Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

“There is complete freedom of discussion in the Soviet Union”

A guy I know who worked in the Soviet Union for Canada in the 1970s surprized me one day when he said, in response to my comment, “On the contrary, there is complete freedom of discussion in the Soviet Union”.

What did he mean?

He said: “if you have known a guy since high school, and you are sure of him on all grounds, and you are out ice fishing on a lake, say, out of reach of microphones, then Russians have an extremely broad range of discussion, broader than here.” He intimated that Russians in such places would feel free to talk about Stalin and Hitler, the Russian Revolution, the future of communism, the United States, sex, God, Christianity, anything.

If you spoke too loudly in the wrong circumstances, you might draw attention of the secret police, and be called in for a threatening chat. You might lose your academic job. But within the boundaries of a totalitarian police state, where the compulsion was external, society itself maintained freedom of discussion. It also maintained educational standards. Communism may have wrecked social trust, the bedrock of cooperation, markets, and democracy, but it did not reach in and destroy friendships and a real but limited freedom of thought and speech.

In the same vein, Prof. Srdia Trifkovic speaks below of how the Communist system did not challenge the classical education system: grammar, logic, mathematics, essay writing, and how in consequence, the education system was less affected by cultural Marxism than it is in the West now, and how eastern European immigrants to Western Europe are succeeding because of this rigorous training in thinking.

Speaking of the absorption of political correctness by Western social elites, compared to Eastern Europeans,

The circle of people [here] who have internalized these idiocies, as a normal part of their world outlook is, I would say, much wider.

 

 

Go to minute 2:40 and thereafter for this important discussion.

Being brought up short

Those not familiar with the English language might wonder about what “being brought up short” means: having one’s moral failings being called to one’s attention. It is a painful and humiliating experience, for those with a conscience. For those without a conscience, it is just an attempt at shaming, if that.

In two different places this week, I observed institutions “brought up short”. One was Matt Ridley’s column in the Times, in which he describes three different instances in the same month of science playing fast and loose with facts to achieve political ends: attempts to ban nicotinoid-based insecticides, faking evidence for global warming, and official blathering about extreme weather. Each one of these instances either concerned faked evidence, or where no evidence existed and the institution had spoken as if it existed.

The second was the blast in the National Post this morning about the CBC, the people’s broadcaster, whose views represent the Volvo-driving classes to the exclusion of all others.

Someone recently observed that the CBC is not about Canadian programming but programming Canadians to its enlightened view of how the world should work.

Nothing in this morning’s NatPost rant is different from anything conservative bloggers have been saying for years. The only novelty is that the view was expressed in a large national newspaper. When such views leave the Financial Post editorial section for the regular editorial section, I shall be even more impressed. If such views ever show up on the Globe and Mail’s editorial pages, I shall swoon in a transport of shock.

This brings me around to an opinion I saw yesterday in Ricochet which seems to encapsulate the views of our unelected governors in the mainstream media:

Many reporters and editors loathe how aware people have become of the journalistic process. They can barely conceal their anger at having the public (largely conservatives) challenge what, when, and how they cover the news. Their sins of commission have been understood for decades, with a heavy thumb on the left side of the scale for either cultural, institutional, or ideological reasons. Lately though, the media’s sins of omission are more deadly to their reputation and future — and being called on them has the press in a white-hot fury.

When the media was a kind of hermetic priesthood, they controlled what Americans read and saw. If the Washington Post or the New York Times didn’t cover a story, you could bet it wasn’t going to be on the evening news. If they didn’t cover a story real people were interested in, they could put it down to news judgment. There was no effective recourse and nowhere else to get to the story. They know their business model is under existential threat, but they’ve practically declared war on the majority of their potential customers.

….The legacy media largely produces a product they and their friends want. “Another gushing Hillary article? Can’t WAIT!” “Gosh, what Americans really need is another story on how we’re destroying the Earth and how global warming will kill our kids.” “Is Obama a great President, or the greatest President?” Legacy reporters and editors desperately miss that power to mediate the national dialogue.

