Anthropology Friday: Still a Pygmy (pt 2)

Continuing with Still a Pygmy, by Isaac Bacirongo and Michael Nest

Isaac begins the book with some background on his family and their life in the forest. (And in case you were wondering about homicide among pre-agricultural peoples, it looks like they Pygmy-on-Pygmy murder rate is pretty high, which fits pretty well with the reported overall homicide rates in the DRC.)

Isaac is one of 12 children, but half of his siblings died in childhood (one died at 15 of labor complications due to having twins without medical care; Isaac notes that sickle-cell-anemia runs in his family, which probably explains most of the others.) Isaac has 11 children, 9 of whom survived (and one of those died as an adult.) The radical difference may be better medical care, but more likely his wife is just not a sickle-cell carrier.

In case the moral of the story is not clear: Hunter-gatherers in the rainforest with no medical care and 50% infant mortality rates can still raise 6 children, while Americans with college degrees and white collar jobs sincerely believe that they “can’t afford” more than one or two kids.

Today’s Pygmies are not exclusive hunter-gatherers, and probably haven’t been for a while. For starters, there are a lot more people hunting in the DRC these days; farmers are clearing forests for agriculture; the gov’t tries to prevent poaching in national parks; and of course armies occasionally march through the area and shoot a bunch of people. Isaac’s family, when he was young, practiced a mobile lifestyle of working part of the year on local farms and exclusive hunting/gathering during other times. Isaac himself, as an adult, lived permanently in town and had a white-collar job running a pharmacy.

You’re not going to get good numbers on the % of Pygmies in agricultural or white-collar occupations because widespread discrimination against Pygmies guarantees that most of the ones who leave the forest hide their identities and attempt to pass as Bantus. (You might think that the most obvious difference between them would be height, but Isaac says it’s lips–Pygmies have thinner lips, Bantus thicker. Also, Pygmies apparently blink more.)

As I’ve mentioned, the Bantus are relative newcomers to the area, and on the grand scale of human genetics, more closely related to Europeans than to Pygmies, who may be one of the most ancient peoples on Earth. This occurred recently enough that the Pygmies, despite having no written history until perhaps this book, still remember the invasion:

According to our mythology, when the people who are not Pygmies–we call them Bantu–came to Central Africa, they came from the north and found Pymies already there. My own ancestors roamed in the forests from Kahuzi up to Walikale and into the forests of Shabunda. This is where you can find the Kalega Forest. The region is very mountainous and the smaller villages are in deep forest and reachable only on dirt paths.

Bantu from many tribes came into our land centuries ago, but before the seventeenth century nobody could talk about BaTembo people [Isaac’s tribe] for the simple reason that they did not exist. About 400 years ago one of those Bantu men called Katembo came into our land. He was the son of Kifamandu, and probably from the Hunde tribe. Katembo fell in love with a Pygmy woman. (I have never heard her name–BaTembo people only want to remember Katembo, not the name of their Pygmy ancestor, so everyone has forgotten her.)

Isaac describes life in the forest as idyllic, but often motivated by extremely practical concerns:

In 1967 a white mercenary from Belgium, Jean Schramme, and his ‘Leopard Battalion’ advanced along the road near where we were living…

Pygmies know how to live in the forest, so we could always find food and build huts, and we were protected. Normally Pygmies move in and out of the forest, but this time we stayed for a whole year because we were scared of leaving.

Later in the book, Isaac returns to the forest again after narrowly escaping a massacre conducted by an invading army from Rwanda. Wikipedia has information on Jean Schramme:

When the Belgian Congo gained its independence in 1960, the country quickly descended into civil war. Several hundred white people were held hostage, and Belgium sent troops to Congo to free them and to protect its interests. … The rich province of Katanga, soon followed by the eastern part of Kasai were trying to gain independence. … A violent clash between pro-secession and pro-unity movements soon broke out.

In 1965, Colonel Mobutu became president and from then on Belgium started protecting his regime against rebellion. …

On June 30, 1967, president Moise Tshombe of Katanga‘s Jet aircraft was hijacked to Algiers, before he could return to Congo after his exile in Spain. He was imprisoned in Algeria and two years later he died in suspicious circumstances. For Schramme, this was a sign that he was fighting the wrong enemy and on July 3, 1967 he began to lead an uprising in Katanga against Mobutu.

…Jean Schramme’s unit, launched surprise attacks on Stanleyville, Kindu, and Bukavu. … Schramme was able to hold Bukavu for seven weeks and managed to defeat all ANC troops who were sent to retake the town. … Extra forces helped the ANC to finally defeat Schramme on October 29, 1967. The surviving rebel troops fled towards Rwanda.

