a lot of casual readers.

    Sure we want this to be a site where conservatives can freely and comfortably associate, God only knows a refuge is needed. NRO today has comments getting 21-0 up votes for people trashing them because the dare to challenge liberal narratives and discuss the conservative nature of civil rights. You’d think the article was posted on Politico or something…

    Anyway if we are going to use are articles to sway debate, we best not push novice viewers away with what we think are innocuous remarks but could be received as condescending insults.

    Anyone going to shove haggis down my throat??

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      Other recommended terms:

      1. clueless left
      2. sincere but unreasoning or sincere but dishonest left (mockery not irony)
      3. shallow left
      4. disengaged left
      5. naive left
      6. gullible left
      7. credulous left

      I have run out.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        And I will remind the good Mr. Kung that the official house style manual says to capitalize the “L” for “Left.” Dennis Prager does so because he says it’s a religion.

        Seriously…it doesn’t matter. But I find myself capitalizing it just to stay consistent with the Prager shtick.

        • Kung Fu Zu says:

          Must one walk in-step with you rightists? Is there no liberty to be found. Must you use coercion to enforce your questionable grammatical imperative?

          OK, Left it is.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      No ire, Rob. But as I told CC, I’m not going to be stuck inside a PC box. If some precious little “Progressive” snowflake gets the vapors because he or she can’t stand to hear the word “libtard,” then he or she has bigger problems than just a word.

      I don’t do word police. I think we conservatives have bent over backwards enough. It’s time to paint in bold colors. And if Mark Levin can gain a wide audience and affect good change using far more incendiary words then “libtard,” then he must be onto something.

      But everyone is free to set their own standards for discourse in regards to how they write their articles.

      [Levin] Libtard…That’s right, I said it! Now, shut up ya big dope.[/Levin]

      • Ed Cottingham says:

        You’re better than Levin, Brad, better by a country mile, although I have no strong opinion on the suggestion that Rob made to you (not that I am within the circle of responsibility, anyway).

        But I could not let this Levin remark pass. I know that he is quite popular and has several fans here on this site and many over on NRO. I turn him on sometimes when I am furiously angry about something and need to hear someone else who is ranting. But his whole radio shtick is pretty much an ugly rant, IMO. He is typically not well prepared on the news of the day and wildly presumptuous about the motives of his callers, to most of whom he is obnoxious unless they are clearly just suckups. Often his bluster is a transparent cover for not knowing what he is talking about. And he is frightened of callers, IMO.

        He is a stand-up conservative and an authentic patriot, I give him that. But I’d like to investigate him: He may be the first Jew with Scots-Irish ancestry! (My little joke.)

        Seriously, you are better than that…so much better. As is everyone here, as far as I can see, although people like him. The quality of the contributions so far appearing on this site is a couple of orders of magnitude more serious and intelligent than Levin.

        (I look forward to a long career here of standing up against praise for Levin.)

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Ed, the best part of Levin is his opening monologue. Often he goes on for twenty minutes if there is some breaking topic and he is no less than brilliant. But, yeah, he does tend to fill up the rest of his show with rants. That’s his style. That’s what gets him ratings. That’s why they call him The Great One. And people love the fact that here’s a guy not kowtowing to the Left. He’s slam-dunking them. That may not win you any points with Miss Manners, but it sells a hell of a lot of books.

          • Ed Cottingham says:

            Brad>>Often he goes on for twenty minutes if there is some breaking topic and he is no less than brilliant.
            “Brilliant?” No, Brad. He may know something about the constitution and the law, and he should probably stick to that area. On almost everything else he is unsubtle, dogmatic, and not broadly informed or thoughtful.

            My work in this area is done for today. We don’t — and should not — turn our opinions on a dime. If I can encourage people to think more critically about what they are hearing from Levin, I hope they will come in time to take somewhat of a different view.

            Sowell is brilliant. Perhaps your man Prager is brilliant. Gingrich is brilliant…but flawed and dangerous. Many of the NR writers have flashes of brilliance. Goldberg is perhaps brilliant but unwilling to go to war on our side. Levin…not even close (although willing to go to war).

