The early settlers of Virginia

From The Word-Book of Virginia Folk-Speech, by Bennett Wood Green, 1899

”We find many of the men connected with the early settlement of Virginia from Southwest England.  Of course there were many from London, Kent and other parts, but there were Cabot, Raleigh, Drake, the Gilberts, Somers, Basset, Botetourt, Cary, and others of the principal men from the Southwest.

Moreover, the west, above all districts of England, seems to have had a numerous gentry bound by constant intermarriages into a great clan, strongly animated by local pride and a peculiar love of country. These are striking characteristics of Virginians. In Virginia, essentially the whole of the white blood is English, that has been on the soil for over two hundred years.  It is not believed that there is any body of folk of as purely English stock as the white population of Virginia, and the States descended from here; and it amounts to about three millions of people, and there is scarcely any admixture of other blood. Nothing in their history shows the least falling off from the qualities that have always distinguished their race in all times and all places. The Virginian has a good opinion of himself, is calm, well-balanced, is self-reliant and has the English quality of not being afraid to take responsibility.”

[Emphasis above is mine.]

Of course, the above was written 118 years ago, and the Virginia of that day is not the Virginia of the 21st century. But it’s useful to look back at the origins of Virginia, and by extension, the rest of the South (‘and the States descended from here’), and to read that the original settlers of Virginia were overwhelmingly English by ancestry.

I plan to return to this book in future posts about the English language as it developed in the Virginia colony.

 

On the English migration westward

“With few exceptions, the most distinguished families in the Colonial history of Virginia were founded in the Seventeenth century. It was in this century that there emigrated from England the Armisteads, Banisters, Bassetts, Blands, Bollings, Beverleys, Burwells, Byrds, Carys, Corbins, Carters, Claibornes, Custises, Fauntleroys, Fitzhughs, Harrisons, Lees, Lightfoots, Ludwells, Masons, Pages, Peytons, Randolphs, Robinsons, Scarboroughs, Spencers, Thoroughgoods, Washingtons and Wormleys — families that represented the nearest approach to an organized aristocracy which North America has seen, and which constituted in their association with the eighteenth, if not with the seventeenth century, the stateliest social body known so far in American history.

The fundamental influence leading the founders of these families and families of equal social standing in the Colony to emigrate from England to Virginia was the active and enterprising spirit which has pre-eminently distinguished the English race immemorially.

[…] The history of no other nation furnishes a movement of population comparable in magnitude and duration with that which led to the settlement of the whole Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Georgia. Vast as it was, it was only the beginning of the English colonization. When the Revolution tore the American communities from the side of the Mother Country, the flood of English emigration westward slackened and practically died away, but before another hundred years had passed it had spread itself far into the Australasian seas; new English cities, crowned with all the triumphs of the modern arts, and teeming with a happy and prosperous population, had arisen under the Southern cross; from Table Mountain far beyond the Zambesi, English dominion had broadened out in South Africa; England’s commissioned Viceroy was enthroned at Calcutta, her uncommissioned at Cairo; while in the West, in spite of Saratoga and Yorktown, she still owned half a continent and counted her loyal subjects by the millions. These were the achievements of her sons who had inherited that spirit of enterprise and adventure, not to be daunted by fear of a deadly climate or an Indian foe, which had sustained the souls of men who, before the close of the seventeenth century had hewn down the forests in Eastern Virginia; had brought the land under cultivation; had established homes; had founded a carefully ordered social and political system, and thrown over all the aegis of English Law.”

From Social Life of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, by Phillip Alexander Bruce, 1907

The Normans

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The above comments are not mine; they appeared on a pro-White blog (American) recently, and though at first glance the first one may seem to be just wry humor, they both express a viewpoint which is not at all uncommon, both on American blogs and on certain British nationalist blogs I visit.

