A crucial point is that the Founding Fathers were not the people who founded the country. They were the great-great-great-great-grandchildren of the actual founders, who founded separate countries, and didn't think that they were working together to found one place. They were all founding separate clusters of colonies. And there were contradictory missions of those colonies and very different religious and ethnographic backgrounds. There's no one set of American values and ideals. There's no one great intent of the Founders. There are separate intents. There are separate sets of American ideals and separate sets of American values, and always have been. That's the reason we can't seem to agree on what those founding values were, because they were separate sets of values. It was a grand compromise between often contradictory sets of values. It's important for us, in order to negotiate these problems we have, to understand the true nature of the problem. Only by identifying the problem correctly can we begin to talk about it and perhaps work toward some kind of solution for it. Otherwise we're going to keep talking past each other about what the true set of American ideals are. Are we based on an ethic of tolerance and pluralism, or are we a Christian nation, or an Anglo-Saxon Protestant one? We can't be fundamentally both. It's not reconcilable that we be a Christian nation and a nation founded on freedom of inquiry and conscience. You can't be both simultaneously. But in fact we are; it's just that different regions were based on those different things. That's something that seems to have been forgotten in the argument about who we are as a people.
Colin Woodard will speak about his book at the Portland Public Library on October 13, and at the Maine Historical Society in Portland on October 26.
Briefly (abridged from a clear, thorough explanation in the book's introduction), the nations Woodard' treats and some of their basic characteristics are below. See the accompanying map for their locations within the US.
YANKEEDOM founded as religious utopia where pursuit of the "greater good" was paramount; high education, civic involvement, views government as means to improve people's lives
NEW NETHERLAND originally a Dutch colony; highly tolerant of ethnic and religious diversity; committed to free inquiry; based in commerce and exchange of goods and ideas
MIDLANDS founded by English Quakers; pluralistic approach to ethnic and religious diversity; believes society should benefit regular people; suspicious of government intrusion
TIDEWATER founded by younger sons of English gentry to expand aristocratic manorial society; high respect for authority and tradition; low value on equality and public engagement in politics
GREATER APPALACHIA founded by clannish warrior frontiersmen from Scotland, Northern Ireland, and northern England; suspicious of outsiders; committed to individual liberty and personal sovereignty
DEEP SOUTH founded by Barbados slave masters as exploitative, despotic society with overlords and underlings; like ancient slave cultures, believes democracy is a privilege, not a right
NEW FRANCE based in eastern Canada (and with an exclave in southern Louisiana after the British takeover of Acadia); egalitarian, consensus-driven; draws attitudes from northern France mixed with Native American traditions
EL NORTE a hybrid between Anglo and Spanish America; Americanized Mexico mixed with Mexicanized United States; independent, self-sufficient, revolutionary in the service of democratic reforms
LEFT COAST colonized by Yankee traders and missionaries, and farmers and outdoorsmen from Greater Appalachia; mixes intellectualism and social-reform drive with individualism and self-discovery
FAR WEST colonized and controlled by corporations; few traditions of settlers' origins survived the altitude and dry climate; an internal colony, exploited by other nations for economic gain; distrusts government intervention but is dependent upon it
FIRST NATION still occupied by indigenous people with their culture largely intact; working to reclaim sovereignty and political power