            I yield to you the floor on the topic for tonight. I don’t want to be badgering on this topic…not all at once.

            BTW, I saw your photo caption zinger!

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              No, I’ve heard several opening monologues from Mark Levin that are truly brilliant. Not every one of them, but frequently enough. I’ve often got stuck in my car waiting for one of his monologues to end. Sometimes they are so good, who cares that you’re late for whatever?

        • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

          Actually I like this past month when Levin is on Hannity (I’m not a big Hannity fan, nothing against him fan he’s a bit to much bluster for me), totally different persona for TV. Really presents constitutional matters clearly and movingly.

  3. Kung Fu Zu says:

    Ed, I’m curious. Do do you or anybody else using this site believe the Left is winning the argument because they are being polite? Are they winning because they are strictly adhering to the niceties of civilized social discourse? The, in many ways, wonderful days of “Tafelspitz for the Hofrat” are vorbei. (Thanks again for that.)

    I really think this is one of the reasons conservatives sometimes lose. Such politeness can be too often viewed as lack of passion or real belief in conservatism. There is little doubt that Leftists use this politeness against conservatives. Note how often they talk over conservatives on TV or interrupt conservatives at public events. Or how often they use dishonest and vacuous arguments against conservatives. Lying is not polite.

    Ed, you are a polite man and it is a credit to you. But there are many many Leftists who are not polite and see politeness as a bourgeois weakness and they are very ready to use it against you and other polite people.

    As some great philosopher said, “politics ain’t bean bag”. To mix my metaphors, conservatives have too often brought knives to a gun fight. That nonsense has to stop. We are in a battle for our country and our culture. The style we use will vary from person to person, but Levin’s style obviously works with a lot of people. His new book is selling big time. I think it was which showed the incredible line of people in NYC waiting to have him sign their copy of the book.

  4. Ed Cottingham says:

    Your kind opinion of my politeness is based on limited experience, KFZ! Until recently, I had posted often in the Corner from the day they first allowed comments. At first, I was polite and tried to be thoughtful in most of my posts. Later, as more obnoxious “Libtards” arrived, I gave as good as I got. And, truth-be-told, I often “paid it forward.” I often attacked posters like the CapeCodder, Joe A, TedCruz2016 on sight often using vulgar references to their sexuality. Just a few days ago, I called TedCruz2016 a c—sucker (fully spelled out) in a rant against NR for hosting continuous thread riots from those disruptors.

    Yes, I got in the gutter with the worst of them over at the Corner. But I hated it. It was mostly an explosion of frustration and anger at NR for sponsoring a place for those jagoffs to continually insult real conservatives, spam the threads, and disrupt their conversations. My attitude — without consciously calculating it — was, “Okay, NR. You want to run a forum at this trashy level…well, let me help you out.” But it made me sick, angrier, and more bitter everyday. I loved contributing to the Corner in the early days and worked hard to make thoughtful contributions.

    So I was delighted when CCWriter pointed me to this sight, which I immediately saw as a venue for a return to civilized conversation among actual conservatives. I’ve tried to leave bad Ed over at NR, where he can still express his contempt both for the libtards as well as for their NR enablers.

    As to the effectiveness of various styles of debate in the big picture, I am not a propagandist. I rarely post in a deliberate effort to advance one candidate or point of view. I post purely for the same sort of satisfaction that I get from a personal conversation with approximately like-minded people. I understand that many conservatives are strictly out to advance the agenda, which is fine…just not how I think about it. So I don’t try to pick a style for pushing the product.

    Frankly, if Mark Levin sat down beside me on a bar stool and talked like he does on the radio, I’d get up and move after a few minutes. Is he effective for our side? Maybe…at a cost. People on our side need to hear that they can angrily reject the political correctness that is everywhere. We are buoyed when we discover that we are not alone in the universe. OTOH, he pitches it so low that he also has a discrediting effect, just as Rob cautioned Brad about.