Normans are very much out of favor even in the Anglosphere countries. I’ve often wondered why, because this viewpoint. wasn’t always so emphatic. It seems that the Normans are charged and convicted with basically the same “crimes” for which the British/English are said to be guilty: they were too successful at conquest and subjugation. Certainly I’m familiar with the narrative in which William the Conqueror was said to have ruthlessly harried and subdued the Anglo-Saxon populace. But such was life in those times; maybe the Anglo-Saxons were more of a pacific people than the Normans, who were after all descendants of Norsemen, Vikings. But medieval history was rife with such conflicts; conquering and being conquered.

Today few people of English or British descent want to claim descent from Normans; it seems to be popularly assumed that the Normans actually left few descendants except for the weakened aristocratic classes or the Windsors, but even the Windsors are of mixed European (aristocratic) lineage, with lots of German blood from the Hanovers. Remember that during WWI, the Russian Czar Nicholas II, King George V of England, and Kaiser Wilhelm were all first cousins. Not much Norman descent there.

Still, because of today’s levelling spirit, which at heart is Jacobin, it’s still fashionable for both ‘right’ and left to loathe aristocracies and to exalt the ‘average’ man. The Normans are on the wrong side of history as it played out in the 20th century.

I did encounter a rare honest person, a fellow blogger from Ireland, who volunteered that he was of Norman descent, being ‘Anglo-Irish’, and that he wasn’t ashamed to say so. He was an exception to the rule; maybe the Irish, or at least the Anglo-Irish, still take pride in their Norman forebears.

The Cavalier class in the old South identified themselves, generally, as Anglo-Norman, but then they were of a different time in which being of such a background was not thought to be something that one had to apologize for or deny. John Randolph of Roanoke, that great eccentric and public figure, said (as did fellow Virginian John Taylor of Caroline) “I am an aristocrat; I love liberty. I hate equality.”

I think that statement would meet with outrage from a lot of people in 21st century America. Too often we accept the idea that equality is a valid ideal, and that any decent person believes in equality. But there is no equality in nature. Equality and freedom can’t coexist, in fact, because equality requires perpetual coercion to maintain. Some will always excel or outdo or outcompete the rest. Always. Lifting people up by artificial means can never be successful; the cream will rise to the top.

It’s easier to cut the high-achieving people down than to raise the underachievers up.

The Normans are now low men on the totem pole by popular consensus. They were the ‘tall poppies’ so down they came in the post-French revolution mind.

But where are those Normans? Here, in America, and in Australia, and Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and even in England. And that’s not to mention the Normans who still live in Normandy. But wherever people of British descent are there are people with at least some Norman blood. The Normans are not extinct.

I will have more to say about Norman descendants in the future. It seems to be an area of history and genealogy that is not much talked about.

The Great Migration

Those who are descendants of the original New England colonists, and even those who are simply interested in the early history of this country and the people who settled here, should be interested in this piece about New England’s Great Migration. Posted at the website GreatMigration.org, it contains some good basic information about the subject.

These days the early Puritan colonists are generally in bad repute, for obvious reasons. The political left despises the White Anglo-Saxon roots of this country, and tries to downplay those origins when they are not affirming the origin by disparaging those ‘dead old White males’. Others loathe Puritans because the name ‘Puritan’ has been distorted to mean simply ‘Christian bigot’ or ‘judgmental prude’. Lately some historians have tried to lay the blame for today’s problems at the feet of the Puritan New Englanders, and this line has been uncritically accepted by many people.

It’s often been alleged by those wanting to defame the early colonists that they were ‘the scum of England’. I’ve read in Internet comments that ‘the Puritans were run out of England’ because they were allegedly such an undesirable element. These statements are just wrong, and it needs to be pointed out by someone.

First of all, they were not the dregs of society, not beggars or charity cases; rather they were  mostly middle-class people, and educated people.

As to their reasons for coming to the New World, their reasons were not mercenary as with some later waves of newcomers expecting streets paved with gold. They came in order to practice their religion freely, whereas they faced persecution and sometimes imprisonment in England for their dissident religious views. And contrary to what their critics say, their views were not fanatical nor were they a threat to any but to those who wanted to enforce a certain form of religion.