Schramme died in 1988 in Brazil. Jeremy Dunns has some more interesting information about Schramme and his rebellion in his post, The Real Dogs of War. More information in LBJ & the Congo. Christopher Othen, a non-fiction writer, gives a fantastically interesting summary:

Down in the south, the province of Katanga, a rich mining territory, declared its own independence. The Congo had no intention of allowing the renegade region to secede, and neither did the CIA, the KGB, or the United Nations.

… It was a fantastically uneven battle. The United Nations fielded soldiers from twenty nations, America paid the bills, and the Soviets intrigued behind the scenes. Yet to everyone’s surprise the new nation’s rag-tag army of local gendarmes, superstitious jungle tribesmen, and, controversially, European mercenaries refused to give in.

If he writes this well all of the time, I imagine his book (Katanga 1960-1963: Mercenaries, Spies, and the Nation that Waged War on the World) must be a very good read.

Isaac recounts that the Pygmies also lived in the forest for more mundane reasons:

The Belgians tried to get Pygmies out of the forest and make us live in Bantu villages, so we would become workers. We did not like that! Because of pressure from the Belgians, in the 1940s and 1950s some families moved out of the forest but left their eldest sons behind in the deep forest where the Belgians could not find them. After Congo became independent in 1960 we all went back. …

Life was very social in the forest. The small camps we lived in had about five or six different huts, with about twenty people in each camp, and everyone in the camp was related. …

It took Mum and Dad about four hours to make a hut. If you were careful and made a strong frame, you could make a hut that lasted a year. … Bigger huts might have a wall that created a sleeping space for parents. … There were no chairs or tables. Everyone sat on a log or on the ground. My parents liked living in this kind of hut. Many years later I bought them twenty sheets of iron to cover their roof instead of leaves, but they exchanged it for meat. They were happy with their traditional hut and having assets like iron sheeting was meaningless to them. …

This is an important point: most people like their own culture.

Isaac claims to believe in god, but rejects most religious beliefs on the grounds that they are illogical superstitions. Nevertheless, he relates some of the traditional ones for us:

Event though Pygmies are marginalized, we have a special role in Bantu culture because of our connection to the spirit world. Traditionally Pygmies believed in a creator god who created the forest and everything in it, and that the forest was full of the spirits of ancestors who had died. … Pygmies still have ceremonies when we do various things to make spirits happy, and we perform these ceremonies for Batu as well. For example, before gong hunting, Pygmies might perform a ceremony to help catch something. …

The most important ceremonial roles Pygmies held in Bantu culture were when a mwami was put on the throne and when he died. The Bantu were afraid that if they did not give Pygmies a role in these ceremonies it would anger the ancestral spirits of the land. Bantu believe that ancestral spirits respond better to Pygmies because Pygmies are the people of the forest … When something like a destructive storm happens, BaTembo would ay it was because the spirits were upset that Pygmies were not given a proper role in a ceremony that happened earlier, sometimes years earlier. …

When we want to remember someone who has died, we hold a chioba ceremony that might go for as long as a week… When somebody dies their spirits go to the spirit world, and during the chioba people will dance to call the spirits of that person. When the dead person’s spirits come they enter the dancers, who start to dance in an unusal way…

But back to the forest:

… everything in the forest is about food and everything you find belongs to you. This is how Mama thought. In providing for us she was a good mother because we were never hungry as kids.

Life in the forest is not stressful because there are no people around and stress is brought to you by other people. Happiness in the forest comes when you kill an antelope or if you catch some fish, because you know you will eat–and in Pygmy culture if you kill even one monkey everyone in the village will have a piece. …

When I was a child I was so happy when I found fruit and could eat a lot. If there was no fruit then we would go mushroom picking. … Pygmies collect these fruits and sell them to poeople who live outside the forest, as well as eat it ourselves.

Isaac goes into a bit of detail about all of the different kinds of food they had growing up and how they hunted, providing themselves with everything from grubs to elephants. He also  notes that wearing clothes is inefficient in the forest because they get snagged on branches. Gorillas and chimps, however, were not traditionally on the menu:

Normally Pygmies do not hunt gorillas but this one was bothering them [coming into their camp and destroying their banana trees,] so they decided to kill it. They knew that gorilla were powerful animals. Mama said that if you do not have a brother with you, you should not try to hunt a gorilla because if it grabs you, it will smash you. … If you hunt a gorilla with someone who is not a relative he will run away if it gets hold of you, but if you hunt with a brother he will try to stab the gorilla and carry you home if you are injured.

… the only real enemy of Pygmies in the forest was leopards. If Pygmies met a gorilla we would look at each other then each would go their own way. The same with chimpanzees–we would pass each other in the forest, minding our own business. Chimpanzees and gorillas were not harmful to you because they are not aggressive unless you approach their babies. …

Pygmies were only scared of leopards. Because the walls of our huts are not strong and are only made of leaves, sometimes a leopard would pull sleeping people out and kill them. Mama told me about two or three people who were killed that way.