    I’d like to have friends here. And as we have somewhat discussed in film review threads, shared taste is an element of friendship. I don’t like Mark Levin. I would like to sway people in this area and help to shape opinion. Ultimately, if I felt that the overwhelming sentiment here was that Levin was the kind of voice that people wanted to be associated with, well, I’d be very bothered by that. I’m not trying to drive him off the radio, but only to inspire friends whom — as I said to Brad — I see as much better than Levin.

    Edit: I should have been more explicit in answering the question posed in your lede, KFZ: No, I don’t think the left is winning by being polite, which they obviously are not. (I repeatedly defended Joe Wilson for calling Obama a liar during a lying, propagandist, Democrat pep rally billed as a state of the union. ) But I don’t much want to talk to the Left, personally. Not why I’m here.

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      Ed, I can only go on how you have behaved on this blog and how you have behaved to me. So for me, you are still polite.

      As to being rude, I think there is a definite place for irony, sarcasm and mockery in general if it is done in a witty way. Obviously, I like words, and enjoy trying to use them appropriately. I would love to have the ability to use humor in the same devastating manner as an H.L.Mencken or Ambrose Bierce. Sometimes that is the only option left in a discussion other that simply saying “F*&K You” and I prefer not to say that. If your interlocutor is half-way smart, he may be able to gain from such treatment and figure out that he may need to re-think his position or at least raise his game. Arguing with stupid people is no fun and of doubtful utility.

      The level of discourse on this site is what makes it interesting and keeps me coming back. I learn things that I certainly wouldn’t learn from most other sites. Among other things, the contributors here act like a filter. If you have passed on something on this site, then it is probably worth me looking into.

      That being said, when discussing Mark Levin, Hannity or Limbaugh, we are not talking about sitting next to people on a bar stool and smoozing and certainly not about being friends. (another myth of the mass media culture) We are talking about people who, due to the nature of the media which they inhabit, cannot be subtle. And again, due to the nature of the media which they inhabit, they must perform three hours a day, five days a week, about 48-50 weeks a year. It has been said that if Shakespeare were a slave to the modern entertainment complex, he too would turn out a fair amount of junk.

      Personally, I don’t listen much to Hannity as he is extremely redundant and not terribly deep in his analysis. Levin is certainly more intelligent, but from NYC. Therefore, I expect a bit of bombast. (Don’t mention this to the others on this blog, but between us Southerners, New Yorkers too often leave much to be desired as regards manners) Limbaugh is very intelligent, but can become a little grating as well.

      Oh well, I have gone on long enough.

      • Ed Cottingham says:

        Mencken is the awesomist! I try not to go too long without reading one of his brilliant rants. (My favorite is one against chiropractic.)

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’ve tried to leave bad Ed over at NR, where he can still express his contempt both for the libtards as well as for their NR enablers.

      Hahaha. The Bad Ed.

      Speaking of swaying people, the truth is that most people are running scared. The libtard Left has done a very good job at intimidating people. I just had a phone call with this great guy who is a client. And it’s typical that when speaking politics to anyone for the first time, it may take about ten minutes before you feel you are safe enough to state your orientation, especially if it is conservative.

      The reality is that the Left have embedded a fascist mentality into people. They’ve turned people into thin-skin cry babies who demand that you think like them. So you have to be careful. I know people who guard their identities tighter than their credit card numbers. They work in industries surrounded by these fascistic-minded libtards. They will fire you on the spot if they think that you don’t think like them. For all the caterwauling the dastardly Left does about Joseph McCarthy, it’s the Left who has de facto black lists. Everyone in Hollywood, for example, knows this.

      Well, guess what. I don’t play that game. I’m certainly polite to people. Business is business, politics and politics, and sometimes it’s okay to keep those two spheres separate. I don’t go out of my way to antagonize clients. I don’t intentionally provoke people in my day to day life. But I also don’t pull many punches if the topic moves to politics. I see no reason to pretend that Obama is anything but an America-hating Marxist. Now, I might take a few steps with people in a conversation (if it lasts that long) to get there. But the truth is the truth. I don’t do a very good job of just smiling and pretending the bullshit isn’t bullshit.

