On Being a Redneck
So in the interest of that, thought I might explain what rednecks are all about. And no it is not what you think. The term has become one that means ignorant backwards and can it not be more obvious? Racist.
Before I explain the origin of the word redneck and just because I can, the origin of the word hillbilly, let me state that I am a redneck. You might be too, and not even realize it.
Allow me to start at the beginning, this is a somewhat long story, but one that I, at least, find fascinating. I do so because it eventually had far reaching consequences for the history of this country.
The origins of the word come from the Scottish Convenanters, who were largely from the lowlands of Scotland. Let's tell their story.
In the year of our Lord 1559 John Knox returned to Scotland from Switzerland, where he had been listening to and absorbing the theology of John Calvin. At the time Knox visited with Calvin in Geneva Knox was an ordained Roman Catholic Priest, yet Knox having had some personal experience through a friend of the political aims of kings and church (look it up) felt it necessary to think of reformation. Calvin is considered the second great reformer after Martin Luther. The thoughts and reforms that Calvin brought to what became Protestantism infuses modern America as much as it did at it's founding. If interested please take the time to look it up.
By the time Knox returned to Scotland he was determined to reform the church there. At the time Perth had become primarily Protestant already, and storm clouds were brewing with the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise who was Catholic, over it. Mary of Guise was also French, and French troops were brought into Scotland to assist her in the religious battles. In 1560 the Protestants signed a treaty with England that promised English help to rid Scotland of the French troops, and Mary of Guise was then forced into the position of having to sign a the treaty of Edinburgh in which the Queen Regent agreed to remove the French Troops.
Not too long after this occured the Queen Regent died and Mary, Queen of Scots ascended to the throne of Scotland. Mary, along with her husband Francis of France and several Scots nobles did not see the treaty as allowing the Scottish Parliment as being able to establish a national religion, but John Knox and his protestants did. Within a few months of the Queen Regent's death John Knox and his collaborators drew up the Confession of Faith. The Scottish Parliment ratified the Confession of Faith, which effectively made Scotland a reformed nation. A new Protestant faith with the face of Calvin was in place.
However that did not end the battles. When Mary and Francis were informed of the ratification, Francis sent a letter back to the parliment expressing his disappoint with what had occured and in that letter stated that he would sending delegates from France a "true" parliment with the aim of setting the matter straight. This was not good news to the Protestants who knew Francis, a Catholic, was a sworn enemy of the Protestant face. It is necessary to understand that while Mary was called Queen of Scots, she had resided in France and Francis had resided in Scotland. In the late 1560 Francis died and Mary found it necessary to return to Scotland.
In 1561 Mary returned to Scotland, she did not want to go and a good many of the Scottish people did not want her to come there either. There were constant underhanded battles that Mary fought to bring Scotland back into the Catholic religion. Knox had the support of the Burgesses and Lairds (the more common people) while the Lords and Nobles tended to support Mary. Even those Lords and Nobles who supported John Knox out of religious conviction often would not do so against the Queen fearing retaliation.
Numerous times the Queen summoned Knox because of things he said in sermons that angered her, after a sermon that was taken from Isaiah, used to demonstate that political authority was derived from God and warned those who persecuted the church of Christ misused that authority. By the time of this serman Mary had remarried Lord Darnley. They called Knox before them and the Queen forbade him to preach anymore. However the Edinburgh Burgh stepped in and issued a statement in favor of Knox and Mary wish to silence him was frustrated. In the end however, it was Mary's own actions that sealed her fate.
Her husband, Lord Darnley was murdered and Mary ran off with the suspected killer, the Earl of Bothwell. Bothwell was able to escape to the North, but Mary was forced to surrender. She was then imprisioned at Lockleven Castle and forced to abdict the throne in 1567. Her son, James, was then appointed to the crown with a James Stewart, Earl of Moray as regent. Under Moray the Scottish Parliment was called again, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland was finally made established by law. However Moray used the Protestant church as a means to continue his political ascendacy and he made enough enemies that he was assassinated in 1570. Mary also managed to escape her prison and even though she was imprisoned in England by Queen Elizabeth, her cousin, she was a constant threat to the Presbyterian Church and the stability of Scotland.
