If you could have flown three centuries ago, in themid-1600's, from Montreal (French Canada) toSt. Augustine (Spanish Florida), via Boston (Puritan English), Nieuw Amsterdam (Dutch), Fort Christina (Swedish Delaware at Wilmington), and Jamestown (Virginia English), you would have passed over about the same number of important Indian nations as you would states of the United States today.
The Indian nations began the 1700's, five memorial generations ago, as a majority of the inhabitants of the first thirteen States-to-be, and ended the century in a distinct minority, even counting all Indians West to the Mississippi River.
If one did not know that the beachheads of the several
infiltrating nations and the hundreds of Indian tribes
were distinct and autonomous units,
the full North American drama would appear to be grandly
coordinated, with the Indians surrounded on all sides by
continuously reinforced Europeans, including even
Russians coming down from Alaska: a "World War" of
Native America versus an Imperial Alliance of Europe.
As England's settlements and Canadian conquests of 1763
solidified, the policy of the Home government would
seem to be clear enough, even logical,
even rational. And the view would be shared by
responsible and respectable public opinion
in the American Empire:
* Introduce law and order up and down
the Atlantic Coast.
* Draw a line of settlement North to South, that
would provide as much land for colonial immigration and
export crops as the Homeland might require.
* Keep peace with the Indians as a whole and among the nations.
* Direct as much of the fur trade as possible to England.
*Hold Spain and France at bay.
*Maintain a Caribbean balance.
*Remember that the Orient holds the richest prizes, and
one cannot let the search for a Northwest Passage
deter trade with the Old World.
* Each of several areas of British North America
might do its part in this scheme:
from Canada fish and furs;
from New England fish, timber, and boats;
from the Middle colonies, cereals, timber and boats;
from the South, sugar, rice, tobacco, indigo.
The British navy gained sailors and bases, and
also boats, timber, pitch, and rigging.
(The Sea ruled - and now, who would rule the Sea?
An infant Virginia Colony died because its
relief boat of 1590 had been held back
on the threat of the Spanish Armada.)
The United Kingdom was already a congeries of ethnicities
by the end of the 1600's, what with an original base of
Iberian-Ligurian, Celtic, Roman,
Angle, Saxon, Dane and Norman,
that hadn't fully amalgamated, and the
Cornish, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh peoples
that had more recently been attached, and were being
drawn upon for the military and marine,
and for a chaotic enlargement of cities.
The traces of these peoples were by no means
obliterated. They persisted: Gaelic from Catholic Ireland
was long spoken in Newfoundland, Welsh in
upper New England, the Scottish dialects in sundry enclaves.
Non-British centers of ethnic and sectarian concentration were
set up in America and also persisted -
Germanic, Hispanic, Dutch, Swedish, and French.
The intense civic education given American children for
centuries would be fixated upon Pilgrim myth,
an engrossment of primitive facts,
discounting not only other settling and developing
elements that were of English origin and influential,
such as the Quaker and the Southern Cavalier,
but also denying credit for Americanizing
America to Spanish, French, Dutch, Africans, and Germanics.
It was not imperial Germany of the Kaiser and Bismarck,
but a hundred autonomous Germanic baronies and sects that
sent their myriads to the New World until
the latter Nineteenth Century. Germanics --
Americans were forced to believe --
brought over little and gave it up quickly.
From the early Eighteenth Century to this day,
whatever was needed was coined as fiction and "spin"
to repress reportage of the industrial, scientific, educational,
administrative, cultural eminence of Germany
over two centuries.
Even in the Heartland of Germanics in America, like Chicago,
the single-minded Anglo myth was spoon-fed to
kindergartners (although the very word for
advancing the education of post-toddlers was German.)
And, indeed, social myth believed becomes fact.
Overwhelming these failed competitors -
and in time assimilating them -
were several large cultures, distinctive,
one from the other, in ways that bore small
resemblance to England. By the mid-1600's
no large part of the Colonies could be said to be
"a chip off the old block."
In the large, England, having suppressed most of its democratic
propensities, headed into a century of firm oligarchy.
By contrast, the American colonials had been pre-selected
as several alienated, ungovernable, and dissenting types
who were unreconcilable when
it came down to suppressing themselves.
(Upcoming were four centuries of such "negative liberty.")
Later on, we will gather together what we can of
traits that came to characterize all Americans.
Given their diversity at the source, Americans began
right away to perform complicated exercises of role-playing and
assumption of multiple selves at a given time and
all through life. A continuous and anxious-making stress
thus accompanied them. High physical mobility and
technological strain interacted heavily with a widespread
yearning to become "the typical American."