The peak years of the Great Migration lasted just over ten years — from 1629 to 1640, years when the Puritan crisis in England reached its height. In 1629, King Charles I dissolved Parliament, thus preventing Puritan leaders from working within the system to effect change and leaving them vulnerable to persecution. The Massachusetts Bay Colony, chartered in the same year by a group of moderate Puritans, represented both a refuge and an opportunity for Puritans to establish a “Zion in the wilderness.” During the ten years that followed, over twenty thousand men, women, and children left England to settle permanently in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1640, when Parliament was reconvened, attention was redirected from the New World back to the old and migration to New England dropped sharply.”

As to their skills and qualifications:

Great Migration colonists shared other distinctive characteristics. New Englanders had a high level of literacy, perhaps nearly twice that of England as a whole. New Englanders were highly skilled; more than half of the settlers had been artisans or craftsmen. Only about seventeen percent came as servants, mostly as members of a household. In contrast, seventy-five percent of Virginia’s population arrived as servants. And in much greater proportion than the English population as a whole, New England settlers came from urban areas.

Unlike colonists of other regions, the Great Migration colonists were primarily middle class, and few were rich or poor.”

So much for the charges that they represented a class of undesirables who were expelled from their home country.

I have no ‘North vs. South’ axe to grind here; I am not interested in pitting one side against the other, ‘Yankee’ vs. Southron as in the case of many who discuss this subject. On one side of my ancestry I have Jamestown colonists, on the other, New England Puritan separatists who came here for religious reasons, primarily. I have no interest in caricaturing one side or the other. There are no doubt differences between the two groups of colonists, but those differences have been highly exaggerated in my lifetime, largely thanks to the bitter legacy of the War Between the States, manifesting in the Civil Rights coup of the 1950s-60s, and the festering social divides ever since.

For the record my sympathies and allegiances are decidedly Southern, when it comes to the issues that provoked the ‘Late Unpleasantness.’

The fact remains that the Puritans of New England and the Jamestown colonists were overwhelmingly English by blood and by culture. Both groups were overwhelmingly Protestant though the Anglican side was more ‘high church.’ The idea that the two groups were distinct peoples, different ethnic groups is an exaggeration. [See Kevin MacDonald’s discussion of the ethnic/genetic difference idea here]. Not all New Englanders were from East Anglia as David Hackett Fischer suggests. I know my New England ancestry very thoroughly, and they hailed from different regions of England, not just East Anglia. Not all my Southron ancestors came from the South or West of England either; a good few came from Yorkshire in the North, for example.

Oversimplifications and generalizations harm more than they help here.

But back to the much-maligned Puritans: they were a remarkably fertile and healthy population.

Another aspect of life in New England proved noteworthy: the remarkable health and longevity of the population. Many colonists lived to the age of seventy, and a substantial number lived to be eighty. Both male and female settlers in New England lived significantly longer than their English counterparts. This longevity is no doubt due to a variety of factors: dispersed settlement patterns, lack of epidemic disease, the healthful effects of a “little ice age,” clean air and water, possibly a better diet, and the original good health of most immigrants. Also, infant and childhood mortality rates were lower in New England, and the settlers produced large and healthy families — most having seven or more children. Accordingly, New England experienced  tremendous population growth within the lifetime of first generation settlers”

I can vouch for this in my family. New England as a region kept very complete records regarding births, deaths, causes of deaths, and more. There is a great deal of information out there to be found by those who have family ancestry there. In my own family tree there were a lot of long-lived people, hardy people, and they lived under very spartan conditions that would seem real hardships to us: extremes of climate living in drafty houses, scarcities of everyday necessities, the threat of Indian attacks, and the occasional deadly epidemic. Yet as the article says, they seemed to thrive and multiply in spite of that. In my family tree there were many couples with 6 or 8 children, sometimes more.

In that respect they were similar to the Southron side of my family; as they too were Christian people who saw children as a gift from God, family sizes were large. Early death was always a presence but widowed spouses usually remarried and had ‘blended’ families with the new spouse.

This was true in the wealthy families as often as in the middle-class families. My ‘planter’ class Southron ancestors had large families also.