      People are running scared. But when they realize it’s okay to call our president what he is, and the Democrats what they are, and the gay lobby what it is, and the feminazis what they are, you gain allies. You stiffen spines, which is what we really need. We’re not likely to convert people as much as we can help stiffen the spines of those who already think more or less as we do. The only hope we have is having the balls to stand up to the Left. We dare not adopt the mindset of the captive where our Masters can say anything they want but we must always be 100% correct and polite.

      Again, I don’t play that game. I won’t step voluntarily inside that box. I will not say that two plus two equals five. And if that’s too much for people to take, I really don’t care. And I don’t say that dismissively or with a burst of false bravado. I actually really don’t care.

  5. Ed Cottingham says:

    Brad, I noticed immediately that this was a civilized and thoughtful place but that you were not the least bit timid in calling a spade a spade. I strongly salute that although the exact language is something worth discussing, as Rob said.

    But yes, spines need stiffening. When conversations get testy on race, I have the idea that if nobody is accusing me of racism, then I probably am not saying the things that need to be said. I am absolutely right there with Derbyshire. And the sting is really draining out of the “racist” canard fast. Spines are stiffening. Helping to stiffen them is important work. Really important.

    Speaking as someone who called TedCruz2016 a — well, no need to repeat it — I am definitely not afraid of strong language. But I don’t especially favor words like libtard and feminazi that are so closely associated with Levin and Limbaugh. I use them sometimes, but I am much more apt to call somebody an a–hole although I admit that that language is very low and unwinning politics as it doesn’t even hint at their particular brand of political sin. Really furrowing my brow and squinting and trying to think about the language issue here, I think you’d be better served with tough language of your own devising rather than the famous words of Limbaugh and Levin. Tough language that is ~political~, not my tough language that is simply a vulgar expression of contempt for my personal satisfaction. As I have said, you are better than Levin. And you are better than Limbaugh. If you use their language a lot, more centrist people are going to tune out pretty quickly thinking you are a Levin/Limbaugh wannabe. I suggest absolutely not dialing it back in toughness…just use those words when you need them but try to evolve your own vocabulary. I personally will make an effort to be more creative in this area. I can’t sit back and just pop-off good synonyms for feminazi and libtards from a standing start. The better expressions tend to come to me when I am charging ahead under full rhetorical steam. Those expressions are creative and effective, but English is generous with alternative possibilities.

    KFZ asked me if I thought that the Left was winning by being nice, which, of course, has not been the case. I always thought that the lamentable rise of gay power was marked by their embrace of who they are and their aggressive owning of the language. They showed stiff spines. I salute you for your stand. If being queer can cease to be a badge of shame, maybe even conservatives can come out of the closet!

    Fearless plain speaking is definitely a signature virtue of this site. Along with intelligence.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Well, I shall try to keep this a civilized place, Ed.

      And I didn’t know that “libtard” was associated with Levin. Is it? I listen to Levin every now and then but am not a particularly regular listener, at least of late. They keep shuffling the time slots around locally.

      One of the things I’ve witnessed on the internet — from both the right and left — is a near obsession with words and a near complete gloss-over of the underlying reality of meaning.

      This is something Thomas Sowell frequently addresses. And I’m just tired of it. I’m tired of word police. I’m tired of people fussing over this or that word while Rome is burning.

      Our Vice President calls the Tea Party “terrorists,” people who believe in the Constitution are regularly called bigots, and Barack Obama himself shows every sign of being a racist, and we’re going to quibble over a word such as “libtard”?

      Who owns whom when this is the case? To me, this is the same sort of nonsense that has Republicans caring more about what the New York Times says about them than actually preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution.