Every group that came to exist in America divided itself
into ethnics and assimilationists. (Indeed, what were
Tories and Patriots if not ethnics and assimilationists?)
Thus groups were to be "utopians" in this sense,
and all were to fail in being sufficient unto themselves.
All have tried to push and pull "the American" toward
their own group character. All changed in
this regard, too. Each was different from another.
In the past century, populous southern-type hill groups,
whether black or white, have found assimilation to
more national attitudes and behavior difficult. By contrast with
these and, too, with groups such as the Poles or Puerto Ricans,
part of the success of Jews after arrival in the United States
can be attributed to many centuries of watching
non-Judaic cultures and emulating them when needs be,
especially their ruling and educated classes.
Americans have always desired to some greater or lesser degree
to render themselves indistinguishable among the
general population (or to what they believe are the
traits and behavior of the Americans whom they consider they
should be like, their model). This tendency has
been an ineradicable part of, and also
producer of, a most typical American character:
to be what one has not before been, a type, not new,
else not recognizable, but inevitably new anyhow,
viewed objectively. Playing at being an Indian has been
a child's and often an adult game for 400 years, for instance.
Playing at being a planter, a trader, a scout,
a rancher, a respectable wife and mother, a pioneer,
a rebel soldier of the Revolution or Civil War,
a "queen of society," an"ordinary guy," and many another role -
all the while fumbling toward a common identity -
the hypothetical common man of egalitarian
aspect and conduct: such impulse has driven Americans
continuously through one generation after another.
But we note the following, too, that some persons and
some groups do better at "being themselves,"
while "being the others," whereas some people
have more trouble in going to and fro, or
adapting as fully to the one as the other.
So now we are to focus upon four indigenous American
sub-cultures, developing and taking geographical form.
We may call them the New England Yankees, the Pluralist
Middle Colonies, the Southern Slave Culture, and the Frontier.
They overlaid the European antecedent cultures and
replaced largely the Indian cultures over large
swaths of territory.
They were able, by the time of the Revolutionary War,
to impress themselves upon people newly arriving .
Immigrants acquired mental, moral, religious, political,
behavioral, technological, customary and even to a degree
physiognomic attributes that belonged to the culture.
(By physiognomic is meant posture, vocalizing,
gesturing, body weight and height, and locomotion. )
Indeed, before migrating, often many years before,
these cultures were fashioned mentally among those who would come.
Prospects were trained in many cases by returnees,
veterans of the cultures. Recruiters were sometimes chased
out of towns by authorities and parents. The frontier culture
became so familiar to the European general public that the
sprite lurked in those who finally boarded ship.
The hey-day of these culture-complexes would be the period
from 1700 to 1850. Their period of
decline would be the period of 1850 to 1940, and
from 1940 to the present they must be regarded as
largely defunct, replaced by a national urbanized
industrial culture. We must remember, however, that
the past never quite dies. It rests in layer upon layer
beneath the soil of the present, like archaeological
layers, and stubbornly dominates troglodytic niches.
State and local elites persist who believe themselves
to be, and are believed often to be,
with whatever reason, of
the unchanging "good old" cultures.
With the flourishing and the decline came a period,
roughly between 1780 and 1900,
when the United States, as it grew, followed the lines of,
and could be divided into, regions that reflected one or another of
the four elemental cultures. The early cultures, that is, moved North,
South and West, duplicating themselves to a considerable
extent as they pushed along, contentiously.
Much more will be spoken of this process.
Furthermore, America developed readily new
centers that, if not fully idiosyncratic cultures,
became as distinctive as the rest.
Such were the New York Metropolitan Region
, the Sun Belt, the Pacific Coast, the Iron Age Region,
the New England Educational Industrial Area,
the Mid-Atlantic Service Sector, and several others
sometimes nominated. Practically all of these were
urban and nationalized; anybody with a Social Security
number could move in and out of them,
paying scant attention to their historical pretensions.
Every nation of the European Community has
kept its historical sub-cultures more intact than America.
It is probably just as well:
not one of the four larger original cultures
had in itself something so grand as to glorify the future.
The Yankees would have to get rid of pure puritanism,
the pluralists of unmiscible greed,
the frontiersmen of savagery, the South of slavery -
all this just for starters!
What means the word "pluralism"?
Pluralism, in the sense of culture, pertains to a
defined area that holds groups of different cultures
or a culture of differently acculturated individuals
or a culture tolerant of conflicting religious,
economic, and social interests,
or any combination of these. In general,
American culture has been pluralist from its
Indian beginnings, with major exceptions, and it is
today pluralist, in all three of these criteria.