When James was crowned King of Scotland he was but 13 months old. The sermon at his coronation was preached by John Knox. His father dead and his mother imprisoned he never knew either. He was raised by tutors, the most influential of which was George Buchanan, a staunch Calvinist. In this manner James was brought up a Protestant.
At the age of 19 James began to rule Scotland, Mary had been executed two years prior in 1587 by England's Queen Elizabeth for her part in an assassination plot to kill Elizabeth. In 1603 James became King James the first in England as the closest relative of Elizabeth, and remained King James VI of Scotland. This is when Scotland and England became united.
It is also necessary to understand that Scotland itself was nearly two different nations, at least in terms of culture. The highlanders clung to their Jacobite (Catholic) faith despite an ongoing attempt by James to convert them to the Protestant faith. The highlanders also clung to their Gaelic language. The lowlanders were by this time strongly Presbyterians and used the English language. Perhaps it was the battles to have their faith that caused the Prebyterians to be very unyielding in their religion, as Calvin was, they were bible literalists, felt graven images such as the cruxifix were an abomination, were suspicious of Christmas and refused to celebrate Easter. The Prebyterians of today's America have little in common with the Presbyterians of Scotland of 1603.
James often came into conflict with the Scottish Kirks (heads of the Presbyterian church) as he asserted what he considered his divine right of kings which he believed superseded the civil authority of the Kirks. The Kirks believed that to be untrue. In 1581, under Queen Elizabeth Roman Catholicism was outlawed, the church of England established under Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII was not only now the national church, but no one was allowed to practice the Catholic religion in England. This was made complete when Protestantism was adopted by the General Assembly and signed into law by James in 1637. Though James had been the King of Scotland before King of England he did not care for Scotland and only visited there once in the years he was King of both countries between 1603 and 1625. He wished to bring the culture of Scotland as well as the divine rule of Kings into line with that of England. In this he was not successful.
When James died in 1625 his son Charles ascended to the throne. He adopted the policies of his father and much more. Charles disliked Prebyterianism for both it's denial in the Divine Rights of Kings as well as their austure and strict form of Protestantism. He made a very controversial move by proposing that the Scots Church come in line with the Anglican church and attempted to force the issue by demanding the Scots church adopt Episcopacy and the Book of Common Prayer. This outraged the lowland Scots, and when King Charles ordered the new liturgy to be read July 23rd 1637 at St. Giles Church in Edinburgh, many were already spoiling for a fight. The Prebyterians saw the liturgy as more Catholic than Protestant, something the Prebyterians were not going to allow.
Tradition has it that as the liturgy began a woman named Jenny Geddes stood up and threw her stool at the Dean's head, this act then erupting into a general melee. Though some believe it was a spontaneous act, evidence points to it being planned well in advance. The service ended up having to be cancelled.
On Feb. 28th 1638 The National Convenant was produced on behalf of the Church of Scotland. This was essentially an anti-papist declaration and a reaffirmation of the Confession of Faith done by John Knox in 1560. Thousands showed up in Edinburgh to sign it, some in their own blood with many then putting bits or neckerchiefs of red around their necks to signify they were willing to lose their "necks" over their faith. The declaration was placed on public display in Greyfriers Church, Edinburgh. The declaration was also circulated throughout the country with thousands more signing on, it was supported by not only the Kirks but also by the Scottish nobility, putting them and the country of Scotland in direct opposition and conflict with King Charles. Those who wore the red around their necks became known as rednecks. This however is not the end of the story, for these people had yet to come to America.
In 1639 Charles went to war against Scotland. The war was not well supported by the English nobles and Charles ended up with no money to fight his war. This led to the Pacification of Berwick-which granted the Scots parlimentary and ecclesiatical freedoms.
In 1640 what became to be called the Second Bishops war commenced, as Charles once again attacked Scotland. Ill prepared and again underfunded Charles ended up having to flee and the Scots overran the whole of Northumberland and the county Newburn. A very large amount of Northern England, and an area of which some of my own ancestors came from. Charles had to leave the two areas in the Scots hands as a pledge for the payment for the Scots expenses when he agreed to the Peace and signed the Treaty of Ripon in Oct. 1640.
