Publisher’s Note: Again, I’m pleased that John has provided another great narrative about the history of “state repellant” areas and regions in the USSA. This should serve as a reminder that state resistant regions like Zomia in SE Asia and other mountainous zones planet-wide can shuffle off the planetary impulse to govern every human transaction. If one wants to establish a redoubt, success will depend on interesting map lines. There is a rich history in the Appalachians of saying “nope” to any question that begins with “Should the government…?”
John just did the wonderful account of MAJ Redmond.
Our Southern Highlanders here.
Providential that we would publish this as PorcFest is fired up in NH and the Orcs in Mordor pass more nonsense from their satraps in the Supremes. -BB
Mountain peoples have always had a knack for being free. Mountainous topography has historically acted as a talisman against over bearing authoritarianism. Rugged individualism in the Appalachian, Ozarks and Rocky Mountain chains in these united States is still rampant despite the usual suspects best efforts to squash it. Regions across the globe from Southeast Asia, to the Highlands of the Isles of Great Britain, to the Swiss Alps, demonstrate a similar allergy to despotism. Mountainous regions have long served resistance movements well from the Hindu Kush to Chechnya, the Sendero Illuminoso in Peru to everyone’s favorite counter-culture movie classic, Red Dawn set in the stereotypical Middle American small town at the foot of the Rockies.
Buppert’s Law of Military Topography puts forth the idea that a people who live in a rifle culture in mountainous terrain, are rarely if ever, militarily defeated. Historically, there are very few examples where this is not the case. While I do not intend to analyze this theory on a world scale from a military perspective, I want to establish this as a baseline theory for study of general resistance to States in particular.
The Irish Rebellion of 1916-1922, is unique in that it offers a sort of picture window analysis of a successful western European insurgency, where as most successful insurgencies involve peoples that are much different in ethnicity, religion and cultural values than what we have here in the Occupied States. Which is why the shining example of Appalachian Anti-Statism is a crucial looking glass to draw from.
James C Scott in his writings on the stateless hill people of Southeast Asia has described that since the beginning, humans have sought out mountainous regions as retreats from the State. Whether it was evading conscription, slavery, taxation, rules, epidemics or wars. The retreat into the Appalachians represents the same phenomenon. The people seeking to be free in the America of a bygone era generally found themselves on the frontier. These regions were largely what Scott calls “non-state space” and areas where the State had difficulty establishing and maintaining its authority. If you throw in challenging terrain and obstacles, you further increase your odds of being left alone and state control being minimal.
There may be a genetic aversion to authority embedded in the various people who settled the eastern mountains. Stemming largely from Scots-Irish, English Borderers, Germanic (“Dutch” in the Highland Dixie lexicon) and French Huguenot backgrounds, the first settlers merely by the act of settling what became known as Appalachia were law-breakers. The British Monarch in an effort to improve Indian relations put forth a decree forbidding settlement west of the line he drew on a map. Many of these people found their way west of that line.
Of particular interest to the liberty minded person is the specific culture of the Southern Appalachian region. Lucky for us, a marvelous first hand account exists of these people from before the old ways died off. Horace Kephart’s, “Our Southern Highlanders” does a wonderful job at detailing the radical individualism, anti-authoritarianism, traditions, and cultural nuisances inherent in this group of people. Much like a modern radical libertarian, the traditional mountain folk were severely skeptical of Power and granted government little if any moral legitimacy. The same way the modern advocate of a free society might argue that the fiction of Social Contract theory is nothing but a mythology of power used to explain why we have rulers, Kephart notes:
“Our Highlanders have neither memory nor tradition of ever having been herded together, lorded over, persecuted or denied the privileges of freemen… they recognize no social compact.” (Kephart, 382-383)
The first settlers to the region may have largely been materially poor, but of a unique sort. Neither did they fit in with aristocratic society nor were the seaboard towns and cities fit for them. Kephart perfectly details the distinction:
“The Western piedmont and the mountains were settled neither by Cavaliers nor by poor whites, but by a radically distinct and even antagonistic people who are appropriately called the Roundheads of the South. These Roundheads had little or nothing to do with slavery, detested the state church, loathed tithes, and distrusted all authority save that of conspicuous merit and natural justice.” (Kephart, 439)
The Scots Irish mindset has historically been that of a defiant group of people. They have long been a fighting race and its no surprise when you transplant those mountain people to America, they keep up the same legacy. As Kephart further elaborates, “Thus we see that the townsman’s weapon against government was graft, and the mountaineer’s weapon was his gun.” (Kephart, 150)
The Regulator Rebellion
The frontier inhabitants were indeed not only theoretically opposed to being lorded over, they were willing to physically resist it. It is no surprise that some of the first and most interesting acts of resistance to British authority in America were on the frontier. One of the more interesting stories of the pre-revolutionary era was the antics of the North Carolina Regulators. Given that individualists gradually moved west escaping the tyranny of the Eastern governments, bureaucrats and crony-land holders, it comes as no surprise that when the government sought to establish counties and government apparatuses amongst the frontier dwellers, they didn’t take it very well. It really does come down to Ernest Hancock’s proverbial classification of two types of people; “the ones who just want to be left alone, and the ones who just wont leave you alone.” Continue reading