Jacksonian America

After reading Tex's last link, I came across this quote in the next article down.
[Jacksonians] have, in historian David Hackett Fischer’s phrase, a notion of natural liberty: People should be allowed to do what they want, subject to the demands of honor. If someone infringes on that liberty, beware: The Jacksonian attitude is, “If you attack my family or my country, I’ll kill you.” And he (or she) means it. If you want to hear an eloquent version, listen to Sen. Zell Miller’s speech endorsing George W. Bush at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
That sounds like a good paraphrase of what I believe.


E Hines said...

That sounds like a good paraphrase of what I believe.

Gee, and I get accused of overreacting when I say things like that. [g]

Eric Hines

Cass said...

People should be allowed to do what they want, subject to the demands of honor.

What does that even mean? It's one of those wonderfully vague statements that people love, because of course whatever they want to do is right and honorable.

Reminds me of Newt Gingrich's list of incredibly vague statements that 90+% of Americans were supposed to agree with... so long as no one tried to figure out what they actually meant.

Texan99 said...

No problem, you just look it up in the honor book! If it's not there, sic the police on them.

Grim said...

What does that even mean?

I don't think it's difficult to know at all whether what you are doing is permitted within the demands of honor. It's hardly unique to the South, as Japan runs a society on similar measures that -- whatever its economic problems -- has a very low crime rate and a very high degree of social cohesion.

I have given a definition of honor (which is linked on the sidebar). It ultimately means that you may do whatever you want, provided you give due consideration to the duties you owe to those to whom you stand in certain relationships. Different relationships have different duties -- you owe more to your father than to a stranger, more to your countrymen than to foreigners, more to friends than to those who have proven to be your enemies (but even something to them -- perfidy is always a violation of honor).

Most likely you do in fact live by a version of this concept, since you have often said similar things, and seem to be motivated especially by family. Most likely you do in fact agree that violations of these duties are in some sense 'things you shouldn't have done.'

Anonymous said...

The question is not so much 'what is honor', but instead 'what arguments do con artists use to manipulate & take advantage of the credulous'.

Grim said...

Honor can be a good antidote to con men, though, because they tend to be violating the dictates of honor in some fashion.

That's why Zell Miller came down so hard on John Kerry. It wasn't the policy disagreements that provoked such a powerful response. It was Kerry's constant betrayal of people whom he owed duties of honor. Every time he had a duty -- to fellow sailors, soldiers, countrymen -- he would elect self-interest instead.

So all that the Jacksonian is saying is that doing what Kerry does is wrong. You're free to follow your self interest -- subject to the demands of honor.

Anonymous said...

Indeed - hence the use of the word credulous. Parenting fun, using daily events as teaching moments without appearing to teach.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Fischer's phrase comes from Albion's Seed, one of the greatest books I have ever read. He contrasts the different ideas of liberty in colonial America.

Cass said...

Individuals have different notions of honor, and mine isn't much different than yours.

My comment wasn't meant to question the importance of personal honor - only to suggest that (as we've been discussing on another post) there is really no societal consensus these days about what honor means. Some Muslims engage in honor killings. That sense of honor is one I don't share and find abhorrent.

I don't believe a lot of young folks believe they have a duty to anyone but themselves and their own personal happiness.

Honor can't function as a general guideline (and certainly not as a limitation upon liberty) if everyone has a different understanding of what it means.

It's too vague.

Grim said...

We'll take this upstairs to the new post, but I think (as I've already said there) that there's a confusion about honor and duty. I don't think we disagree that honor is important; I think the disagreement you're seeing with regard to 'honor killings' is really about what duties the relationship entails. We want people to behave honorably in doing their duties; we also want them to have a right notion of what their duties are.

So it's not really honor that's vague -- honor is clear. It's the content of duty that we don't agree about. (But we're not going to dispose of "duty" as a guiding concept either -- we just need to fight over the content of that concept, i.e., which duties are right and proper. Whichever ones they are, you should pursue them honorably.)