The area of the borders of England and Scotland did not just suffer from the consequences of religous wars either. For years prior to the two wars that Charles provoked the Border Rievers (Robbers) had the area in a constant state of upheaval and raiding. It is a mistake to think of clans just in the Highlands of Scotland. They existed in the lowlands as well. The clans raided into England, sometimes into Scotland and frequently against one another. They raided for cattle and for sheep as well as what other things they could get their hands on. Many of the Border Rievers were not Scottish, but also English, while nominally from either country their loyalites were that of a clan, and the families were on both sides of the borders.
When James became King of both England and Scotland he determined that he was going to put an end to the Rievers. Between 1610 and the 1630's he made a diligent effort, hanging many of the leaders but shipping many more off to Northern Ireland. The premise being that he could take care of his border problems as well as establishing a Protestant bulkhead into Catholic Northern Ireland. The Border areas tended to be poor and hunger was not an uncommon occurance, the raiding was as much as survival tactic as it was a clan activity. Ireland had become part of English Lands under Henry VIII, and the movement of people from the lowlands of Scotland to Northern Ireland became known as the Plantation of Ireland.
The opportunity for James to "plant" Ireland came when the Irish Earls fled Ireland leaving the whole of Tyrone and Donegal and half of Fernanagh liable to seizure. The confiscation of virtually all non-church lands in counties Tyrone, Armagh(where another branch of my family immigrated from) Fermanagh, Donegal, Cavan and Coleroine meant much of the province of Ulster was available to the crown. More information on the particulars of this are available by a search on the plantation of Ireland.
Even though the Plantation idea was not new, a small planting done by Queen Elizabeth prior, James is the one who made it happen in large amounts and it is to James the Plantation of Ireland is given to.
So when King Charles was defeated in 1640 in the Second Bishops war there was already a large amount of Scots Prebyterians who had already been moved into Northern Ireland. The conditions on the borders had driven many into raiding, but with more good farm land in Ireland most became more settled yet the close knit clannish behavior continued as well as a firm belief in not simply Protestantism but in the Scots Prebyterian form.
In 1643 Charles was ousted in a horrid bloody civil war in which he was beheaded. The forces of Oliver Cromwell and the Parlimentarins the winners. Cromwell agreed to Prebyterianism to be the religion of both England and Scotland, anxious to make allies of the Convenanters, against the still dangerous forces of the crown. Essentially a marriage of convenience a treaty of "Solemn League and Convenant" was formed. Though the Church of Scotland became supreme, England was basicly an occupied country under the severe rule of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell died in 1658 and in 1660, Charles II was fully restored to the throne. Prior to the death of Cromwell he advanced Scottish and English Protestant immigration into Northern Ireland by offering land there to those who had fought in lieu of pay. Many took him up on the offer.
Shortly after Charles II, Charles I son, regained the throne, he passed an act that forced the people to recognize him as the supreme authority of civil and Ecclesiastical matters. The church of Scotland rejected this and entered into a period of severe persecution for twenty eight long years, until 1688.
In 1661 the National Convenant was reputiated. The following year Charles own Bishops and curates were appointed to Scottish Churches. 400 nonconforming ministers were ejected from their parishes. At first it was tolerated by authorities for the ministers to preach in private homes, barns and open area arenas, however it soon became clear that the Scottish people were resolved to do this and refuse to attend Episcopal services. The first attempt to limit attendence of these services came in 1663 and by 1670 attendence was a treasonable act, and preaching at one a capitol offense. At this time it is worth noting that because of the pressures put on the Presbyterian Church at this time, the Kirks began putting a premium on congregation members who could read. It was felt to be of the utmost importance that they could then be able to read the bible so they could attend to their Christian duties even if a minister were not available, and because it was felt the common people did not need a Priest to interpert the words of God to them. Because of this Scots Kirks policy by the late 1600's nearly 70% of the Scottish people were literate, well beyond the literacy of England or any continential European country.
As things progressed even attending a service was a capital offense. The history of these times are laden with wanton bloodshed and horrific killings. I will not dwell on them. Suffice it to say if caught away from home with a bible in your hand was enough for authorities to believe that one was attending the forbidden services, then death came where you stood. Thousands of Catholic Highlander soldiers were brought in by the crown in the attempt to pacify the lowland Prebyterians, again the stories are horrific. Little did the highlanders know that in less than a century the clearances would come to them.