Back in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (first published in 1939,) Dr. Price, a peripatetic dentist who traveled the world in search of good teeth, noted that Pygmies hunt elephants and leopards hunt Pygmies:

The home life of the pygmies in the jungle is often filled with danger. Just before our arrival two babies had been carried off by a leopard. This stealthy night prowler is one of the most difficult to combat and one of the reasons the pygmies build cabins in the trees.

Perhaps this is why, according to Wikipedia:

Fathers of the Aka tribe [Pygmies from the other side of the DRC] spend more time in close contact to their babies than in any other known society. Aka fathers have their infant within arms reach 47% of the time [5] and make physical contact with them five times as often per day as fathers in some other societies.[3]

Throughout the day, couples share hunting, food preparation, and social and leisure activities. The more time Aka parents spend together, the more frequent the father’s affectionate interaction with his baby.[citation needed] or the more frequent the father’s affectionate interaction with his baby, the more time the Aka parents spend together.

Dad around => less chance of getting eaten by leopards.

(This is why I think it so weird that [some] Americans think it is a good idea to put an infant into a room by itself and then ignore it while it screams. Infants are not rational, thinking creatures who can understand that they’re safe even though it’s dark. They run entirely on instincts, and their instincts tell them that being alone in the dark means they will get eaten by leopards.)

Anyway, here’s another interesting bit, also showing the weird Pygmy-Bantu religious relationship:

In traditional Bantu culture in my area, when a king dies someone must cut off his head and take it for safekeeping to a sacred place in the forest. Bantus have assigned Pygmies responsibilities in this ceremony and it is a Pygmy man who does this. … The muhombe has a powerful magic. He wears a mask, a leopard skin across his chest, a raffia skirt and a necklace made of wild banana seeds and the teeth of a wild boar. He carries his tools in a raffia bag–a few teeth of dead chiefs, and other things to help him communicate with the dead and tell the future. The special place the muhombe protects is called the buhombe. It is very sacred to Pygmies and Bantu, but the Bantu are not allowed to go there. The entire head is placed on a tabernacle int he forest and the muhombe would watch it carefully to see if there are any movements of the skull. … The muhombe cares for the site for thirty or forty yeas, when the role of guardian or caretaker passes to his son. …

The muhombe in the Mafuo Chiefdom traditionally come from my family, and when I was young my father held this role. Bantus said I would have to do this when my father died as I was part of the lineage. I refused … The Bantu then said that as I refused to do it, my sister, Zania, the next in line in my family, would have to carry the muhombe assignment… ‘Carrying the assignment’ meant carrying the next muhombe in her womb. Zania was not supposed to get married because she had to dedicate herself to this assignment, a bit like a nun, but it was all right for her to give birth to the next muhombe.

Unfortunately, Zania died in childbirth and the muhombe-ship transferred to a cousin. Much later in the book, after Isaac and his family have moved to Australia, he reports that:

A few years ago my brother Buhavu sold the land where the Mafuo chiefs are buried, the buhombe hill… There were even some teeth of an old mwami still there. Mama was very upset about him selling this land. Buhavu did not have personal custody of that land and had no right to sell it. … Mama’s dream is to go back to Cong, return the money to the Bantu people who bought that sacred land, and get it back.

Old ways die quickly when there is money to be made.

To be continued…

Southern Election Data

Picture 13

Picture 8

(I divided the spreadsheet so it would fit comfortably on your screen.)

So I got curious about trends in the Southern election data, (see yesterday’s post on Northern election data and last week’s post about my migration/Civil War theory,) thinking to myself that perhaps an opposite trend happened in the South–maybe poor sods who couldn’t catch a break in slavery-dominated states decided to go test their luck on the frontier, leaving behind a remnant population of pro-slavery voters.

Methodology/discussion:

I took as the “South” all of the states south of the Mason-Dixon. This turned out to be incorrect for Delaware and Maryland, which both tended to vote against the Southern states; Delaware, IIRC, voted with Massachusetts more often than “Northern” New Jersey.

The practice of having the legislators rather than citizens vote for president persisted for longer in the South than in the North, especially in SC, which did not have popular voting until after the Civil War; all of SC’s votes here, therefore, come from the legislature.

A “yes” vote means the state voted with the Southern Block during the age before individual vote counts were recorded or the state did not allow individual voting. A “no” vote means the state voted against the Southern Block under the same circumstances.

Originally I had planned on using VA as my touchstone for determining the “Southern” candidates, but VA did not always vote with the rest of the South. So I decided which candidates were the “Southern” ones based primarily on how badly they polled in MA.

A few of the elections had some weird anomalies.

Four candidates ran in the 1824 election. Only one of them was popular in NE, so that was easy, but the other three each won electors in the South, which resulted in the election being decided by the House of Representatives. In this case, Jackson carried most of the Southern states, but not VA or KY, so I decided to count only votes for Jackson.