Early Yankee and New England culture I consider
to be too narrow in origins and too uncomfortable with
diverse ethnic and religious groups to be
called a pluralist society.
The pluralist culture of colonial times was present in
New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey,
Maryland, and Delaware, in most places,
and most of the time, and includes the Indian nations of the
region. The region had no formal structure.
Each named element was de facto and de jure
under the direct rule of the English government, with the
exception of the Indian nations, whose sovereignty was generally
acknowledged, but not often respected
Should we not also explain the word "ethnic,"
often a primary dimension of pluralism.
Its usefulness in discussions of American history
will have been, I hope, apparent in this work.
Our usages and their significance is as follows.
An American is anyone who has resided in the United States or its
earlier confines for some years, and considers himself
now or considered himself then an American.
Americans before July 4, 1776
ought, when convenient, to be called "colonial Americans" or
"American colonists." A hyphen (*- American)
designates an American whose national or cultural
origins, whether his own or of his ancestors,
include all or part of the nationality
replacing the *, thus: Anglo-American,
Afro-or African-American, Polish-American,
German-American, Franco-American, Italo-American,
even Shawnee-American, too, Jewish-American.
All Americans can be called hyphenated Americans,
correctly, although some use the term "hyphenated American"
to refer disparagingly to Americans suspected of
putting another ethnic loyalty before their
American loyalty. The prefix is most properly used,
however, only when it contributes significantly to the understanding
of its context. A distinction is made, where possible,
when international relations are meant; the
full adjective is carried, thus, British-American
consultations, French-American rapprochement,
German-American peace efforts, and
Polish-American loan arrangements.
The term "Anglo-Saxon" is not a proper referent and
is not to be used here. The British and English are
neither Angles nor Saxons, any more than the French are
Romans. The English lived longer as Celts,
longer, even, under Roman rule, and then after
1066 under French of Scandinavian origin.
Certainly then, Americans are in no way
"Anglo-Saxons". The inclusive term for the two
Anglophone or English-speaking peoples is
just that: "Anglophone," although
Winston Churchill (himself half American)
once jested that they were
"two peoples separated by a common language."
Indeed, the American language was also distinct,
in all its dialectical parts, and might better
be called the American Language, as
did Webster and Mencken, but more aptly,
as did ordinary people, putting additional
pressure on the newly arrived or native-born to
master the tongue.
Socio-psychologically, and linguistically,
"English" is a foreign language to most Americans,
'Why do I have to learn English to be 100% American?"
American, United Kingdom and "Anglo-Saxons"
The name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain was
adopted after 1800 when official juncture
with Ireland occurred, union with Scotland under a
single crown having been declared in 1707,
these two places being honored with separate attachment to
Great Britain in the United Kingdom. In 1876,
Emperor of India became part of the name of the Crown.
After World War II, Empire became Commonwealth,
the term British Empire was no longer used.
Nowadays, the names U.K., Great Britain,
England, even Britain, are responded to with some
indifference as signifying the whole,
realizing that only Scotland and Ulster in
Northern Ireland remained effectively under the
Crown of the United Kingdom after 1921.
The term "Anglo-Saxon" is little used in the
United Kingdom (or UK) nowadays, but
gained currency in the imperial hey-day of Great Britain.
We find the term being used to distinguish Anglo-Americans from
scornfully treated Mexicans in the 1820's,
ominous prelude to the Texan revolt and Mexican War.
Some inferiority-stricken, anti-Celt,
anti-Norman nostalgists joined with some
Teutonic racists of the type of Houston Chamberlain and his
wife, daughter of the German composer Richard Wagner,
to somehow make up a race of people to whom the
world might be turned over.
Some German-Americans and Anglo-Americans
used the myth to cozy up. Historians began to
weave fables about American democracy
as being the reincarnation of a largely mythical
primitive democracy of the Teutonic tribes.
(The same people had little use for a similar
democracy of the Indian tribes.)
New England racists, conveniently evading the large pre-Saxon
Celtic element in their makeup, ignoring the considerable
Welsh-American and Scots population,
claimed that the newly arriving Irishmen were
racially different, ascribing to the absolutely deprived and
humiliated newcomers simian features of character and
appearance. It ought be said now, to be retold later, that
these racists produced the school-books of the
next century and a half in the United States.
By well-known mechanisms of psychopathology,
the inferiors adopted their own abasement when allowed.
Putting aside the English-American melange, and the
German-Americans, who hardly knew what was going on,
but did not mind their incorporation, the
majority of Europeans who were the Scottish,
Scots-Irish, Irish, Welsh and French protestants,
were often co-opted as Anglo-Saxons as soon as
they cleaned up their cabin, went to church or
owned a slave.
