Liberty: Its True Meaning In The Backcountry

From David Hackett Fischer’s Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas, we see that the Backcountry had its own ideal of liberty:

“The Westmoreland men gave their rattlesnake a set of thirteen rattles, with a fourteenth beginning to form in the hope that Canada would join the cause. Beneath the rattlesnake was a blunt motto: “Don’t Tread on Me.” Above was the cipher JP, for John Proctor, and the letters I.B.W.C.P., for the Independent Battalion of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

The design of its flag, its British Union Jack, and its hopeful allusion to Canada all date it in the first months of the Revolution, probably in mid-1775. This would make it one of the earliest rattlesnake symbols, but others may have been earlier. Another rattlesnake flag was adopted by the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, which had been raised in 1775. It was recruited throughout the colony, but the leading authority writes that “frontier areas had a disproportionately heavy representation.” Its second battalion came mostly from Lancaster, Cumberland, Northumberland, York, and Westmoreland counties and drew largely from North British and Ulster families. …

After the fighting began in 1775, the serpent became a rattlesnake and its symbolism changed in many ways. The serpent had been a generic European creature; the rattlesnake was an American species, unique to the New World. The European serpent had looked very weak and desperately wounded, even on the edge of death; the American rattlesnake was strong, healthy, and dangerous. His fangs were bared, his rattles were erect, and he was tightly coiled and ready to strike. Most important, the European serpent was an emblem of unity; the American rattlesnake became a symbol of liberty.

To observers from other cultures, it seemed a strange choice for a sacred emblem. Not many people have chosen to represent their most cherished principle as a poisonous reptile …

The solitary rattlesnake symbolized liberty of a special kind. The motto summarized it in a sentence “Don’t tread on me.” This was the only early American emblem of liberty and freedom to be cast in the first person singular. Here was an image of personal liberty, very different from the collective symbols of belonging that were widely used in New England but much like other backcountry expressions of liberty. The leading example was Patrick Henry’s famous cry: “Give me liberty!”

It also warned the world, “Leave me alone, let me be, keep your distance, don’t tread on my turf.” This was an idea that had a strong appeal to settlers in the American backcountry, and especially to the settlers who came from the borders of North Britain. These people came from northern Ireland, the marshes of Wales, the Scottish lowlands, and the six northern counties of England. They differed in ethnicity and religion but shared a common history and culture that had developed in the borderlands …”

Give ME Liberty. Leave ME alone. Such was the Backcountry’s ideal of liberty.

The “liberty” that the Backcountry was fighting for in the American Revolution had nothing to do with classical liberalism, modern liberalism, conservatism or libertarianism. It was a clannish version of liberty that had organically grown out of the Scots-Irish historical experience.

Observe how the three versions of Southern liberty lack a sense of universal equality: the Carolina’s Chivalry’s sense of rank, the Virginia Cavalier’s libertas, and the Scots-Irish’s leave me the hell alone. “Liberty” meant something else in the Northern colonies.

16 Comments

    • Yes, Flunk, and it always strikes me as sad that a plain Southern Man, of great conscience, could be manipulated to help the New England Government misapply it’s power so that Palestine could be wrested from The Ottoman Empire to become the source of a multi dectillion dollar foreign policy obsession – not to mention the blood spillt.

    • That film was really an attempt by the jews in Hymiewood to get America all charged up for another war against the Reich.

  1. The Northern Colonies had a couple distinct reasons. New England simply resented the King, they had done so since Cromwell, and they also resented laws that kept them from making a bunch of money. New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey were along for the ride, in fact they were full of loyalists.

    The South at that time, Maryland was like Virginia’s appendix they followed exactly what Virginia told them and North Carolina and Georgia did the same for South Carolina. The South only really got behind the War after Lord Dunmore issued his proclamation stating that any Negro who wanted to be free could desert to the British lines. After that the haughty South Carolinians and Virginia Cavaliers knew it meant Negroes could do whatever they wanted.

    The Lowland Scots-Irish had been screwed over by England one too many times, although it is worth noting the Scottish Highlander families in North Carolina were normally Loyalists. They had been expelled after the Bonnie Prince Charlie fiasco. Scots-Irish independence and anti-intellectualism was both good and bad. It was GOOD because it restored Conservatism to Virginia, at this time Virginia was MORE liberal than Massachusetts. As the Scots Irish dominated the political climate in the 1800s the liberal Jeffersonian types either got in line or left Virginia. The bad part was because of the history of England enslaving them and killing them, some engendered a hatred of all wealthy people, which Lincoln exploited during the War. REMEMBER THIS. if there had been no Southern Unionists there would have been no Northern Victory.

    • Because New England has shorty soil and limited sun I think they understood that they had to industrialize or perish. They had to compete with the Motherland making nails, iron, textiles etc.

      No pressure like that existed in the Pennsylvania, Virginia, Carolina areas.

      This certainly explains Boston’s early bid for independence.

      Yet really, much of American identity was already set in the 1600s.

      • Pennsylvania New York New Jersey and Lower Pennsylvania (Delaware) really had nothing to lose or gain with independence in fact some counties in these areas were dominated by Loyalists

      • I live near the site of one of the earliest foundries in Colonial America. It was established in the 1670s, I believe.

  2. The liberty of those who, as Jim “pro white” Webb so aptly said, were Born Fighting.

    That is why it is futile to replace liberty with fascism among American whites, who have significant Scots Irish blood. They are allergic, by blood, to UNRIGHTEOUS authority.

    For myself, I could truly say that I was born fighting, have fought all my life, and will probably only cease fighting in death.

    Perhaps this is what is so indispensable about Christianity (or something like it), it provides a counterweight to this tendency.

    • While I feel much of the same, I’m not sure, logically, if that approach is going to work. The outraged people have managed to do exactly nothing to halt the globalists and the (((globalists))) from proceeding in a juggernaut-like fashion with importing vast hordes of brown folk to replace us.

      So, the question is — will the Scots-Irish exit history stage left, glaring futile defiance from their individual crofts, due to their refusal to accept a strong leader who can concentrate their energies into a powerful engine to fling out the invaders?

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