      Being liberal is a retarded state of development. I could prove this in a court of law. And I won’t apologize for that word nor get sidetracked in endless metatalk (talk about the talk).

      Someone show me where speaking in a completely innocuous and non-threatening way has been able to push back the Left. It just hasn’t happened. The model is/was the kind of forceful and irreverent rhetoric that Palin and others have used to paint the Left as the fools that they are.

      The sooner we understand that we’re not in a pillow fight, the better. We are dealing with people who have been propagandized by the Left. In the very best and rare of circumstances, they will sit and sometimes accede that what you are saying is true….but believe you have some actual ulterior motive, that you cannot be taken at face value.

      We are dealing with a cult-like mentality that has become very skilled at staying inside its bubble. The only method that can win is to ridicule the Left and undermine the legitimacy of their nonsense. All the sweet talk in the world will not do this. Period.

      • CCWriter CCWriter says:

        “Someone show me where speaking in a completely innocuous and non-threatening way has been able to push back the Left.”

        Show me where calling the person you hope to persuade a nasty name has the desired effect, namely pulling people away from the Left.

        I’m not advocating a pillow fight, I am advocating watching where you aim your arrows, and being careful you don’t stimulate people to more closely identify with your opposition instead of abandoning it.

        BTW I don’t listen to Mark Levin that much because he gets such an annoying tone in his voice. He has a lot of the right ideas but why should I listen if I find it an unpleasant experience? I’m supposed to be the customer, right? I’ve never heard him say “libtard” but I think it’s a dumb epithet. OK, now go ahead and call me a name for saying these things and order me to listen or else. That’ll really convince me!

  6. Ed Cottingham says:

    Hmm. Okay.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The section in “Albion’s Seed” about the Scots-Irish (and northern English) got me interested in reading more about Andrew Jackson.

    The Scots-Irish seem almost a legendary people by the description in the book. They were extremely hardy, fearless, warlike, and yet apparently not insanely warlike (they would gladly run from a battle if overmatched). They lived in extremely harsh conditions in the border lands of Ireland, Scotland, and England which new little but warfare.

    And when they moved to America, the idea of settling in the back country near wild Indians didn’t phase them.

    Anyway, there was some interesting info about Andrew Jackson who apparently epitomized the Scots-Irish-N.English character. So I went looking for the best-rated biography that I could find. The one I found was Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brand.

    There is a definitive biography of Andrew Jackson by Robert V. Remini, but it’s in three or more volumes. I don’t quite want that much Jackson. So I started reading the free sample of the Brand book and it’s good so far. The man is an interesting writer. The only problem may be is that he’s certainly writing from the viewpoint of Jackson as the man of the people, the conqueror of the people (like John Adams) who supposedly were trying to keep in power a ruling oligarchy and were a great threat to democracy.

    And in talking about Jackson, the writer is even naive enough (at least to my ear) to mention that because of the tough upbringing that Jackson had, he may not have gotten enough self esteem. So I’ll read a little more and see how thick the nonsense is. But otherwise, he’s written this in a very interesting way.

    And I considered the writing of David Hackett Fischer (“Albion’s Seed”) to have been very impartial. Perhaps too much so. But even he mentioned that this great myth of Andrew Jackson as a man of the people is just that: a myth:

    The politics of the backcountry consisted of charismatic leaders and personal followings, cemented by strong and forceful acts such as Jackson’s behavior at Jonesboro. The rhetoric that these leaders used sometimes sounded democratic, but it was easily misunderstood by those who were not part of this folk culture. The Jacksonian movement was a case in point. To easterners, Andrew Jackson looked and sounded like a Democrat. But in his own culture, his rhetoric had a very different function. Historian Thomas Abernethy observes that Andrew Jackson never championed the cause of the people; the merely invited the people to champion him. This was a style of politics which placed a heavy premium upon personal loyalty. In the American backcountry, as on the British borders, loyalty was the most powerful cement of political relationships. Disloyalty was the primary political sin.