For a long time, invidiously discriminating Americans
(like Madison Grant, a witless popular writer
late in the century) joined the party, particularly as
this would enable them to attack a number of
ethnic and religious groups that were moving
into America at the time.
(The term lingers at home among French and Italian
journalists and politicians, rarely German,
significantly, who use it especially when suspecting some
connivance to their disadvantage among Anglophone
nations. So one reads items like "The Anglo-Saxons are trying to
reduce France's nuclear capability.")
The acronym W.A.S.P. or WASP,
standing for "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant,"
also goes unused here, because it is an ethnic slur
(though, like others, it is often not resented),
and also because the term "Anglo-Saxon" is
improperly used, as was just explained, especially when
applied to Celts such as the Scots, Welsh, and Irish,
while various other Protestants who are of Germanic or
another origin are mistakenly caught in the net.
Furthermore, many so categorized are not Protestants at all,
but rather are foremost secularist free-thinkers
Also, the term is used almost always
deliberately to refer to persons of wealth and
pretensions of high social standing,
whereas a great body of White "Anglo-Saxon"
Protestants consists of poor people, especially the
poor of the South. These latter Americans are often
referred to as "hill-billies," "red-necks," "crackers," and other
pejorative terms that are to be avoided for being
invidiously discriminative, even,
again, when they are lightly dismissed by
those to whom applied.
Probably the reader has already noticed that
I use the term Scots-Irish in preference to Scotch-Irish,
following the desire today of the Scottish inhabitants of
Great Britain at least, also Scots for the Scots
of Scotland. The Scots-Irish were and are
(as the Ulster Irish) the descendants of Scottish Protestants
transplanted to Northern Ireland, in one of various attempts
to reduce native Irish resistance. Anglo-Irish is
used for those English and their descendants
who got placed - corruptly, violently, and unjustly -
in Ireland with the same motive in mind, and
generally to obliterate authentic Gaelic culture.
"Irish Catholics" are just that, but, when referring to
Irish-Americans, the religious designation is taken for granted,
and "Irish" alone is the popular name.
The term "Jew" and "Jewish" is used in context to
refer to someone whose cultural origins, if not his
religious beliefs, are in the social context of the
Judaic religion. "Hebrews" is closer to a religious
designation. A reasonable usage has been proposed tha
keeps "Hebrew" for the language, and for those who were of the
Hebrew religion and the Tribes of Israel before the Exodus
from Egypt (perhaps around 1450 B.C.,
perhaps by latest guess, 700 years later),
using "Jews" for the same people thereafter.
Israel is used for the nation of Israel and
"Israeli" for its citizens, in recent history.
I do not refer to Indians as "Native Americans,"
for the usage confuses; all but 10% of
Americans are native Americans. Furthermore, it is an
endeavor to award the continent to the present generation of
Indian descendants and take it away from the others, and
as such is pathetic. Besides, most Indians are not of Indian
descent alone, and I doubt that most of the Indians of the year
1492 were of a single racial descent;
some of them may have come to America in
fairly recent history, too.
I have discussed earlier the terms employed in
referring to African-Americans. Often, Americans,
speaking together, will refer to themselves or other
Americans simply by the country of origin, thus,
"This is a Slovak neighborhood, but used to be Italian."
This is not invidious usage; Americans
typically have two meanings for every ethnic name:
one referring to the American, a second to the foreigner.
Thus, Mexican may refer to a person from Mexico,
or to an American whose ancestors moved into
modern U.S. territory four centuries ago;
a 'Milwaukee German' will go back perhaps eight
biological generations; (interestingly, a
person of however long a German ancestry
who comes from elsewhere to live in Milwaukee, or in
Eastern Pennsylvania, for that matter, is
not a Milwaukee German or Pennsylvania Dutch).
With lots of paper and ink, we can spell out the
full designations when we need to use them.
And when an American asks another American
about his ancestry, which he may not do ordinarily
unless an acquaintanceship is being developed,
a nice form is "What countries did your folks
(or family, or ancestors) come from?"
This is a preferred manner of asking, because,
for instance, if you asked "What nationality are you?"
you may be wrongly presuming a person to be foreign
from his name or appearance or conduct, or because,
if you ask "What kind of name is Batmann?"
you are already too abrupt;
most names have been changed in one way or another,
a name usually does not contain the complete roster
of a person's origins, women carry their spouses' name
often , and, further, the intonation of the question may
inadvertently seem unfriendly.
But plumbing the etymology of onomastic etiquette,
must not delay our straight tracing of the
several larger cultures of America.