By 1680 Charles II had died. He was succeeded by his brother James II. Raised in France he was a ardent Catholic, as well as an ardent supporter of the Divine Rights of Kings. He was determined to eradicate the Prebyterians. By the time James II ascended the throne more lowland Prebyterians had immigrated to Ireland, a place that meant more safety than their homes in Scotland. Though occasional flareups of violence between Catholic and Protestant occured there, it was nothing in comparison to what was happening in the lowland moors of Scotland.
Under James II the Killing Times occured. I cannot be positive yet, but it is near these times that my own Scots family immigrated from Scotland to county Armagh in Ireland. In time James II Catholicism became a problem for even those in England, as he placed Catholic officials into government and attempted to take England back to Catholicism, in the spring of 1688 he ordered for his Declaration of Indulgence read from every Anglican pulpit, suspending the penal code for Catholics. The birth of an heir fueled fears of a new English Catholic dynasty, those fears confirmed when the heir was baptised into the Catholic faith.
At the end of June 1688, a group of peers made a fateful decision. They invited James II son in law, William Prince of Orange, to "defend the liberties of England" William, married to Mary daughter of James II, was a Dutch born Prince. He was also a Protestant. In November he landed at Torbay, at the head of an army of some 15,000. He cleverly did not make any pronouncements regarding the crown, he simply said he was coming to England to make it save for Protestantism. With massive desertions James II was forced to flee.
In the bid though to keep his crown James II raised an Irish army. They meant at the Battle of the Boyne, perhaps the most famous Irish battle. When James was forced to flee England he took refuge with his old ally, Louis XIV of France, who was also an old enemy of William III, Prince of Orange. Louis saw an opportunity to strike at his enemy through Ireland, and provided James with French officers and arms. James landed at Kinsale in March 1689. With Irish Catholic allies James quickly called a Parliment and repealed the legislation that had allowed Protestant settlers to aquire land in Northern Ireland. It goes nearly without saying that the Scots and English Protestants rallied to William, not only for the sake of their lands, but because in the case of the Scots, so many of either themselves or their families had badly persectued at the hands of James II. As James moved across Ireland only in the North were the Protestants able to hold out. Londonderry suffered a three month long seige before being relieved by help from the sea.
William could not ignore the threat in Ireland and landing in the north he began his campaign. The entire account need not be recounted here, the armies fully engaged at the river Boyne. The battle began July 1, 1690,by mid afternoon the Jacobite army was in retreat, and James himself back in France within a month. On July 6th William entered Dublin and gave thanks at Christ Church. While the terms of the treaty ending this affair were not ungenerous to Catholics, they wer soon to suffer from the penal laws that were designed to ensure Protestant ascendancy in Irish life.
For William the battle in Ireland was a small battle in the larger battle against the French Catholic Louis XIV. However for the Scots and English Protestants it was and still is, the defining battle for their homes and their religion. Those who supported William in Ireland were termed Billy boys or alternately Orangeman. William was supported strongest by the Scots Prebyterians who had immigrated to Northern Ireland.
After William left Ireland it cannot be said that the Catholics were pacified, but because he did not see it as a strategic battle he needed to fight he did not return. The penal laws against the Catholics caused much friction and frequent uprising by the Catholic Irish took place. By the early 1700's the constant battles, some pitched, some not were taking their toll. Many of those Scots Prebyterians opted to leave Northern Ireland and come to America, away from the religious wars.
Between 1715 and 1776, some 250,000 Scots Irish immigrated to America from Ireland. By far the largest group of Scottish colonists that came to America. They tended to settle in the Chesapeake Bay, and from Pennsylvania and on south. Looked down upon by frequently by the British, Dutch and German immigrants as poor and less civilized the terms of derision often employed in England were again used in America. One of those was the old term used when these people had signed the National Covenant in Scotland nearly a century before. Redneck. They were called that as a symbol of their unwillingness to be a "good" citizen of the crown. They tended to congregrate together and be clannish. Often settling in the frontiers where a man had a chance to make something of himself if he worked hard enough they were often used by the more properous as the front line defense against Indian attacks. At one time the Scots Irish of Pennsylvania threatened attack against Philadelphia because of the Quakers refusal to assist them against Indian attack. One can find an account of that incident by Ben Franklin.