In 1832, SC decided to cast all of its votes for the “Nullification” (State’s Rights) party. Since “States Rights” is the more polite form of Civil War grievances, I decided to count this as SC voting in line with pro-slavery interests, even though it was not in line with the other Southern states.

In 28 and 32, the states of Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama seem unsure how this “voting” thing works, and returned unanimous or near votes for their chosen candidates. Many Northern states also had anomalously high percents in those yeas, IIRC, so this may not be voter fraud so much as everyone just feeling like they ought to vote for the same guy.

In 1836, the Whigs ran four candidates in hopes of throwing the election to the House again, resulting in a fragmented Southern block. I counted all Whig candidates as part of the MA/Puritan side, and so give here the vote percents for Van Buren, the Democratic candidate.

In 1856, the Whig party had disintegrated, and two parties took its place. The Republicans, soon to be very famously anti-slavery, emerged in the North but do not appear to have run at all in the South; I don’t think they were even on the Southern ballots. In the South, an anti-immigrant/nativist party sprang up to balance the Democrats. It won few states, but performed well overall. I couldn’t decide whether to count the Democrats or the nativists as the more pro-South / pro-slavery party, so I wrote down both %s, Dems first and then nativists.

This oddity persists in 1860, when again the Republicans do not appear to have even been on the Southern ballots. The Democrats split in two, with one candidate running in the North against Lincoln, and another candidate running in the South on an explicitly pro-slavery platform, against the the “pro-union” party whose main platform was opposing the civil war. The Union party polled decently throughout the South–taking VA, KY, and Tenn.–but received very low %s in the North. The North, it appears, was not as concerned with trying to stop the Civil War as Virginia was.

Conclusions:

The data does not support my suspicion that less-slavery-minded people moved out of the Southern states. In fact, the most ardently pro-slavery, pro-secession states were Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas, who also happen to be the last 5 Southern states admitted to the Union, with last but not least Texas outstripping them all at 75%. In that same election, Virginia, the first Southern state, voted for the pro-union party.

So it looks like the same pattern appears here as in the Northern data: more conservative people have moved Westward.

However, the %s voting for the Southern candidates held fairly steady once the era of unanimous voting ended. Georgia, for example, went from 48% 1836 in to 49% in 1860. Mississippi went from 59% to 59%. VA hovered around 55%-50% until the last election. So I don’t see any clear trend of coastal states becoming more liberal over time, aside from maybe VA.

Pre-Civil War Election Results by State

Picture 11
Simplified version
Picture 10
Detailed version

I wanted to see if I could find any evidence in support of the theory I discussed the other day that emigration of more “conservative” folks from the Northern East Coast toward the American West left behind an increasingly liberal population that became increasingly concerned about slavery.

I decided to use election results as the easiest way to gauge relative “liberal”ness over time. If the theory is correct, we ought to see an increase in the % of the vote going to “liberal” candidates over time on the Northern East Coast, and a lower % of the vote going to “liberal” candidates in the western areas settled by former East-Coasters.

Since the theory does not concern itself with the behavior of Southern voters, I ignored them completely and only looked at election results for states north of the Mason-Dixon.

Ideally, I’d also look at Congressional elections, but I decided that focusing on Presidential elections would let me quickly get a general idea of whether or not I had a potentially viable idea.

Some notes:

The first difficulty in compiling this data was deciding who the “liberal” candidates were. I eventually decided to dispense with the notion entirely (see Friday’s grumbling on the subject of whether the Puritans or Jamestown settlers were more “liberal.”) Rather, there is a very clear pattern in the data of Massachusetts and Virginia voting for different parties; MA and the other Puritan states tend to vote together, while VA and the rest of the South tend to vote together. Taken over the long haul, the voting pattern looks more like two ethnically-based parties than two ideologically based parties. Since I am not interested here in some Platonic ideal of “liberalness”, but merely the ideas that prompted the Northern attitudes toward the Civil War, I decided to regard whichever party was dominant in MA (the most consistently anti-whoever-won-VA state) as the “liberals.”

I’ve ordered the states by year of settlement for the original colonies and year of entry to the US for the rest.

There’s no data on popular votes for most states prior to 1824, mostly because most states didn’t have popular voting back then. These elections I have marked merely “Yes” or “No” for “voted for the Puritan candidate” or “voted against the Puritan candidate.”

There’s a period of mass agreement that affected most–but not quite all–of the states until about 1832. The election of 1820, for example, was nearly unanimous–only one elector chose to vote against James Monroe. This I suspect has more to do with the whole country being relatively novel (and early elections lacking popular voting,) rather than mass Puritan or anti-Puritan sentiment.

Starting in 1840, third parties with anti-slavery platforms appeared on the scene and quickly grew in significance. These parties polled pretty much zero outside of the North. The “detailed” dataset gives both the main party’s total and the third party’s totals; the “simplified” set only shows the composite total. (Since it I’ve been working on this very late at night, I hope the math is all correct, but if you find an error, I’d appreciate knowing about it.) I regard the emergence of these third parties as evidence of further leftward movement of the voting public.