Putting it all together, I observe a decline of the values which sustain the institutions on which we depend for science, news, and justice. We are concerned about the decline of science, and we are concerned about the decline of guardian institutions generally, but we are more concerned about the decline of culture which infuses all these institutions with vain, shallow, narcissistic, amoral, atheistic  people who think they are no better than meat machines, and behave as they believe they are. This kind of decline in people makes me think Christianity has a valid point.

As Saint Leonard Cohen said

When they said: repent, repent,
I wondered what they meant.

The all-purpose excuse

I read somewhere that the word “racism” did not exist until the late 1950s. I can believe it. Now it is the universal solvent of all rational thinking, and it is especially convenient for the Left to use against regions, classes and cultures that disagree with them, and which fail to produce electoral victories. The continuing dismissal of the American South by the Democrats and their allies comes to mind.

Rick Moran writes in PJ Media.

Racism as an excuse for Democratic defeat in the South is too easy, too pat. But it has the benefit of allowing Democrats the luxury of being able to ignore the real reasons why white Southerners have so completely rejected their candidates. Liberals are apparently incapable of conducting the introspection necessary to arrive at the conclusion that their attitudes toward those they feel superior to contributes far more to their electoral defeats than some kind of nebulous racism that doesn’t exist in any greater proportion in the South than it does anywhere else in the country.

Of course, as Thomas Sowell pointed out in his brilliant book, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as the Basis of Social Policy, [the title says it all], in order to come to grips with reality the liberal – I use that in the American sense of ‘Leftist’ – would have to change their conception of themselves, and that would be impossibly humiliating.

Cultural wars are so desperate because they are not simply about the merits and demerits of particular policies. They are about the anointed’s whole conception of themselves – about whether they are in the heady role of the vanguard or in the pathetic role of pretentious and self-infatuated people. [p.250]

Because differential rectitude is pivotal to the vision of the anointed, opponents must be shown to be not merely mistaken but morally lacking….This denigration or demonizing of those opposed to their views not only has the desired effect of discrediting the opposition but also has the unintended effect of cutting off the path of retreat from positions which become progressive;ly less tenable with the passage of time and the accumulation of discordant evidence….

For the anointed, it is desperately important to win, not simply because they believe that one policy or set of beliefs is better for society, but because their whole sense of themselves is at stake. [p.252]

The first obligation of the conservative is to know that one can be wholly wrong: emotionally, intellectually, morally. It keeps one humble. It prevents the development of the feeling of being anointed to govern one’s lessers.

I also think that Thomas Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed should be on every thinking person’s bookshelf, along with Burke’s Reflections on the Late Revolution in France and Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.

Even the New York Times cannot quite like Hillary Clinton

Hillary is proclaimed from the centre of the Democratic Party as the next President. Maybe she will be. After Obama, even Al Gore night be an improvement – and I know that is a stretch for me and for you, dear readers.

Yet the article on her in the New York Times  this weekend makes clear that she has a powerful temper (who of that rank does not?) that she uses to preclude discussion of necessary policy alternatives. The use of the leader’s bad temper to prevent discussion of policy alternatives is the great sin in politics. Always remind yourself of Talleyrand’s dictum: “Worse than a crime, it was a mistake” as your guide to understanding the political point of view.

I do not mind her loyalty to Bill; he is a swine but he is my kind of swine: self indulgent, and consequently ill-disciplined, but he brought welfare reform (stopping the subsidies to black illegitimate births) and balanced the budget. Broadly he left the United States a better place (pace those who have rational objections).

I do not mind if she goes both ways sexually, either, as long as she gets along with the other sex in politics. She first also not be the wife of a President to be gay; recall Elanor Roosevelt’s affair with the journalist Lorena Hickock.

My objection to Hillary is that she is not the emollient centrist she is being portrayed as, but rather an imperious leftist who cannot tolerate political argument, even from within her own party and her own staff. This is not a good sign. At a time when the United States desperately needs a centrist reformer, able to get along with the other side, we may find in Hillary a leader with all the instincts of Louis XIV: rigid, bigoted, imperious, and prone to catastrophic wars.

New Republic down the tubes

The economic woes of the print magazine business have claimed the leading liberal magazine of the United States, the New Republic.

The letter [of resignation]  comes one day after a shakeup that saw the resignation of top editor Franklin Foer and veteran literary editor Leon Wieseltier, both of whom resigned due to differences of vision with Hughes, a 31-year-old Facebook co-founder who bought the magazine in 2012. On Friday morning, more than two dozen of the magazine’s senior and contributing editors quit the magazine en masse in protest.