Even at that time there were seen by many as ignorant and overly religious. Moving into the hills of Appalachia, the term used for them in Northern Ireland when supporting William in his war with James, Billy boys-became corrupted into Hillbillies.
A people who had fought and died for the ability to keep and practice their own religion, a people who repeatedly fought the authority of the crown who used the theory of the Divine Rights of Kings became a leading people for the war of Independence. As George Washington noted at Valley Forge-"If all else fails, I will retreat up the Valley of Virginia, plant my flag on the Blue Ridge, rally around the Scots Irish of that region, and make my last stand for liberty amongst a people who will never submit to the British tyranny whilst there is a man left to draw a trigger."
A people who had a strong military tradition going back before the religious wars, in the Border Rievers. Many English from Northern England settled among the Scots Irish, closer in culture with them than with the British of Southern England, a unique character imaged that became the frontiesman of this country.
Constantly seeking more and better land they settled Kentucky and Tennessee, crossing the Cumberland with Daniel Boone and fighting at Boonesborough. They left there and headed west for Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma. Along the way they brought their military hertiage, their bibles and their willingness to battle any and all who would attempt to take from them what they believed where their God given rights. Not rights given by a government, but rights given to them by God.
They have been referred to as God's frontiersmen. Read the words of Teddy Roosevelt as he describes these hardy God fearing people. "the kernel of the distinctively and intensely American stock who were the pioneers of our people in their march westward."
It is also interesting to note that the traditional song of the Glasgow Rangers, a Scots football (soccer) team has these words-"Hurray, Hurray, we are the Billy Boys" and shares its tune with the famous Civil War song "Marching through Georgia"
The term Scots Irish is a uniquely American term, used to distingish those of Scots descent that are Protestant and came from Ireland, though are not Irish from those who are Irish Catholics. This group of people brought us the fiddle, bluegrass and country music. After coming to this country their religion became the Baptists, and later other sects one associates with Evangelical Christianity. That is why the current Presbyterian church in America seems so far removed from the people who originally fought so hard for it. Ultimately it was not the church they fought for, but for a particular way of worship. It is the Calvinist form of Protestantism that one still finds in Evangelical churches.
I am proud to be a Redneck. I come from that stock of people. While it is a term universally used to denigrat a person, if the true origins of the meaning were to become widely known it would be a term worn with pride. The American character so many in this country and abroad associate with this country is almost universally the traits that are Scots Irish. Then and now.
Approximately 30 million Americans are descents of those Scots Irish who came to this country. How have we faired when compared to other immigrant groups? Some statistics for you.
This is from an Associated Press newspaper article which appeared in 1980:
"Americans of Scottish descent tend to be better educated and have higher incomes than other European based ethnic groups, according to a new Census Bureau study.
"Based on a survey taken in late 1979, the study said Americans who traced their ancestry to Scotland had median family incomes of $20,018, highest of eight single ancestry groups studied.
"Second in family income were those of German background, at $17,531, while those of Spanish background had the lowest median income at $10,607.
"The Scots were the only group to record no illiteracy in the survey, had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.1%, and the highest rate of high school graduates, 81.2%.
"The study looked at characteristics of Americans of English, French, German, Irish, Italian, Polish, Scottish and Spanish descent.
"Among them, those of Spanish descent, 30.3% were most likely to have been born outside the United States. The Italians were a distant second at 13.1%, while only 2.7% of the Irish were born outside the United States.
"Scots recorded the highest proportion of married men, at 79.6%, followed by 75.5% for those of French extraction. The lowest male marriage rate was 62.8% among the Spanish.
Among women, the French were most likely to be wed, at 68.6%, with Germans second at 64.3%. Polish women were the least likely to be married, at 60.6%. The highest divorce rates were 4.8% among Irish men and 6.6% for Spanish women. At 3.5%, Polish men had the fewest divorces, as did Polish women at 4.3%.