The point about large family sizes and the great fertility of the early colonists is important, because modern-day propagandists tell us that this country ‘needed’ mass immigration to populate a big, empty continent. If that is the case, if immigration on that scale was necessary to the ‘Manifest Destiny’ mission, then we might have been better off without expanding over the whole continent. But with natural increase being what it was, the original-stock Americans might have eventually populated the whole continent without importing millions upon millions of incompatibles, thus leading to the ‘Proposition Nation’ Babel scenario of today.

It’s worth following the links at the Great Migration website. There is considerable reading material there.

 

 

America: a poem

O, who has not heard of the Northmen of yore,
How flew, like the sea-bird, their sails from the shore;
How westward, they stayed not till, breasting the brine,
They hailed Narragansett, the land of the vine!

Then the war-songs of Rollo, his pennon and glaive,
Were heard as the danced by the moon-lighted wave,
And their golden-haired wives bore them sons of the soil,
While raced with redskins their feud and turmoil.

And who has not seen, ‘mid the summer’s gay crowd,
That old pillared tower of their fortalice proud,
How stands solid proof of the sea chieftains’ reign
Ere came with Columbus those galleys of Spain!

Twas a claim for their kindred: an earnest of sway,
By the stout-hearted Cabot made good in its day;
Of the Cross of St. George, on the Chesapeake’s tide,
Where lovely Virginia arose like a bride.

Came the Pilgrims with Winthrop; and, saint of the West,
Came Robert of Jamestown, the brave and the blest;
Came Smith, the bold rover, and Rolfe – with his ring,
To wed sweet Matoaka, child of a king.

Undaunted they came, every peril to dare,
Of tribes fiercer far than the wold in his lair;
Of the wild irksome woods, where in ambush they lay;
Of their terror by night and their arrow by day.

And so where our capes cleave the ice of the poles,
Where grooves of the orange scent sea-coast and shoals,
Where the forward Atlantic uplifts its last crest,
Where the sun, when he sets, seeks the East from the West;

The clime that from ocean to ocean expands,
The fields to the snowdrifts that stretch from the sands,
The wilds they have conquered of maintain and plain;
Those Pilgrims have made them fair Freedom’s domain.

And the bread of dependence if proudly they spurned,
Twas the soul of the fathers that kindled and burned,
Twas the blood of old Saxon within them that ran;
They held – to be free is the birthright of man.

So oft the old lion, majestic of mane,
Sees cubs of his cave breaking loose from his reign;
Unmeet to be his if they braved not his eye,
He gave them the spirit his own defy.

Arthur Cleveland Coxe

Albion’s Seed, again

David Hackett Fischer’s book on Anglo-American origins continues to exercise inordinate influence on most discussions of American history and culture.

Of course the thesis of the book is that although the British Isles were the source of most of the colonists who settled this country (though Fischer, I think, unduly emphasizes other European colonists) there is not a unified culture nor a single people as the source of the American nation. There are, according to Fischer, several cultures which are at odds. From there, it’s an easy progression to making the claim that the South and the North, for example, constitute two distinct peoples, with their accompanying cultures — an  idea that has caught on for political reasons amongst some Southrons.

Other modern writers have used Fischer’s book as a jumping-off point for their own pet theories about the various “nations” contained within America. All this can only contribute to more dissension and animosity; some Southern nationalists find Fischer’s writings justification for a new-found hatred of “puritans” and Yankees generally. Some people, based on Fischer’s writings tend to blame not just those long-dead Puritans but Christians in general, or Protestants or Calvinists.

I have read Fischer’s book though it’s been some years since I waded through it.

This recent review of Albion’s Seed seems to emphasize many negative ‘facts’ about our colonist ancestors. Fischer, in my opinion, uses the usual post-modern, politically correct standards by which to judge the colonists. Once upon a time, historians actually did try to exercise some kind of objectivity in writing about history; no longer. Every history of America today seems to have to lean over backward to chastise the Southern colonists especially — the Cavalier class, specifically — for slavery/racism and elitism. Every history of today has to give blacks undeserved credit for some cultural accomplishment. For instance, did you know that the English spoken by my cavalier ancestors actually resembled so-called ”ebonics”, and that Elizabethan English sounded like African-American dialect?