Another software billionaire takes on a dying print institution. 31 year years old! I assume he may have some sense at that age; I think Alexander the Great died at 34.

The former senior editors of the The New Republic wrote in protest as follows:

“The New Republic is a kind of public trust,” they continued. “That is something all its previous owners and publishers understood and respected. The legacy has now been trashed, the trust violated. It is a sad irony that at this perilous moment, with a reactionary variant of conservatism in the ascendancy, liberalism’s central journal should be scuttled with flagrant and frivolous abandon. The promise of American life has been dealt a lamentable blow.”

The curious part of the statement is that “a reactionary variant of conservatism is in the ascendancy”. Who knew? I see no signs of it. Creeping colonization both physical and ideational by Islam, drowning of the US in Central American peasant influx, declining educational standards, exemption of American blacks from normal moral standards, deliberate anti-white, anti-male and anti-christian alliances of the Left everywhere you look: is this the ascendancy of a reactionary version of conservatism? Some ascendancy! some conservatism!

The nauseating moral swamp of black and liberal reaction to Ferguson

No one over sixteen has failed to have had a negative interaction with police.

Here are instances from my life:

Your bicycle has just been stolen and you flag down a cop car. You cross the street to approach the car and the idiot chides you for crossing the street against a traffic light, or something. Then they tell you your stolen bike is their business, and don’t go looking for it. They do nothing but give you a number where you can reach a kindly old retired cop who handles stolen bicycle complaints. They do nothing effective.

You are a teenager on your way to your friend’s house. The cop stops you, you get into the cop car at his command and he proceeds to intimidate you for daring to be in that part of town at night. The entire proceeding is just a cop being a thug.

Your house has been thoroughly robbed. On the cop’s second look through your house, the improperly stored firearm -according to our draconian firearms control law –  is discovered in its hiding place. They take the rifle and never give it back. You have to hire lawyers to defend yourself. You make it clear to the prosecutor that there will be plenty of newspaper coverage of the fact that your door was broken down, your house robbed, and the homeowner is in more trouble than the thief who stole $20,000 worth of stuff in several trips, who has got away clean.

So do not accuse me of being soft on the constabulary. Like most of the human species, there is a strong case for eliminating the half of them with IQs below 100. But with what portion of the human species would we begin, in that case?

Yet even after a lifetime of not always happy interactions with these authoritarian twenty-five year-olds and older self-satisfied uniformed idiots, I still think they have a difficult, rough job to do.

Fred Reed has a great insight into the life of a cop at the Unz Review, called Notes from the Drains. It should be read by all who fulminate about police brutality and shooting. It describes the life of a normal well-motivated cop.

With time, your views on police brutality will become ambivalent, or not ambivalent. You will see the pretty blonde rape victim, fifteen, about due for her first prom, screaming and screaming and screaming, sobbing and choking, while the med tech tries to get a sedative into her arm. And you will hear the cop next to you, hand clenching hard on his night stick, say in cold fury, “I hope the sonofabitch resists arrest.” Yeah, you may find yourself thinking, yeah. Social theories are nice. The streets are not theoretical.

And you will find that the perps are almost always black. If you are a good liberal, you won’t like this, but after three months on the street you will not have the faintest doubt. If you are a suburban conservative out of Reader’s Digest, you will be surprised at the starkness of the racial delineation.

All cops know this. They know better than to say it. This can be tricky for black cops, especially if former military who believe in law and order.

You will find that there are white cops who knock blacks around, who humiliate them. You will think it wrong, and so will many of your fellows, but you will decide not to turn them in. You have twenty more years on the streets with them. You will discover that black cops exist who also mistreat blacks, and this will confuse you.

A more statistical approach is found in the City Journal this week. After showing that the number of citizen interactions with police has been going down in the past decade

 …another series of Justice Department surveys,… ask Americans whether they have been victimized by crime. Those who say yes are then asked to identify the race of their attacker. In a 2008 survey, 58 percent of violent crime victims of identified the perpetrators as white, and 23 percent as black. That compares with a national population 74 percent white and 12 percent black. (After 2008, questions about the race of offenders disappear from the victimization data on the FBI’s website.) Police frequently point to this survey and others like it to explain that stop rates and arrest rates are higher for minorities because crime rates are higher in minority areas. Victims disproportionately identify perpetrators as minority.

