Edit 7/20/13: [Post updated as per HBD Chick’s comment. See below ]
The European colonists (mostly British, French, and Germans, with a smattering of other groups) who first settled North America brought with them their distinct “cultural” features that laid the foundation for the persistent regional differences across the U.S. and Canada. There were several such groups, each landing in a different part of the country, as discussed in David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed and Colin Woodard’s American Nations, from which the map at right was drawn. Each of these seed colonies spread out into their surrounding areas, eventually giving us the American cultural and political “nations” we now know.
But, as HBD Chick would note, where does “culture” come from? Culture is ultimately rooted in biology, and that biology is shaped by natural selection. One of the conditions guiding natural selection on human groups, as described by HBD Chick, are mating patterns – particularly, the level of cousin marriage. As per HBD Chick’s hypothesis, higher levels of cousin marriage tend to select for more kin-centric behaviors, since that amps the coefficient of relationship between individuals in a family. By contrast, low levels of cousin marriage tend to select for more “commonweal”, or at least nationalistic (with a “nation” regarded in very large terms) sentiments. Overall, Northwestern Europeans are fairly outbred, having a history of low levels of cousin marriage. However, within NW Euros, there is significant variation, and that variation affects the traits of these groups. Some of these colonies and their present-day derivatives seem more clannish than others. Discussion at HBD Chick’s is on-going (see the previous link and here). HBD Chick made a tentative ranking of human groups by level of clannishness:
the pattern seems to be that, the longer and greater the inbreeding, the more clannish — and the opposite — the longer and greater the outbreeding, the less clannish.
if we take 1 as the least clannish and 10 as the most clannish, i would rate various groups as follows (these are today’s judgements — i reserve the right to alter these as i go forward and learn more about all of these populations!):
1 – the english (not all of them — probably not the cornish, for instance), some of the dutch
2 – the scandinavians
3 or 4 – the irish
6-7 – the italians, the greeks, the chinese
7-8 – the albanians
10 – the yanomamo
11 – the arabs
In that vein, here’s a tentative list of the clannishness of the colonial American groups, based on the information in the aforementioned books, ordered from the least clannish to most clannish [Edit, 2/24/14: I’ve revised the list and table again.
Edit 7/20/13 I’ve revised the list and the table slightly]:
- New Netherland Dutch
- French Canadians/Americans
- Borderlanders (Scotch-Irish)
And this is a summarized list of the traits of these various founding groups. Note that this is relative to each other, not relative to the world as a whole, as seen in HBD Chick’s list. Even the most clannish here rank only a “4” at most on HBD Chick’s scale.
|Characteristics of the Colonial Americans|
|Kin vs Commonweal||Individualistic vs.
|Group||New Netherland Dutch||Egalitarian
|French Canadians||Egalitarian||Intermediate||Commonweal (now leaning towards kin)||Intermediate||High|
|Quakers||Egalitarian||Universalist||Commonweal||Intermediate (leaning more towards individualistic)||High|
|Cavaliers||Authoritarian (hierarchical)||Nationalistic||Intermediate (Feudal)||Intermediate||Low|
|Anarchistic (clannish)||Nationalistic (Clan-based)||Kin||Communal (clans)||Low|
This is only preliminary. Through continuing investigation and discussion, this list will be revised and expanded upon. Stay tuned!
EDIT, 3/20/15 [I’m adding some key passages from Albion’s Seed that support this ranking:
On the Puritans:
Like most of their contemporaries, the Puritans thought of the family as a concentric set of nuclear and extended rings. But within that conventional idea, they gave special importance to the innermost nuclear ring. Strong quantitative evidence of this attitude appeared in their uniquely nuclear naming customs. As we shall see below, the Puritans of Massachusetts gave high priority to the descent of names from parents to children within the nuclear family. This naming strategy was unique to the Puritans, and very different from other cultures in British America.
Similar tendencies also appeared in customs of inheritance, which were more nuclear in New England than in other American colonies during the seventeenth century. One study of 168 wills in Newbury, Massachusetts, for example, found that only 6.5 percent left bequests to a niece or nephew, and 3.0 percent to other kin. None whatever bequeathed property to a cousin—a pattern different from the Chesapeake colonies.
