Southern History Series: White Liberty
Why did the South’s organic cultures join the American Revolution?
We’re constantly told by mainstream conservatives that they are preserving something called the “American Founding” which is synonymous with classical liberalism. In their theory of history, the American Revolution was about highminded abstract universal principles and had nothing to do with gritty things like race, culture, ethnicity, religion, self interest, etc.
The South revolted against the British monarchy to create a slaveholder’s republic. They fought for “independency” which was the ideal of self-mastery of the planter class. They valued “liberty” because they lived in a slave society where most people were their dependents. They valued “equality” because they felt insulted in an honor-based culture. The Declaration of Independence condemns King George III for inciting “domestic insurrections amongst us” and provoking the “merciless Indian Savages” to wage indiscriminate warfare on the frontier.
The following excerpts come from William A. Link’s book Southern Crucible: The Making of An American Region:
“The prospect of slave insurrection as a weapon of war became deeply troubling to Virginia whites. Indeed, Dunmore’s encouragement of slave insurrection might have been the single most important factor in pushing Virginians further toward revolution. The British declaration had exposed “the only part in which this colony is vulnerable,” wrote Madison, “& if we should be subdued, we shall fall like Achilles by the hand of one who knows that secret.” Dunmore’s withdrawal of gunpowder from Williamsburg, according to a Virginian, confirmed that the governor intended, “by disarming the people, to weaken the means of opposing an insurrection of the slaves … for protection against whom in part the magazine was at first built.” Dunmore’s subsequent policies to liberate slaves and to arm them also confirmed fears of Virginia slaveholders. The use of black slaves in the British military, said Thomas Jefferson, had “raised our country into perfect phrensy.” A South Carolina observer noted that the disarming of white Virginians, arousing fears of slave insurrection, had “worked up the passions of the people there almost to a frenzy.”
“Prior to the spring of 1775, Georgia had been reluctant to participate in the Patriot cause. The outbreak of hostilities and the prospect of British invasion changed matters. In early May, the Liberty Boys, a paramilitary Patriot organization, seized gunpowder from a Savannah magazine; a few days later, they paraded through town, raising a liberty pole. Eventually, Georgia’s royal governor, James Wright, fled the scene, and the Georgians dispatched a delegation to the Continental Congress by the fall of 1775. In similar fashion, other royal governors were exiled from the Carolinas and Maryland. In North Carolina, Gov. Martin fled the capital in New Bern after revolutionary forces organized a new state government. In South Carolina, fueled by fears of British-inspired Indian attack and slave rebellion, a provincial congress seized control by early June 1775. It raised three regiments of troops, seized military facilities and stores, and fortified Charleston against attack. By the summer of 1775, royal authority had collapsed elsewhere in the South.”
The American Revolution did not create a liberal state.
The Founding Fathers created a White Republic. They divided sovereignty between the federal government and state governments. The Bill of Rights restricted the powers of the federal government. The Constitution left vast powers to the state governments including the definition of citizenship and voting rights. It had nothing say about equality except that each state would have equal representation in the Senate in spite of vast differences in population. Similarly, representation in the House of Representatives was based on the 3/5ths ratio.
“The Revolution left a mixed legacy, nowhere more apparent than in the South. The planter elite rallied behind the Patriot cause, yet substantial opposition emerged from within the colonies. The war for independence in large part was a civil war, deeply dividing communities. At the same time, the Revolution solidified the South’s regional identity, as the Chesapeake and Lowcountry formed an alliance in defense of their slaveholding interests and of white liberty. The new republic, in turn, bore the marks of the influences of newly self-conscious southerners, devoted to the new American Union but ever conscious of the need to protect their slave society.”
Southerners fought for White liberty.
White liberty was the sovereign right to govern ourselves. It was the right of patriarchs to govern their households and collectively their society.
Note: Greater Appalachia fought for the right to left alone.
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