    Is is not hard to imagine a myth developing around Jackson as a “man of the people.” Many think the same of Obama because of his class warfare rhetoric. But does Obama really care about “the people”? Almost certainly not. Neither was Roosevelt a “man of the people.” But he sold himself that way even those his economic policies were disastrous for the people.

    I may or not pull the trigger on buying this biography of Jackson. I’ll see how obnoxious the propaganda gets. But early-on, the author tells a very interesting history.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Well, for those keeping watch, I went ahead and bought H.W. Brand’s “Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times.” Whatever the writer’s political or social leanings, he’s a good writer and (so far, at least) tells history in an interesting way.

      What finally sold me was a negative review at Some guy mentioned that Brand kept going off on “the times” of Andrew Jackson (some of the details of the age he lived in) and not enough of “his life.” And that’s just the kind of book I like. I want the life and the times.

      To say that Jackson had a difficult early life is an understatement. He lost both parents. He lost a brother or two. He was caught up in the middle of the Revolutionary War and the British ransacked his family’s house and put him and his brother in prison. The brother soon died because of smallpox that he caught in prison. As a boy, Jackson received a gash on his head from a British officer’s sword, which certainly fueled Jackson’s later victory at New Orleans.

      And apparently Jackson had a long-running feud with John Quincy Adams. Apparently they had a heated presidential battle and some of Adams’ proponents put out defamatory information on Jackson’s wife and this caused her much grief. She died just before Jackson took office.

      So Jackson had lots of room for grievance in his life and he probably fed off it it. But I’ll let the author tell the story and see if he turns him into the first incarnation of FDR. But a review said that it isn’t until at least two-thirds of the way into the book that you get to his presidency. So at least this is a real biography and not just one covering Jackson’s time as president.

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        The JQA and AJ presidential run of, I think 1828 was the first one and maybe only one where the decision went to the House of Reps and the majority voted for JQA.

        Jackson won the next election and the one after that, as well.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Were there hordes of disgruntled Democrats at the time who said that John Quincy Adams “stole” the election? I wouldn’t be surprised, and I’ll let you know if there’s anything like that in the book.

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            Yes, it was a very nasty election. And Rachel, Jackson’s wife did smoke a pipe, apparently.

            The historical consensus is that Jackson ushered in popular democracy and his election is where the Western vote (read Rubes or the People depending on one’ viewpoint) became important.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              The book is just getting into the part about how Jackson met Rachel. Rachel was cast out by her husband for (probably wrongly) suspecting her of infidelity with one of their boarders. She goes to live with her mother or an aunt who later picks up Jackson and his associate for boarders. Rachel and the husband get back together. But this nutball husband now suspects Jackson of messing around with her. Later he does fall in love with her, but apparently nothing was happening at the time that the nutball husband was accusing him of infidelity. That’s about where I left off last.

  8. Timothy Lane says:

    I read all of Albion’s Seed many years ago, and it certainly has influenced my views of American culture. Some of what you were looking for is discussed at least briefly in the conclusion, where he points out how certain people today reflect their particular subculture. One thing I found interesting was the list of early settlements in New England, since one was founded by a man who might have been an ancestor of mine.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks, Timothy. I certainly ran out of steam at the end of the book and didn’t want to wade through the conclusions. Perhaps I should. But some of that should have been integrated into the main sections of the book. But the author impressed me as a very good fact organizer, so I guess this was the way that best occurred to him.

      I liked the book overall, and it has spurred me to read H.W. Brand’s biography of Andrew Jackson which is a very pleasant read so far. He has a way of making the facts interesting as he blends it into more of a story rather than just a recitation of dates and names, in much the same way that David McCullough does.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Of course, Fischer has done a number of other historical works. I rather like his book on the Trenton-Princeton campaign, which also discusses the famous “Washington Crossing the Delaware” painting (pointing out that Washington might well have stood, since the boat had no seats and it was a night of icy rain).

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This is history? Sounds like a soap opera!

    Yes, it really is, CC. I can’t wait to read about Jackson kicking the British behind in New Orleans. I know so little about that other than the famous song written by Jimmy Driftwood.