In short, the New England household more closely coincided with the nuclear unit, and the nuclear family was larger and stronger than elsewhere in the Western world.
The strength of the nuclear unit was merely one of many special features of New England families. Another was a strong sense of collective responsibility for maintaining its individual integrity. The people of the Bay Colony worked through many institutions to preserve what they called “family order” and “family government” within each nuclear unit. Other cultures also shared these concerns, but once again Puritan New England did things in its own way, with a special intensity of purpose. The selectmen and constables of each town were required by law to inspect families on a regular basis. Where “good order” broke down within a household, their task was to restore it.
(e-book pp. 62-63)
On the Cavaliers:
Among Virginians and New Englanders, ideas of the family were similar in strength, but different in substance. Virginians gave more importance to the extended family and less to the nuclear family than did New Englanders. Clear differences of that sort appeared in quantitative evidence of naming practices and inheritance patterns. The language of familial relationships differed too. The word “family” tended to be a more comprehensive term in Virginia than in Massachusetts. Virginians addressed relatives of all sort as “coz” or “cousin,” in expressions that were heavy with affective meaning; but the term “brother” was used more loosely as a salutation for friends, neighbors, political allies, and even business acquaintances. It is interesting to observe that an extended kin-term tended to be more intimate than the language of a nuclear relationship. The reverse tended to be the case in Massachusetts.
Individuals in Virginia were stereotyped by traits that were thought to be hereditary in their extended families. Anglican clergyman Jonathan Boucher believed that “family character both of body and mind may be traced thro’ many generations; as for instance every Fitzhugh has bad eyes; every Thornton hears badly; Winslows and Lees talk well; Carters are proud and imperious; and Taliaferros mean and avaricious; and Fowkeses cruel.” Virginians often pronounced these judgments upon one another. The result was a set of family reputations which acquired the social status of self-fulfilling prophecies.
For most Virginians the unit of residence tended to be a more or less nuclear household, but the unit of association was the extended family, which often flocked together in the same rural neighborhoods. Jonathan Boucher noted that “certain districts are there known and spoken of … by there being inhabited by the Fitzhughs, the Randolphs, Washingtons, Carys, Grimeses or Thorntons.” These kin-neighborhoods developed gradually during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century by continuing subdivision of estates
(e-book pp 210-211)
On the Quakers:
Quakers considered all Friends as their “near relations” and welcomed them to hearth and home. In this respect, Quaker ideas of the family were not more nuclear than those of other English colonists, but actually less so.
In every Anglo-American culture, the nuclear family was the normal unit of residence, and the extended family was the conventional unit of thought. The Quakers were no exception to this rule. They commonly lived in nuclear households, but thought of grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces as members of their family. Relatives by marriage were not “in-laws,” but were called simply “father,” “brother” or “sister.” In these respects, the family ways of the Quakers were similar to most other English-speaking people in their own time. But the Quakers submerged the nuclear and the extended family in a larger sphere which was their “family of God.”
Quaker family customs were also distinctive in other ways. Tests such as the descent of names show that the intensity of nuclear consciousness in Quaker families was stronger than in Anglican Virginia, but weaker than in Puritan New England. The physical composition of households in the Delaware Valley also showed a similar pattern, which was intermediate between the northern and southern colonies. An average Quaker household had smaller numbers of children than in New England, and larger numbers of servants. But by comparison with Virginia, it had more children and fewer servants.
Quaker ideas of the family were less hierarchical than those of New England Puritans or Virginia Anglicans. Even as many Friends continued to insist that children should obey their parents, and that the young should honor their elders, they tended to think of the family and the household as a union of individuals who were equal in the sight of God.
(e pp. 366-367)
These were found in various comments here and elsewhere. I have listed here for ease of reference. ***End Edit***]
EDIT, 8/16/13: See also clannishness defined | hbd* chick
Be sure to also see these key posts:
Edit: As a tribute to Americana, this song seems fitting (not an ad; whatever video you see after this one is the ad! 😉 )