The third party polled particularly well in 1848 due to having a very popular candidate; this should not be seen as evidence that the party itself was as popular as it looks in ’48. Likewise, 1836 had a very unpopular candidate.

Interestingly, this period also saw the emergence of a very small fourth party in the North devoted to opposing immigration. I regard these as local “conservative” parties and so didn’t include them in the graph.

Several states are “border states” that received significant migration from both the North and the South; they should be considered accordingly.

Conclusions:

The data looks tentatively favorable to the theory.

If we ignore the period of mass agreement, MA’s support of the Puritan candidate goes from 47% to 62% between 1832 and 1860.

NY holds fairly steady (perhaps because NY is a large enough state that many of its migrants stayed within the state,) but increases from 48% to 54%.

RI: 50% to 61%

Conn holds mostly steady, but increases a bit, from 55% to 58%.

NH: 43% to 57%

New Jersey, a border state, went from 49% to 48%. (Though it was 42% in 1824.)

Pennsylvania, interestingly, did not vote with MA at the beginning, but consistently voted against it. In 1832, it appears that the Puritan candidate wasn’t even on the Pennsylvania ballot. Generously ignoring 1832, Penn makes a remarkable rise from 12% in 1824 to 56% in 1860.

VT: 35% to 76%

Ohio did not originally vote with the North; it went from 25% in 1824 to 52% in 1860.

Indi: 19% in 1824 to 51% in 1860.

Il: 32% in 1824 to 51% in 1860.

ME, formerly part of MA, follows the general coastal New England pattern of mass agreement in the early yeas, then goes from 44% in 1832 to 62% in 1860.

Missouri also seems to have not run the Puritan candidate in 1832, but otherwise went from 4% in 1824 to 44% in 1852, then dropped down to 0% and 10% in the final two elections–most likely due to confusion and campaign difficulties after the Whig party dissolved and the Republicans took their place, rather than a sudden massive shift in attitudes.

Michigan went from 46% in 1836 to 57% in 1860.

Iowa: 50% in 1848 to 54% in 1860.

Wisconsin: 62% in 1848, then down to 57% in 1860.

CA: 47% in 1852, then down to 42 % in 1860.

Minn: 63%

OR: 36%

In the 1860 election, the Puritan candidate polled above 60% in MA, RI, VT, ME, and Minn. Four of those are old Puritan states, and I think Minn is full of Scandinavians.

Puritans polled below 55% in NY (those Dutch!) Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa (all Midwest states,) below 50% in NJ (border state,) and Missouri (both a border state and probably a fluke,) and below 40% in the most Western states, CA and OR.

Thus I conclude that we see a general trend in most of the Eastern states toward increasing support for the Puritan candidate, while the more Western states, despite their Puritan transplants, showed much less (sometimes decreasing) support.

 

Did Westward Expansion Cause the Civil War?

Mass migrations have probably been among the great selective events of human history. The Ostsiedlung, for example, selected for German citizens who were well-disciplined, hard working, good planners, and probably quick to defend their land holdings from others. Overall, Germans descended from the folks who participated in the Ostsiedlung appear to be more likely to join or vote for far-right political parties, be Neo-Nazis, or otherwise engage in “far right subcultures.”

(Here is a map for you:

NPD = German far-right political party
NPD = German far-right political party)

In Jayman’s discussion of the Pioneer Hypothesis, he notes:

“The Whites in the U.S. have a much higher TFR than most any European country. As well, Europeans overall are much further to the Left than Americans. I became interested in this when I noted that most of the ethnic groups of Americans—particularly the ones away from urban areas—seem far more to the Right than their brethren in the Old Countries. …

“Particularly interesting is the conservative nature of huge swaths of the Midwest and the Upper Plains/Mountain West. These places, while receiving some settlers ultimately originating from the Anglo-Scottish border regions and other Scotch-Irish (the same people who settled Appalachia), are also suffused with large numbers of other Europeans, such Germans and Scandinavians, people who today aren’t exactly known to be raving right-wingers. …

Liberals are concentrated in old-colonial states, in places without much space to expand into. The reddest states on the other hand are areas with wide open stretches of land. … We can see what by looking the fertility rates of liberal (and sparsely populated) northern New England. The U.S. states of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire have plenty of land and low land values, but aren’t very fecund. … The population in upper New England is largely composed of the original colonial stock; they lost their fast-breeding inklings long ago…”

Jay hypothesizes that the cities produce liberals, ie,

“Liberal-minded people (and by extension, slow-breeders in general, when Eastern Europe and East Asia are also considered) descend from people who have stayed put for generations—or at the very least, never moved into previously empty lands. Under such conditions—which, prior to industrialization was Malthusian—rapid breeders were not favored. Rather efficient competitors—those who maximize their resources before starting a family—were selected for.”