The real indicator would be a significant dissimilarity between the incident rate, the arrest rate, the prosecution rate and the conviction rate. Dissimilarities would indicate that too many arrest were being made, or prosecutions initiated, relative to convictions. But there are not. Blacks fill American jails, and North American Indians fill Canadian jails, disproportionately to their presence in the population, because they engage in crime disproportionately to the population.

The notion that the thug who attacked the store owner in Ferguson, punched the cop in the police car, escaped, and charged back at the cop is some kind of innocent: it revolts me. The attempt by Obama and his more revolting – if that is possible – Attorney General Holder  to divert moral judgment from the American black propensity to commit crime disproportionately to other ethnicities, and blame police, makes me ill.

It starts to make Stuff Black People don’t like look like a description of facts. Actually, it is all factual, just the selection of facts is biased.

Fred reed again, explaining the speed with which cops must make lethal decisions:

If you shoot, and the object turns out to be a cell phone, “White cop shoots unarmed teen.” If you don’t shoot, and it turns out to be a gun, your wife gets to explain why daddy isn’t’ coming back. Ever.

Cops understand this. Delicate Ivy flowers in the peat moss of the Washington Post do not.

Let’s drop the “You are a cop” narrative. Instead, let’s try an experiment. In your living room, no adrenaline, no darkness, no danger, I will turn my back on you, holding in front of me in one hand a Day-Glo yellow plastic banana and, in the other, a realistic plastic pistol. You, in calm, perfectly safe circumstances, will point a “pistol” at me. Your finger will do fine. I will turn as fast as I can with one or the other in my hand. You have to shoot or not.

You will find, no matter how many times we try the experiment, that I can turn and fire (if I turn with the gun) before you can decide whether I have a gun or a Day-Glo banana. Try it in a dark alley.

Nuff said.

 

 

 

A delicious, if fatal, irony

American Thinker posts a piece called Black Crime Claims life of Apologist for Black Crime. It appears the Chris Ruenzel, a propagandist for the Southern Poverty Law Center, was a long standing author of theories of “white privilege”, the theory whereby whites are responsible for black crime, or deserve it when they are attacked by blacks. He was killed in Oakland recently by black people.

Psychologist Martin Newburn commented on the liberal belief system that perpetuates their delusional thinking about black crime.

“Some liberals, most of which are ego-soaked, look for ways to support their self-perceived importance so they champion imaginary causes for that purpose,” Newburn said.  “They are adult-children who feel free to construct fantasies about their greatness. Their narcissism in part functions to blind them to inconvenient realities. So to compensate, they idealize the targets of their misdirected and pathological ‘caring.’”

The enablers are just as guilty as the predators. More Newburn:

“They perpetuate misery by defending the indefensible such as widespread black predation and other crimes. It causes too much cognitive dissonance and confusion, and it doesn’t comport with their imagined status as a great liberator and defender of their chosen imagined, downtrodden group.”

Today, Newburn is an adjunct professor of psychology at Lake Superior State University. But for the last 30 years, he toiled in Michigan courts and prisons as a forensic/clinical psychologist.  That’s a long time watching white liberals trying to ignore, deny and condone black mob violence and black criminality.

“Reality will only disrupt their fantasies as all-knowing and all-protecting avengers. Maturity is sometimes defined as when a person ends illusions in their thinking, and accepts reality, no matter how distasteful. I apply that same definition to the grounded, peaceful, law-abiding, sane, and stable.

“Over the years I’ve examined and found a trait of sociopath in most liberals. They have this sadistic gratification in creating or fomenting social chaos and conflicts, then, presenting themselves as ‘above it all,’ they arrive to fix the problem they themselves caused or perpetuated. Think of it as mental illness.  A Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome, but on a very large scale.”

Ruenzel is hardly the first enabler of black violence to believe he was exempt from it, as urban pioneers are finding throughout the country.

