Freedom's Just Another Word For…


David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed is one of those essential books that everyone who wants to understand American history ought to read. His latest effort, Liberty and Freedom, sounds pretty interesting too -- though far from flawless, to judge from Virginia Postrel's review in yesterday's New York Times.

NEXT: "Family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Fischer's pattern is the equivalent of taking a brilliant Saturday Nite Live sketch and making a movie of it. He goes too far when he traces the patterns of memes for decade after decade.
    I have the book, Albon's Seed, because it does a great and detailed job of explaining the origins of my people, the hillbillies, or the Scots-Irish.

    Come to think of it, he could have made more of the co-evolution of hillbilly and "soul" mores.

  2. I predict a new US political consensus, led by the inheritors of the Scots-Irish tradition. It will consist of Libertarianism at home and neo-conservatism abroad.

    It has the advantage of conforming to traditional, respectable, American pragmatism, and provides the chattering classes with something to deplore.

  3. "I have the book, Albon's Seed, because it does a great and detailed job of explaining the origins of my people, the hillbillies, or the Scots-Irish."

    You know, Ruthless, until you started on the Scots-Irish thing a little while ago, I had this idea that you were a brother.

    I don't know why ...

  4. Jason Ligon,
    You mean "bro"?
    We do live in da 'hood.

    Mike Lenox,
    You could be onto something. According to James Webb--author of "Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America"--Dubya has co-opted--thanks to Karl Rove--the Scots-Irish 'values' .
    For my part, Dubya can dial back quite a bit on the neo-conservatism abroad.

    While my people would be the first to agree that some people just need killin,' I don't think it's an automatic because they're foreigners. We are able to differentiate between blood lust and self-preservation.

  5. Anyone who attempts to draw a semantic distinction between synonyms loses me. Anyone who does so on the basis of the words' etymology really, really, really loses me. Does Fischer also think that Germans "lust" after food, rock music, etc., or that Spanish speakers feel "molested" by anything that happens to annoy them?

  6. Ruthless, Mike,

    The eggheads over at TCS are always going on about Walter Russell Mead's theory of the "Jacksonians" (as in Andrew Jackson) that is very nearly what you describe, with rural Scots-Irish roots (aka, "Sons of the Earth").

    Here's one essay that sums up the Jacksonian mindset:

    I've posted about the Jacksonians here before, so apologies if I'm being redundant. It's an interpretation that makes sense to me.

  7. David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed is one of those essential books that everyone who wants to understand American history ought to read.

    Not really. There are about four or five hundred more important books on American history.

    Fischer's evidence is far too fuzzy to be convincing (and far to conclusory), he disingenuously ignores evidence of radical differences within regions and he ignores the deep impact of African cultures on the U.S. Part of the regional revivalism that was so popular in the 1980s, Fischer does not account for the major changes that occurred within regions over time; his analytical model simply can't deal with the dyanmism of a region like New England. Its an absolutely horrid and overly simplistic book and I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy.

  8. Slag,
    There is a picture of Old Hickory in Albion's Seed.
    I grew up in Old Hickory, TN. My ancestors had dealings with the asshole. I feel pretty sure, behind his back, they might have said the lead from so many duels caused him to be like a pugnacious Gerry Ford--playing football without a helmet.
    Check out Albion's Seed for a more fair and balanced stereotype of my people.

  9. Who's the Scotch-Irish private dick
    that's a sex machine to all the chicks?


    You're damn right...

    Who is the man
    that would risk his neck for his brother man?


    Can ya dig it?

    Who's the cat that won't cop out
    when there's danger all about?


    Right on...
    You see this cat Ruthless is a bad mother--

    Shut your mouth!

    But I'm talkin' about Shaft!

    Then we can dig it!

    He's a complicated man
    but no one understands him but his woman...

  10. Damn -- I was supposed to change that last "Shaft" to "Ruthless," obviously ...

  11. Mr. Lenox gets it:
    Libertarianism at home, neo-con "Jacksonianism" abroad. This is the new paradigm.
    You don't like it? Dial up your meds, and get ready to clutch your Europhilic disaffection ever more tightly.
    We old-school Scots-Irish Americans were psycho enough to run the King's troops out of this country, kill any "Indian savages" who got in our way, and start a libertarian "whisky rebellion" against the damn feds back when the feds were brand new.
    Nowadays, we're cross-breeding with the African American hip-hop nation. (Just watch a couple Springer or Montel shows for proof.) This is like Yosemite Sam cross-breeding with the Road Runner. Y'all ain't seen nothin yet.

  12. Check out Albion's Seed for a more fair and balanced stereotype of my people.

    Ever read Salvation on Sand Mountain? That's as close to your people as I want to get.

  13. You guys got the point, my honky-tude notwithstanding. By 'brother', I meant 'bro' or 'brotha'.

    Stevo rocks.

  14. If you're going by Walter Russell Meade's categories, neocon foreign policy isn't Jacksonian. It's Wilsonian.

    Afghanistan was a Jacksonian war. Iraq is a Wilsonian war that got public support by convincing people it was Jacksonian. I don't think there's a single person in the top levels of the Bush administration whose thinking on foreign policy questions fits the Jacksonian tradition. Initially I thought Bush himself might fit the bill, but it became obvious a long time ago that he's just playing a role.

  15. Mr. Walker, re: Afghanistan not being Iraq:
    You're assuming us ingn'rant hillbillies can tell "Ay-rabs" in one part o'the Middle East from "Ay-rabs" in another.
    It's all one big Jacksonian war to me.
    Kinda like WWII, nothin like Nam.
    The damn Saudis are lucky we didn't invade their ass yet. Warn't too long ago I saw me a bumper sticker said: "Nuke 'em all. Take the oil."
    Yeah, it was tongue in cheek, but it's a significant sort of joke, if you catch my drift....

  16. Slag, I'll bet McClain will agree with me that "our people" mostly look down our noses at snake-handlers and the like.
    Now let's talk about liberty and freedom as interpreted by "our people" as well as African-Americans.

  17. I just remembered I had this quote handy from James Webb:
    The decline in public education and the outsourcing of jobs has hit this culture hard. Diversity programs designed to assist minorities have had an unequal impact on white ethnic groups and particularly this one, whose roots are in a poverty-stricken South. Their sons and daughters serve in large numbers in a war whose validity is increasingly coming into question. In fact, the greatest realignment in modern politics would take place rather quickly if the right national leader found a way to bring the Scots-Irish and African Americans to the same table, and so to redefine a formula that has consciously set them apart for the past two centuries.

  18. "Libertarianism at home, neo-con "Jacksonianism" abroad"

    Sounds a bit like Goldwater conservatism. Though I suspect that Goldwater would've been relatively skeptical about the need to invade Iraq.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.