And that the countryside produces conservatives, ie,

“The early colonist came and spread across the land very quickly, easily displacing the earlier inhabitants. … The rapid increase of a population when it moves into an area that it did not previously inhabit sounds like a great opportunity for evolution by natural selection to work its magic.

“When new land is abundant, and “family formation” is relatively easy, which types of individuals are selected for? Yup, those who married young and had lots of children (the fairly harsh and physically demanding nature of the American frontier ensured that paternal investment needed to remain high, such that stable marriage was important). In short, people who are “family oriented” are selected for.”

I propose a complementary hypothesis:

Migration is more appealing to conservatives than to liberals, so major migrations result in conservatives self-sorting into frontier areas, while liberals are left behind.

Further, this sorting event may trigger a “run away” effect: as people find themselves in an environment that seems increasingly liberal (or conservative,) due to all of the conservatives (or liberals) leaving, they shift their own political opinions to better agree with the consensus or perhaps maintain their own self image as more liberal than others, leading the group to shift increasingly liberal (or conservative.)

Notice an inconsistency in Jay’s theory that he himself admits: low fertility in rural Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. If open land itself selects for higher fertility, then even a population whose ancestors were liberals ought, over time, to become more fecund. But if the conservatives have simply left these areas for Kansas, leaving the liberals behind, then we might expect to find liberals in Maine and conservatives in Kansas.

Likewise, colonization of the US may have involved the more conservative elements migrating from Europe to the US, leaving behind a more liberal Europe compared to the new colonies. Since this is a post that’s ultimately supposed to be about the Civil War, let’s use slavery as an example issue.

France abolished slavery in its overseas colonies in 1794 (it had been illegal in mainland France since the 1300s,) though this was violently opposed by the colonists and slavery was re-instituted until 1848, (Haiti obviously excepted.)

In 1783, the British began agitating against slavery; by 1799, Britain abolished the enslavement of Scottish coal miners and salters. (An act passed in 1606 had enslaved them.) The slave trade was abolished in 1807, and in 1833, slavery was formally abolished throughout their empire.

Spain, (a major colonizer earlier than Britain or France,) attempted to outlaw slavery in its colonies in 1542, but this was never enforced throughout most of their territory due to colonialist opposition. Slavery was eventually abolished throughout most of Latin America during the 1810-1820s Independence Wars, but it persisted for a few decades more in a few places, and wasn’t abolished until 1873 in Puerto Rico, 1886 in Cuba, and 1888 in Brazil. (Brazil wasn’t a Spanish colony, of course.)

On to the US!

It’s no secret that the bulk New England’s colonists happened to be more liberal than the bulk of the South’s, and by 1804, slavery was illegal throughout the North. This may overstate the North’s position, however, as the anti-slavery laws came only gradually into effect.

While slavery remained legal in the South until 1865 (and who knows how long it would have stayed legal had the North not intervened,) many Southerners had begun voluntarily freeing their slaves. By 1810, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware had substantial freedman populations, with Delaware in the lead with 75% of their slaves free. Estimates of the total number of free blacks on the eve of the Civil War vary from 488 thousand (or 11% of the total black population of the US,) to 1.5 million (or 34%). (I suspect the discrepancy is due to different definitions of “free.”)

I have heard some speculation that, had the North not intervened, the South would have eventually given up slavery on its own, much like Brazil. Certainly this fits with the generalized pattern across the Western world, but I have no evidence at my disposal to support (or contradict) the idea.

Regardless, I do know that the attitude in the North toward abolitionism changed radically between 1800 and 1860.

In the early 1800s, Northern views on the abolitionists in their midst ranged from “Kind of weird” to “Kill them with fire,” as graphically illustrated by the time white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison was nearly murdered by an angry mob in Boston, MA:

“In the fall of 1835, a mob of several thousand surrounded the building housing Boston’s anti-slavery offices, where Garrison had agreed to address a meeting of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society after the fiery British abolitionist George Thompson was unable to keep his engagement with them. The mayor and police persuaded the women to leave the building, but when the mob learned that Thompson was not within, it began yelling for Garrison with cries for his lynching or tar and feathering. The mayor managed to sneak Garrison and an assistant out a window, but the mob pursued, captured him, tied a rope around his waist, and dragged him through the streets of Boston. The sheriff rescued Garrison from lynching by arresting him and taking him to the Leverett Street Jail for his own protection.” (Wikipedia.)

By the late 1850s, private citizens in the North were raising money to fund John Brown’s eventual bloody raid on Harper’s Ferry; by 1861, the North collectively decided it was worth killing at least 260,000 Southerners (the vast majority of whom did not even own slaves) and sacrificing at least 365,000 of their own people to end slavery in the South. Estimates of total Civil War deaths range from 625,000–850,000, in exchange for the freedom of 3 to 4 million people.