Munchausen by Proxy syndrome is described as:

Münchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP or MBP) is a behaviour pattern in which a caregiver fabricates, exaggerates, or induces health problems in those who are in their care.[1] With deception at its core, this behaviour is an elusive, potentially lethal, and frequently misunderstood form of child abuse[2] or medical neglect[3] that has been difficult to define, detect, and confirm.

 

American Thanksgiving and Puritan Geopolitics in the Americas

 

Puritan Settlement

The painting “Desembarco de los Puritanos en America,” or “The Arrival of the Pilgrims in America,” by Antonio Gisbert shows Puritans landing in America in 1620. By Antonio Gisbert (1834-1902) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Summary

The first winter took many of the English at Plymouth. By fall 1621, only 53 remained of the 132 who had arrived on the Mayflower. But those who had survived brought in a harvest. And so, in keeping with tradition, the governor called the living 53 together for a three-day harvest feast, joined by more than 90 locals from the Wampanoag tribe. The meal was a moment to recognize the English plantation’s small step toward stability and, hopefully, profit. This was no small thing. A first, deadly year was common. Getting through it was an accomplishment. England’s successful colony of Virginia had had a massive death toll — of the 8,000 arrivals between 1607 and 1625, only 15 percent lived.

But still the English came to North America and still government and business leaders supported them. This was not without reason. In the 17th century, Europe was in upheaval and England’s place in it unsure. Moreover, England was going through a period of internal instability that would culminate in the unthinkable — civil war in 1642 and regicide in 1649. England’s colonies were born from this situation, and the colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay and the little-known colony of Providence Island in the Caribbean were part of a broader Puritan geopolitical strategy to solve England’s problems.

Analysis

Throughout the first half of the 17th century, England was wracked by internal divisions that would lead to civil war in 1642. Religion was a huge part of this. The dispute was over the direction of the Church of England. Some factions favored “high” church practices that involved elaborate ritual. The Puritans, by contrast, wanted to clear the national religion of what they considered Catholic traces. This religious crisis compounded a political crisis at the highest levels of government, pitting Parliament against the monarchy.

By the beginning of the 17th century, England had undergone centralizing reforms that gave the king and his Parliament unrestricted power to make laws. Balance was needed. The king had the power to call Parliament into session and dismiss it. Parliament had the power to grant him vital funds needed for war or to pay down debt. However, Parliament had powerful Puritan factions that sought not only to advance their sectarian cause but also to advance the power of Parliament beyond its constraints. Kings James I and his son Charles I, for their part, sought to gain an unrestrained hold on power that would enable them to make decisive strategic choices abroad. They relied, internally and externally, on Catholics, crypto-Catholics and high church advocates — exacerbating the displeasure of Parliament.

Both kings continually fought with Parliament over funding for the monarchy’s debt and for new ventures. Both dissolved Parliament several times; Charles ultimately did so for a full 11 years beginning in 1629.

 

 

europe_circa_1600 (1)

Europe in 1600

Spain was England’s major strategic problem on the Continent. Protestant England saw itself as under constant threat from the Catholic powers in Europe. This led to problems when the people came to see their leaders, James I and his son Charles, as insufficiently hostile to Spain and insufficiently committed to the Protestant cause on the Continent. In order to stop mounting debt, shortly after taking power James made the unpopular move of ending a war with Spain that England had been waging alongside the Netherlands since 1585. In 1618, the Thirty Years’ War broke out in the German states — a war that, in part, pitted Protestants against Catholics and spread throughout Central Europe. James did not wish to become involved in the war. In 1620, the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, a relative of Spain’s King Philip III, pushed Frederick V, the Protestant son-in-law of England’s King James, out of his lands in Bohemia, and Spain attacked Frederick in his other lands in the Rhineland. The English monarchy called for a defense of Frederick but was unwilling to commit to significant military action to aid him.

Puritan factions in Parliament, however, wanted England to strike at Spain directly by attacking Spanish shipments from the Americas, which could have paid for itself in captured goods. To make matters worse, from 1614 to 1623, James I pursued an unpopular plan to marry his son Charles to the Catholic daughter of Philip III of Spain — a plan called the “Spanish Match.” Instead, Charles I ended up marrying the Catholic daughter of the king of France in 1625. This contributed to the impression that James and Charles were too friendly with Spain and Catholicism, or even were secret Catholics. Many Puritans and other zealous promoters of the Protestant cause began to feel that they had to look outside of the English government to further their cause.