    But I can’t tell you how much fun it is to delve into authentic American history, warts and all. We are truly an amazing country.

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      Since history is about people, much of it is soap opera. How people are so dull and self absorbed, can be paranoid, hypocrites, liars, cheats, etc,etc,etc,. Yet can also be kind, loving, bright, generous, brave, self-sacrificing, etc, etc, etc.

  10. jc says:

    I confess to never having read ‘Albion’s Seed’ in its entirety, but have dipped into it from time to time over the years. Rather than a tight anthropology-style ethnography, it reads more like a kitchen-sink approach, which is valuable as a one-stop resource for musing, reading and re-reading portions of the book.

    My family arrived here (on this continent) pre-Revolution, with one set of ancestors going North and the other South, a rabble of English, French, Irish, and Germans — with a little American Indian thrown along the line. I live still with the continuing attitudes of Yankees looking down on Southerners, having lived in North, South, Midwest and West. After all, the victors do write the history and control the terms of surrender, which have effects far, far into the future.

    The cultural aspects of these differences between and among these different ethnic groups of Americans is seldom discussed and almost never studied or acknowledged, because those who write the history (and the history textbooks) do so from the point of view of the winners in the cultural games: that would be … the Yankee faction.

    ‘Albion’s Seed’ is imo a valuable text because of the sometimes mind-numbing detail, which bit by bit builds a detailed and valuable narrative for future understanding and analysis … which is why I have dipped into chunks of it over the years, but never managed a front-to-back full reading — yet.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      “Kitchen sink approach” is a good way of putting it, JC. And it’s definitely a lot of minutia to read. That’s why when I finished the main section of the book, I just ran out of steam.

      I think what I most got out of the book is how the idea of liberty has changed. Today liberty means to be free from the pains and responsibilities of being an adult. FDR somewhat started this with is “economic bill of rights” where he said is was some kind of basic American “right” to have a house, job, the whole works.

      Obama and the Democrats have extended this to “free health care.” And it won’t be long until it’s a “free college education.” We’re already to that Thatcheresque point of the only problem with socialism being when you run out of other people’s money. We’ve already run out of our own money, and yet you have (to my mind) nitwits (including those at National Review) pining for a war on behest of the supposed Good Violent Muslims against the Bad Violence Muslims. Oh, goodie.

      Fischer points out that all four immigrant groups in early America had different views of freedom. And it becomes obvious that the Quakers, or perhaps the Scots-Irish-Border-Englanders (or some mix of the two, taking the best of both) had the most rational ideas of freedom. The Quakers were quite tolerant of others and believed that man must and should work. The Scots-Irish-Border-Englanders were sort of like Paulbots on steroids. They were very uncomfortable with any government and believe some kind of anarchy was the best state of man.

      The Anglicans in and around Chesapeake bay were little more than an aristocracy of hypocrites when it came to freedom. Freedom was something reserved for the higher classes. And for the Puritans it had yet another spin on the idea, although I don’t readily remember what that was.

      But knowing how people lived in the past is a very good way to get a perspective on how we are living today. And by any measure we have taken the idea of “freedom” to an absurd degree….and I would say to an obviously unsustainable degree. We want what defies the laws of economics. And we want what we are not willing to pay for.

  11. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This is history? Sounds like a soap opera!

    Oh, goodness gracious, CC, the more I get into H. W. Brands’ “Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times,” the more it becomes a soap opera. Seriously.

    But I didn’t get that vibe at all from David McCullough’s “John Adams.” And certainly Adams’ life wasn’t free of conflict and controversy.

    But the life of Andrew Jackson just seems to be full of petty crap. I mean, he may have been the first Clinton. It really does have that ring to it. He runs off with another man’s wife. He gets into several meaningless duels. He drifts from job to job (a trait I can admire….he really did like to keep challenging himself).