And by 1870, African Americans were given the right to vote.

Other than the printing press, what caused this radical shift in attitudes?

The other big thing going on in America at the time was Westward Expansion.

Between 1607 and 1776, Americans didn’t even settle the entirety of of the 13 Colonies:

Zone of American settlement circa 1776
Zone of American settlement circa 1776

The western portions of New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, etc., were still under Indian control. But with the end of British control, settlement expanded rapidly. A mere 55 years later, the territory had more than doubled:

Zone of American settlement circa 1820
Zone of American settlement circa 1820

By 1822, Americans were swarming into Mexico, soon to be known as Texas.

Interestingly, here’s how the Wikipedia describes the circumstances:

“Hoping that more settlers would reduce the near-constant Comanche raids, Mexican Texas liberalized its immigration policies to permit immigrants from outside Mexico and Spain.[74] Under the Mexican immigration system, large swathes of land were allotted to empresarios, who recruited settlers from the United States, Europe, and the Mexican interior. The first grant, to Moses Austin, was passed to his son Stephen F. Austin after his death.

“Austin’s settlers, the Old Three Hundred, made places along the Brazos River in 1822.[75] Twenty-three other empresarios brought settlers to the state, the majority of whom were from the United States.[75][76] The population of Texas grew rapidly. In 1825, Texas had about 3,500 people, with most of Mexican descent.[77] By 1834, the population had grown to about 37,800 people, with only 7,800 of Mexican descent.[78]” (Emphasis added)

In 1830, Mexico attempted to halt American immigration to Texas; in 1835, the Texicans revolted. California also began receiving American settlers in the 1820s, and quickly followed a similar path.

Zone of American settlement circa 1835
Zone of American settlement circa 1835

By 1848, Mexico had lost half its territory to the US, officially opening up almost the entire continental US to American settlement. By 1861, California Oregon, Texas, and Kansas had become official states, not just territories:

 

American states in 1861
American states in 1861

Let’s take a closer look at this map.

Red = States that seceded before April 15, 1861

Light Red = States that seceded after April 15, 1861

Yellow = States that stayed in the Union, even though they permitted slavery

Blue = Union states where slavery was illegal.

I don’t know what’s up with Kentucky, but Missouri had significant populations of both Southerners and Northerners. Maryland and Delaware, as we’ve discussed, were already well on their way toward ending slavery when the war broke out, and were basically occupied by Union troops, anyway, due to their proximity to DC.

The difficulty of this sort of map is that it only shows the territorial borders of the states, rather than the population densities; parts of West Texas today probably have a lower population density than many parts of the non-state territories on this map. Regardless, the nation had expanded quite a bit in the <100 years since independence, and seems to have been expanding faster in the North than in the South.

At the same time as Northerners were leaving the coast in droves, more immigrants, eg Irish and Germans, were arriving from Europe. The Germans were particularly selected for liberalness, being the losers of the 1848 rebellions against the German government; Thomas Edison’s father was a refugee from a failed Canadian independence bid.

In sum, I propose that Westward Migration in the 1800s drew disproportionately from the East Coast’s more conservative folks–the guys most likely to drag an abolitionist through the streets and tar and feather him–thus leaving behind a population of more liberal folks. This caused a radical shift in the ideas being discussed in the North as there were simply fewer pro-slavery arguments to be heard, and public consensus therefore shifted suddenly leftward.

“But wait,” I hear you saying, “Didn’t the South expand Westward, too? Why didn’t that cause the South to go liberal?”

A few factors:

  1. The South started out more conservative than the North, so even if it did become more liberal over time, it still would not have become as liberal as the North.
  2. The South probably received fewer liberal Germans and Canadians, though don’t cite me on that because I know a lot of Germans settled in Texas.
  3. The South is really inhospitable, especially to whites:

1280px-World_map_2004_CIA_large_1.7m_whitespace_removed

Take a good look. Houston is on the same latitude as Cairo. North Carolina is at the same latitude as Tunisia. Florida is down by Western Sahara. Even Washington, DC, is only at the latitude of Spain, southern Italy, Greece, and Turkey.

Most Southerners hail from places too far north to even show up on this map. To get to London,’s latitude, you’d have to go to the northern tip of Newfoundland, Canada. For Scotland, you’d have to go to Labrador.

Whites did not thrive in the South. It was really hot, swampy, and full of diseases they had no immunity to, like Malaria and Yellow Fever, which arrived with the African slaves and quickly spread. The population was suffering widespread malnutrition due to inadequate, improperly prepared food and parasites like Necator Americanus, “American Killer”, aka hookworms, which also came over with the slaves. When people finally figured out what was causing all the anemia and began eradicating hookworms, they discovered that about 40% of Southern children were infected.

Since these diseases were endemic to Africa, their effect on the black population was less devastating; it’s no wonder that the Scottish and Scotch-Irish settlers in the South migrated up into the cooler regions of the Appalachians and stayed there, leaving the low-lying areas open for black settlement.