Amid this complex constellation of Continental powers and England’s own internal incoherence, a group of Puritan leaders in Parliament, who would later play a pivotal role in the English Civil War, focused on the geopolitical factors that were troubling England. Issues of finance and Spanish power were at the core. A group of them struck on the idea of establishing a set of Puritan colonial ventures in the Americas that would simultaneously serve to unseat Spain from her colonial empire and enrich England, tipping the geopolitical balance. In this they were continuing Elizabeth I’s strategy of 1585, when she started a privateer war in the Atlantic and Caribbean to capture Spanish treasure ships bound from the Americas. Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were part of this early vision, but they were both far too remote to challenge the Spanish, and the group believed that the area’s climate precluded it from being a source of vast wealth from cash crops. New England, however, was safe from Spanish aggression and could serve as a suitable starting point for a colonial push into the heart of Spanish territory.

The Effects of Spanish Colonization

Spain’s 1492 voyage to the Americas and subsequent colonization had changed Europe indelibly by the 17th century. It had complicated each nation’s efforts to achieve a favorable balance of power. As the vanguard of settlement in the New World, Spain and Portugal were the clear winners. From their mines, especially the Spanish silver mine in Potosi, American precious metals began to flow into their government coffers in significant amounts beginning in 1520, with a major uptick after 1550. Traditionally a resource-poor and fragmented nation, Spain now had a reliable revenue source to pursue its global ambitions.

 

spanish-colonies
Spanish Colonies in the Carribbean

This new economic power added to Spain’s already advantageous position. At a time when England, France and the Netherlands were internally divided between opposing sectarian groups, Spain was solidly Catholic. As a result of its unity, Spain’s elites generally pursued a more coherent foreign policy. Moreover, Spain had ties across the Continent. Charles V was both king of Spain and Holy Roman emperor, making him the most powerful man of his era. He abdicated in 1556, two years before his death, and divided his territories among his heirs. His son, Philip II of Spain, and Charles’ brother, Ferdinand I, inherited the divided dominions and retained their ties to each other, giving them power throughout the Continent and territory surrounding France.

Despite having no successful colonies until the beginning of the 17th century, England did see some major benefits from the discovery of the Americas. The addition of the Western Atlantic to Europe’s map and the influx of trade goods from that direction fundamentally altered trade routes in Europe, shifting them from their previous intense focus on the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean to encompass an ocean on which England held a unique strategic position. The nearby Netherlands — recently free from Spain — enjoyed a similar position and, along with England, took a major new role in shipping. By the middle of the 17th century, the Dutch had a merchant fleet as large as all others combined in Europe and were competing for lands in the New World. Sweden, another major European naval power, also held a few possessions in North America and the Caribbean. (This led to curious events such as “New Sweden,” a colony located along the Delaware River, falling under Dutch control in the 1650s and becoming part of the “New Netherlands.”)

England’s Drive Into the New World

In spite of its gains in maritime commerce, England was still far behind Spain and Portugal in the Americas. The Iberian nations had established a strong hold on South America, Central America and the southern portions of North America, including the Caribbean. Much of North America, however, remained relatively untouched. It did not possess the proven mineral wealth of the south but it had a wealth of natural capital — fisheries, timber, furs and expanses of fertile soil.

However, much of the population of the Americas was in a band in central Mexico, meaning that the vast pools of labor available to the Spanish and Portuguese were not present elsewhere in North America. Instead, England and other colonial powers would need to bring their own labor. They were at a demographic advantage in this regard. Since the 16th century, the Continent’s population had exploded. The British Isles and Northwest Europe grew the most, with England expanding from 2.6 million in 1500 to around 5.6 million by 1650. By contrast, the eastern woodlands of North America in 1600 had around 200,000 inhabitants — the population of London. Recent catastrophic epidemics brought by seasonal European fishermen and traders further decimated the population, especially that of New England. The disaster directly benefited Plymouth, which was built on the site of the deserted town of Patuxet and used native cleared and cultivated land.