INTERESTING CAVALIER FACTS:
1. Virginian cavalier speech patterns sound a lot like modern African-American dialects. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out why, but it’s strange to think of a 17th century British lord speaking what a modern ear would clearly recognize as Ebonics.

Really, how could Fischer or anyone else back up such a statement? Can we exhume an English lord (English, not British; the Union did not exist till the next century) and compare his speech to that of an ”African American”? Until then, Fischer is just talking through his hat, just making things up.

10. Our word “condescension” comes from a ritual attitude that leading Virginians were supposed to display to their inferiors. Originally condescension was supposed to be a polite way of showing respect those who were socially inferior to you; our modern use of the term probably says a lot about what Virginians actually did with it.

In a lot of ways, Virginia was the opposite of Massachusetts. Their homicide rate was sky-high, and people were actively encouraged to respond to slights against their honor with duels (for the rich) and violence (for the poor).

Fischer seems to have thrown in such examples of good old class-warfare propaganda. Jacobinism by any other name.

From yet another blog post on Fischer’s book:

Among Cavaliers and corporatists, there is no morality beyond might makes right. There is no law — and no honor — beyond their own desire to expand their own sphere of power. There is no equality, no justice, and no universal freedom as we understand it. Theirs is the ancient plantation mentality we Americans have spent over 220 hard, bloody years trying to put behind us. It’s an outdated social system that has no place in a modern technological society — yet, in almost every detail, it’s the very world our new corporate royalists want to drag us back to.

In the back of their minds, they’re just Virginia gentlemen, taking the liberties such gentlemen have always rightfully enjoyed at the expense of others. It’s true that we owe a handful of Cavalier gentlemen a tremendous debt for so clearly articulating the principles of American liberty during the Revolution. But we should also remember that when these first men asserted their God-given right to life, liberty, and happiness, they had no intention of sharing those blessings with anyone else.”

Oh, if only we could go back in time and share our superior wisdom with those benighted ignoramuses! Wouldn’t this world be perfect if only David Hackett Fischer and his fan club could enlighten us all.

This Biblical passage comes to mind:

And Job answered and said,
No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.”

Fischer’s book, I think, impresses people simply because it is so very long and so extensively footnoted and bibliography-ed. The sheer size and weight of the book intimidates people.

An old history prof/mentor of mine in college informed me, when I was a naive and idealistic history student, that all historians have some agenda, whether they are aware of it or not; nobody can be completely bias-free, but today even a pretense of objectivity and impartiality is missing. Fischer, though seemingly regarded as the Voice Of Authority on early American history now, is human like the rest of us, prone to his own biases (which seem to be the PC, egalitarian biases of our time) and also prone to human fallibility. I only wish that people would stop the uncritical acceptance of everything Fischer writes, as if he is the last word.

Similarly with lesser-known writers like Colin Woodward. Even many Southern readers skeptical of ‘Yankees’ still accept Woodward’s writings as absolutely true, and even very right-wing readers seem oblivious to the fact that Woodward is a liberal with a liberal’s presuppositions.

As always, my advice is to read mostly older sources. Today there are a good many old (and sound) books on history which are available online, free. Unfortunately our politically corrected public libraries are purging the old books and replacing them with inferior, dumbed down, ideologically correct ‘history’,which is invariably tainted by today’s PC shibboleths and cliches.

We should learn about the past from people of the past. Their books are still there to be found and used.

Thomas Nelson Page

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It appears Thomas Nelson Page didn’t adhere to the ”Celtic South” hypothesis which is all the rage now. He was of the old school which saw the South as primarily Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Norman.

On the off-chance that some who read this are not familiar with Page, he was a prominent writer in his time, though writing was not his sole pursuit in life. He was a descendant of the First Families of Virginia, a descendant of Colonel John Page, from whom I also claim descent. (Please try to take the Wikipedia page with a grain of salt, given the usual bias against the old South and the old families thereof.)