As a result, the Southern economy and population grew very slowly, especially compared to the North. It has only been since the invention of air conditioning that much of the South has become remotely inhabitable by whites; Houston, Texas, would be nothing but a speck of dust on the map if it weren’t for AC.

The North, by contrast, had an abundance of land at its disposal that wasn’t riddled with malaria-infested swamps, and so could expand quickly.

So not only was the South not expanding as quickly as the North, Southern whites really did see themselves as at a biological disadvantage to blacks, who did not suffer as much from the Southern diseases and heat.

4. As a result, obviously, the Southern economy was actually more tied up in slavery than the Northern economy, where it had never been as big a factor and the long winters gave the environmental upper hand more to whites, and it is obviously going to take longer for attitudes to shift in a place where eliminating slavery going to be a big deal than in a place were there weren’t a whole lot of slaves to start with.

So environmental factors basically colluded to dampen an effects of Western migration in the South while the North expanded freely, leading to an acceleration in political changes in the Northern cities, resulting in a sudden willingness to go to war over the issue.

Why an African Parasite got named “American Killer”

The humble-but disgusting hookworm’s scientific name is “Necator americanus”–American Killer. (Actually, there are  several hookworm species, but if you live in the US, this is the one to worry aboutt.)

This parasite, like many others, originated in sub-Saharan Africa, where it still infects about 200 million people. East Asia has another 150 million infected.

Each worm lays lays 9,000 to 10,000 eggs per day in your bowels. You helpfully “deposit” these eggs–prior to indoor plumbing, somewhere on the ground. The eggs hatch, and a week later, the baby worms are ready to burrow their way into the foot of any poor sod unlucky enough to step on them.

The babies go into your bloodstream, burrow into your lungs and throat, and then get coughed and swallowed down into your guts, where they make themselves comfortable, drinking your blood and laying more eggs.

Each individual worm only sucks a drop of blood per day, but no one has just one worm; your intestines soon fill with thousands of the bastards.

One of the interesting side effects of horrible infections and diseases is that, given enough exposure, a population will eventually evolve some sort of immunity. Sickle Cell Anemia, while imperfect, is one such adaptation, rendering some folks in malaria-prone regions less susceptible to the disease. People who do not have these adaptations are easy prey for the disease; so Smallpox, vicious murderer of Europeans, tore through native communities like an atomic bomb, killing some 90% of everyone it got near.

So when some idiot had the bright idea to import slaves from Sub-Saharan Africa, not only did millions of humans suffer and die, but Necator americanus jumped the Atlantic and found a new, less resistant host to infect. Poor southern whites, barefoot and often malnourished (un-nixtamalized corn is a culprit here), became unwitting hosts for an organism against which they had no defenses.

No one knew what was going on. The germ theory of disease hadn’t been developed, and no one was autopsying “white trash” kids when they died.

Historian Thomas D. Clark claims, “By modern American Standards of physical, mental, and moral fitness… more than half of the Johnny Rebs who shelled the woods at Shiloh, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, or stood with Pemberton at Vicksburg, might have been kept at home. No one can say how much Pellagra and hookworm helped to sustain the union.” (Quoted in “Parasites: Tales of Humanity’s Most Unwelcome Guests,” by Rosemary Drisdelle.)

A later de-worming campaign in the South (after the parasite was discovered) estimated that 40% of children (of both races, I assume) were infected.

The hookworm turned against the Union, though. As Driselle describes, it passed from infected Southerners to Northerners in the horrifying conditions of the POW camps.

At Andersonville, 13,000 people died of starvation, malnutrition, and disease. Driselle estimates that a third were felled by hookworms, but it is hard to imagine that anyone forced to drink Andersonville’s feces-laden stagnant water would have escaped infection.

It was only in the 1880s and 90s that people started putting together the hookworm infection pieces; in the early 1900s, hookworm eradication campaigns started in the American south. (Tips: Wear shoes; Poop in a toilet.) The parasite that had taken down so many Americans was thus formally dubbed the American Killer, Necator americanus, a great anti-disease naming move if I ever saw one, though not quite as great as the bee parasite, Varroa destructor. I mean, do you want something called V. destructor infecting your bees? Obviously not!

(Seriously, who names a disease AIDS? That makes it sound helpful. Should have named it MURDER disease or something like that.)

Hookworm eradication had notable effects on things like health, school performance, and not dying, which is almost always a good thing. (About that time we also figured out that you can’t live on a 100% corn diet for very long.)

 

From time to time, people ungracefully express their dislike of others in terms fear of disease, describing foreigners as “dirty” or otherwise infectious. While such sentiments are crude and insulting, the fact remains that even the most wonderful of strangers may in fact be carrying diseases to which you have no immunity. And with diseases, like devils, better the disease your ancestors might have survived than one they didn’t.