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May 10, 2015

Our regional inheritance

appomattox.jpg

The tracing of American regional inheritance comprises one of the richest fields for patriotic study. In the fine historical works of David Hackett Fischer, and the more breezy sketches of Colin Woodard, among many other books, American regionalism emerges dynamically. Its patterns of regional texture and integrity illuminate much that is otherwise obscure in the history of the North American continent.

Within so large a Republic as ours, regions often stand for past dispersions of whole nations. That it is why, as a matter of history, and often observable in the present, it is descriptively possible, without undue exaggeration, to speak in the plural of the American Nations.

Fischer’s book focuses tightly on the Anglo and Celtic peoples who settled the rugged parts interior to the Eastern Seaboard: the Nation of Greater Appalachia. Woodard’s lighter fare broadens the historical lens to compass Acadians, Spaniards, Germans, Dutch, Frenchmen and Native Americans.

The vigor and variety of these regional nations should kindle in us a surer patriotism than any facsimile of perfect national consolidation, a kind of continental-wide General Will, could possibly manage. We may appreciate the virtues of other regions, but we are mostly at home with our own people in our own nation.

We know that from tensions among these American nations much of our country’s drama springs. More than once the nations have threatened to come to blows; once they came to very severe blows.

[UPDATED with image. Appomattox River, 1864, Library of Congress]

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