Today’s Kindle Sample #2

25 Jan

Puritan stocksBestiality was punished by death, and that sentence was sometimes executed in circumstances so bizarre as to tell us much about the sex ways of New England. One such case in New Haven involved a one-eyed servant named George Spencer, who had often been on the wrong side of the law, and was suspected of many depravities by his neighbors. When a sow gave birth to a deformed pig which also had only one eye, the unfortunate man was accused of bestiality…George Spencer was hanged for bestiality.


When a second pig was born in that troubled town, another unfortunate eccentric was accused of bestiality by his neighbors…When yet a third piglet was born with one red eye and what appeared to be a penis growing out of his head…When a dog belonging to Nicolas Bayly was observed trying to copulate with a sow, neighbors urged that it be killed. Mrs. Bayly refused and incautiously made a joke of it, saying of her dog, “If he had not a bitch, he must have something.”…Merely for making light of bestiality, the Baylys were banished from the town.

via Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer

A little less lurid, but Walter Russell Mead explains why Fischer’s painstaking examination of Anglo-American culture is so revealing.

Americans like to think we are pragmatic, results oriented people, but many of our political disagreements are argued in terms of abstract theory. In particular, Americans like to argue about the proper role of the state: how big should it be and how its responsibilities should be divided between state, local and federal levels. Often, these disagreements reflect cultural differences that can be traced back to colonial times; David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed is a good guide to the traditions that still today inform the way Americans think about what government is and what it should do.


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