After its founding in 1620, Plymouth was alone in New England for a decade and struggled to become profitable. It was the first foothold, however, for a great Puritan push into the region. In time, this push would subsume the tiny separatist colony within the larger sphere of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This new colony’s numbers were much higher: The first wave in 1630 brought 700 English settlers to Salem, and by 1640 there were 11,000 living in the region.

Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were different from nearby Virginia. Virginia was initially solely a business venture, and its colonists provided the manpower. New England, by contrast, was a settler society of families from the start. Both Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were started by English Puritans — Christian sectarians critical of the state-run Church of England. Plymouth’s settlers were Puritan separatists who wanted no connection to England. Massachusetts Bay’s colonists were non-separatist Puritans who believed in reforming the church. For both, creating polities in North America furthered their sectarian political goals. The pilgrims wanted to establish a separate godly society to escape persecution; the Puritans of Salem wanted to establish a beacon that would serve to change England by example. Less known, however, is that the financial backers of the New England colonies had a more ambitious goal of which New England was only the initial phase.

In this plan, Massachusetts was to provide profit to its investors, but it was also to serve as a way station from which they could then send settlers to a small colony they simultaneously founded on Providence Island off the Miskito Coast of modern Nicaragua. This island, now part of Colombia, was in the heart of the Spanish Caribbean and was meant to alter the geopolitics of Central America and bring it under English control. It was in this way that they hoped to solve England’s geostrategic problems on the Continent and advance their own political agenda.

Providence was an uninhabited island in an area where the Spanish had not established deep roots. The island was a natural fortress, with a coral reef that made approach difficult and high, craggy rocks that helped in defense. It also had sheltered harbors and pockets of fertile land that could be used for production of food and cash crops.

It would serve, in their mind, as the perfect first foothold for England in the lucrative tropical regions of the Americas, from which it could trade with nearby native polities. In the short run, Providence was a base of operations, but in the long run it was to be a launchpad for an ambitious project to unseat Spain in the Americas and take Central America for England. In keeping with Puritan ideals, Providence was to be the same sort of “godly” society as Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth, just a more profitable one. Providence Island would enable the English to harry Spanish ships, bring in profit to end disputes with the crown and bolster the Protestant position in the Thirty Years’ War.

 

plymouth_colony

But while Massachusetts Bay would succeed, Providence would fail utterly. Both Massachusetts Bay and Providence Island received their first shipment of Puritan settlers in 1630. Providence was expected to yield immense profits, while Massachusetts was expected to be a tougher venture. Both were difficult, but Providence’s constraints proved fatal. The island did not establish a cash crop economy and its attempts to trade with native groups on the mainland were not fruitful.

The island’s geopolitical position in Spanish military territory meant that it needed to obsessively focus on security. This proved its downfall. After numerous attacks and several successful raids on Spanish trade on the coast, the investors decided in 1641 to initiate plans to move colonists down from Massachusetts Bay to Providence. Spanish forces received intelligence of this plan and took the island with a massive force, ending England’s control.

Puritan Legacies

The 1641 invasion ended English settlement on the island, which subsequently became a Spanish military depot. The Puritans left little legacy there. New England, however, flourished. It became, in time, the nearest replica of English political life outside of the British Isles and a key regional component of the Thirteen Colonies and, later, the United States. It was the center of an agricultural order based on individual farmers and families and later of the United States’ early manufacturing power. England sorted out its internal turmoil not by altering its geopolitical position externally — a project that faced serious resource and geographical constraints — but through massive internal upheaval during the English Civil War.

The celebration of the fruits of the Plymouth Colony’s brutal first year is the byproduct of England’s struggle against Spain on the Continent and in the New World. Thus, the most celebrated meal in America comes with a side of geopolitics.

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It is always news when media notice the obvious

An interesting article in the Baltimore Sun today draws attention to the total dominance of Fox News over all other cable and broadcast sources.

Below are the stats for viewership on mid-term election night.

Ratings at 10 p.m. Election Night for Cable and Networks:

Fox News: 6.6 million overall (1.8 million 25 to 54)

CBS: 5.4 million (1.5 million)

NBC: 4.2 million (1.5 million)

ABC: 3.1 million (1.1 million)

CNN: 1.9 million (912,000)

MSNBC: 1.6 million (566,000)