    And, like so many successful politicians and leaders, he is said to have a quite magnetic presence. And yet his life so far seems to be about nothing more than a series of squabbles. I certainly didn’t get this from the two biographies that I read of Lincoln. A man will always have enemies. But Jackson seemed to relish having them.

    In many respects, there seems to be kind of a lower-class mentality that is Democratic (capital-D) in type. I still kind of like the guy. He’s a truly self-made man and this is something almost unique about America. Andrew Jackson rose from literally nothing. He had lost both parents by the time he was a teenager and most of the rest of his family.

    The author also share some obvert sympathy with Jackson, if only because he characterized the Federalist/Adams (John and John Quincy) as the oligarchy of the privileged that Jackson was fighting.

    And this is where politics tends to get really silly and really full of people’s bullshit. It was ridiculous, for example, for Jefferson (another Democrat…Democratic-Republican, to be exact) who castigated the Federalists for being imperious and suck-ups to the British while he himself was a slave owner. Now, I’m not one to take this slave owning and repeatedly knock the Virginians over the head with it. But their criticisms of the “aristocracy” of the Federalists seems pretty shallow and disingenuous from this perspective.

    So what you see is that all this nonsense bandied about by the naive (or just treacherously stupid) types such as Chris Matthews who pine for the supposed time when there wasn’t this party rancor. Well, things seemed to have always been like they are today, and often quite worse, although I don’t know if they had the equivalent of the mainstream media that was in the tank for one party, across the board. There was certainly partisan media. But the entire industry? I don’t know if that was the case.

    One very un-Clinton-like aspect of Andrew Jackson is that he really did love his wife. Most of the letters to his wife were lost in a fire, but the surviving ones express great and genuine affection. As Brands says in his biography, Jackson’s enemies criticized him for many things, but never was there any issue about his genuine love for Rachel. So maybe it’s a bit unfair to compare his soap opera type life to the Clintons. But it did seem to be a type of soap opera. It reads that way so far.

    One of the favorite parts was when Brands writes about Jackson’s slave dealings. He owned at one time up to a hundred slaves and not only owned but would buy and sell. And the author notes that at some point in the early 1800’s (at least in Tennessee), it became, if you will, politically incorrect to be a slave trader, although actually owning slaves was not yet any kind of handicap to advancing one’s career inside or outside politics. I found that to be an interesting look into the times, as is much of this book.

  12. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    We were sort of having a discussion of Andrew Jackson here. I was wondering if any of you knew much about the Battle of New Orleans. I just read about that battle in H. W. Brands’ “Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times.”

    It would seem this was a hugely one-sided battle. Perhaps 3000 British killed or wounded and just a couple dozen Americans. Is that how it went?

  13. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This is sort of a pre-review of H. W. Brands’ “Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times.” I know that a few of you knew that that was the current book I’m plowing my way through.

    I’m 52% through it. It’s just past the point where Jackson has won the Battle of New Orleans and is beginning to skirmish in Florida with the Seminoles and others.

    From an ideological point of view, it’s clear that the author has little love for the Federalists. And he keeps referring to the Democratic-Republicans as just “Republicans.” I’m not sure what the official method is, but I don’t think that Jefferson was a “Republican” in the sense that most people would understand when reading this book.

    In that sense, the author seems to be skirting the edge of dishonesty.

    That said, Brands is a wonderful writer. His biography is a pleasure to read. And he’s found a wonderful balance between talking about the life of Jackson and the times of Jackson. This is the kind of book that is useful for getting a good overall picture of the times rather than some obsessive, too-detailed account of just one person.

    I would want to read another biography of Andrew Jackson before making a final judgment on either the biographer or the President. But I like this Old Hickory fellow. At least regarding his pre-presidential life, he’s the kind of bold straight shooter we desperately need in our day and age.

    He’s quite a contrast to the milquetoast Madison who the author paints as being a bit out of his element as commander in chief. The man had some character flaws but Brands paints Jackson as always putting the stability and defense of his country first. And I had no idea that Jackson dealt with so much chronic physical pain. No wonder he sometimes had a temper.

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