Here are how the various groups fared statistically in some other social characteristics:
"Male high school graduates: Scottish, 81.2%; English, 74.6%; German, 72.4%; Irish, 68.8%; French, 67%; Polish, 64.4%; Italian, 62.7%; Spanish, 42.5%.
"Female high school graduates: Scottish, 78.1%; English, 76.7%; German, 72%; Irish, 70%; French, 65.7%; Italian, 60.4%; Polish, 59.1%; Spanish, 40.5%.
"Unemployment: Scottish, 2.1%; German, 3.1%; English, 3.6%; Italian, 4.7%; Irish, 5%; Polish, 5.4%; French, 5.6%; Spanish, 9%.
"Median family income: Scottish, $20.018 ; German, $17,531; Italian, $16,993; Polish, $16,977; English, $16,891; Irish, $16,092; French, $15,571; Spanish, $10,607"
So, you see, we Scots are the richest, best-educated, hardest-working and make the best lovers of all Americans. "Here's tae us! Wha's like us? Damn few, and their all deid! More's the pity."
So the next time some far left liberal sneers and derides you for being a "redneck" smile and tell them "Yes, yes indeed I am" Take pride in coming from a people who will not be bowed by either Priest or King or in today's world by the leftist elite. We will fight for our freedoms, we will fight for our families and ultimately we will fight for our religion where our morals and values have been derived from.
From a recently published book-Born Fighting, How the Scots Irish Shaped America by James Webb.
In his first work of nonfiction, bestselling novelist James Webb tells the epic story of the Scots-Irish, a people whose lives and worldview were dictated by resistance, conflict, and struggle, and who, in turn, profoundly influenced the social, political, and cultural landscape of America from its beginnings through the present day. More than 27 million Americans today can trace their lineage to the Scots, whose bloodline was stained by centuries of continuous warfare along the border between England and Scotland, and later in the bitter settlements of England’s Ulster Plantation in Northern Ireland. Between 250,000 and 400,000 Scots-Irish migrated to America in the eighteenth century, traveling in groups of families and bringing with them not only long experience as rebels and outcasts but also unparalleled skills as frontiersmen and guerrilla fighters. Their cultural identity reflected acute individualism, dislike of aristocracy and a military tradition, and, over time, the Scots-Irish defined the attitudes and values of the military, of working class America, and even of the peculiarly populist form of American democracy itself. Born Fighting is the first book to chronicle the full journey of this remarkable cultural group, and the profound, but unrecognized, role it has played in the shaping of America. Written with the storytelling verve that has earned his works such acclaim as “captivating . . . unforgettable” (the Wall Street Journal on Lost Soliders), Scots-Irishman James Webb, Vietnam combat veteran and former Naval Secretary, traces the history of his people, beginning nearly two thousand years ago at Hadrian’s Wall, when the nation of Scotland was formed north of the Wall through armed conflict in contrast to England’s formation to the south through commerce and trade. Webb recounts the Scots’ odyssey—their clashes with the English in Scotland and then in Ulster, their retreat from one war-ravaged land to another. Through engrossing chronicles of the challenges the Scots-Irish faced, Webb vividly portrays how they developed the qualities that helped settle the American frontier and define the American character. Born Fighting shows that the Scots-Irish were 40 percent of the Revolutionary War army; they included the pioneers Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, Davy Crockett, and Sam Houston; they were the writers Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain; and they have given America numerous great military leaders, including Stonewall Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Audie Murphy, and George S. Patton, as well as most of the soldiers of the Confederacy (only 5 percent of whom owned slaves, and who fought against what they viewed as an invading army). It illustrates how the Scots-Irish redefined American politics, creating the populist movement and giving the country a dozen presidents, including Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. And it explores how the Scots-Irish culture of isolation, hard luck, stubbornness, and mistrust of the nation’s elite formed and still dominates blue-collar America, the military services, the Bible Belt, and country music. Both a distinguished work of cultural history and a human drama that speaks straight to the heart of contemporary America, Born Fighting reintroduces America to its most powerful, patriotic, and individualistic cultural group—one too often ignored or taken for granted.
Yes Sir, I am a Redneck and very proud of it.