Does it make a difference whether one believes the current popular ideas of the South’s origins and ethnic makeup or the old ideas of Page’s time and earlier? Some might (and do) argue that there is more knowledge available about the South’s history and origins now; I would say that, being closer to the time in question, and not being bound by the politically correct shackles of our time, the old view is more likely correct. And, having family lines that have been traced back many generations, I know that my family lines (and by extension those of most old Virginia families) are strongly English.

What Page wrote in the poem above about the character of the ‘Saxon strain’ also makes a difference. If he believed that his or the ‘Saxon woman’ to whom he writes possessed those qualities by inheritance, this makes a difference to how he regarded her or himself.

The most important thing, however, when it comes to our ancestry, is the truth. We should have enough regard for Truth to seek out that truth, rather than jumping on a bandwagon of whatever story is popular these days.

Edwin Mims on the old South

Edwin Mims, (d. 1959), professor of English Literature at Duke University:

 

English Influence in the South.

The most striking European influence in the South —extending even to the war—was naturally that of England. The close contact between Virginia and the mother country may best be seen in the career and personality of William Byrd, the brilliant merchant and publicist of the middle of the Eighteenth century. Descended, like so many other Virginians, from distinguished English ancestors, he was educated in London, lived there for a number of years on intimate terms with some of the most prominent men of Queen Anne’s reign, established himself at Westover, which was one of the most picturesque reproductions of English rural estates, and collected the largest and most significant library in the colonial era. The catalogue of his library indicates that he was familiar not only with the classical writers, but with the contemporary writings of Swift, Addison, and other writers of the Augustan age. His own charming style—the perfection of good breeding—derives from English contemporaries. His daughter, Evelyn Byrd, was one of the social lights, not only of colonial Virginia, but of London, where she is reputed to have been beloved by the dashing Earl of Peterborough.

English culture thus typified in William Byrd was characteristic of all the most prominent families of Virginia, many of whose sons were educated at Eton, Oxford or Cambridge. Rich old mahogany furniture, finely wrought silverware, portraits by London artists, and mellow Elzevirs and Lintots are precious heirlooms in many Virginia homes.

The same may be said of Charleston. Travelers were impressed with the cosmopolitan air of that city. Duke La Rochefoucault wrote in 1796: “In no town of the United States does a foreigner experience more benevolence or find more entertaining society than in Charleston. * * * Many of the inhabitants of South Carolina, having been in Europe, have in consequence acquired a greater knowledge of our manners and a stronger partiality to them than the people of the northern states. Consequently, the European modes of life are here more prevalent.”

As Virginia’s social life was a reproduction of English rural life, so that of Charleston was modeled after that of London, the rich planters of the surrounding country making the city their headquarters during the winter. Many of these men had amassed enough wealth to travel through Europe as gentlemen of leisure. Out of 114 American students in the various law schools of London during the colonial period forty-four were from South Carolina. The young doctors generally went to Edinburgh, and the merchants to France and Holland. Hence we have in the first year of the Nineteenth century a group of highly cultured leaders. Hugh S. Legare, himself a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and for a while the leader of social and literary circles in Charleston, was editor-in-chief of the Southern Review (1828-1832), modeled after the Edinburgh Review. He was justified, perhaps, in claiming, in one of the early numbers of his magazine, that the attainments of Charlestonians in polite literature were far superior to those of their contemporaries in the North, and the standards of scholarship in Charleston were much higher than any other city on the continent.”

The rest may be read at the Abbeville Institute blog, here. However much of the rest of the essay consists of what we would today call a ”multicultural and diverse” interpretation of Southern culture and life, including various other European influences as (by implication) being perhaps equally important as the English influence. The French Huguenot influence, the German influence, and the ”cosmopolitan” character of New Orleans — at least the New Orleans of a much earlier time — are given just as much if not more space than the passages on the English influence.

From my perspective, I think that Mims was simply reflecting the spirit of the times in that it was considered a matter of fairness and courtesy to ”include” the various melting-pot ingredients. Now, however, the English have all but been crowded out of the official storyline, being included usually in the role of whipping-boys: ‘WASP elites’ and so on.

Nevertheless I include Mims’ passages on English roots, for what they are worth.