Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a cultural history)
David Hackett Fischer
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This fascinating book is the first volume in a projected cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time. It is a history of American folkways as they have changed through time, and it argues a thesis about the importance for the United States of having been British in its cultural origins.
While most people in the United States today have no British ancestors, they have assimilated regional cultures which were created by British colonists, even while preserving ethnic identities at the same time. In this sense, nearly all Americans are "Albion's Seed," no matter what their ethnicity may be. The concluding section of this remarkable book explores the ways that regional cultures have continued to dominate national politics from 1789 to 1988, and still help to shape attitudes toward education, government, gender, and violence, on which differences between American regions are greater than between European nations.
instructed his son in London: “Come back plain. This will be a reputation to thee and recommend thee to the best and most sensible people—I always suspect the furniture of the inside where too much application is shewn for a gay or fantasticall outside.”7 Moreover, it was important to Quakers that they should simply be different from others in the world. In 1726, the female Friends of the Philadelphia yearly meeting drafted an open letter to all women of their persuasion, condemning “vain
this Anglican organization, Bishop Thomas Seeker, made no secret of his contempt for the colonists, whom he collectively characterized in 1741 as “wicked, and dissolute and brutal in every respect.”14 In 1758, this man became Archbishop of Canterbury and tried to create uniform Anglican establishments in the colonies. His grand design simultaneously posed a mortal threat to the Congregational orthodoxy of New England, the Quakers’ regime of religious freedom of Pennsylvania, the powerful
Southern folkways caused a different reaction. The Republican victory was seen not only as a challenge to southern interests, but as an affront to southern honor and a threat to southern freedom—that is, to its special ideas of hegemonic liberty and natural liberty. Without consciousness of contradiction, southern masters cast their defense of slavery in libertarian terms, and demanded the freedom to enslave. The Republican coalition promised not to interfere with slavery where it already
England, they were “sun-line structures,” carefully planned so as to be “square with the sun at noon.”4 From the outside, these buildings made a grim appearance. The walls were rough unpainted clapboards. On them were nailed the bounty-heads of wolves with dark crimson bloodstains below. The doors were covered with tattered scraps of faded paper which told of intended marriages, provincial proclamations, sales of property, and sometimes rude insults in which one disgruntled townsman denounced
John R. Stilgoe, Common Landscape of America, 1580 to 1845 (New Haven, 1982), 79. 4 Penn, “A Further Account of Pennsylvania,” in Myers, ed., Narratives of Pennsylvania, 263. 5 James T. Lemon and Gary B. Nash, “The Distribution of Wealth in Eighteenth Century America,” JSH 2 (1968), 1-24; for similar patterns of wealth distribution in Germantown, Pa., see Wolf, Urban Village, 108-9, 120-24. 6 Patterns of wealth distribution in tax assessments and inventories of estates were as follows, for