Herman Husband, Eighteenth Century White Nationalist PioneerSpencer J. Quinn
To be ethnocentric and white in the West these days amounts to posing a challenge to the corrupt established order. Either as tacit spectators or active participants in our demographic and cultural struggles, such people threaten the purported existential notions of our leaders: those of liberal democracy and racial egalitarianism. Our leadership’s true existential notions, however, may be something a little more time-honored, such as money and power. Still, an ideological edge remains, one that is both dysgenic and anti-white.
A near-parallel to today’s disputes can be found in the life of Herman Husband, the eighteenth-century farmer and pamphleteer who served as the spiritual and intellectual guide of the ill-fated Regulator movement in the backwoods of North Carolina just prior to the American Revolution.
Born in Maryland, Husband moved to Orange County in the North Carolina colony in 1755, intending to become a prosperous planter. A recently-converted Quaker, he also was searching for greater religious freedoms. Husband was part of a mass influx of hardscrabble colonists which would upset the political balance in North Carolina to the point of violence in the following years.
What became known as the North Carolina backwoods was essentially a rocky, red clay region which sat between the wide alluvial plain to the east and the more mountainous region to the west. There were enough streams and flora to sustain smaller farms, but not nearly at the level in the east, where the vast majority of slaveholding estates could be found. By the mid-eighteenth century, the backwoods was still somewhat rough and untamed, just the like the tough, independent souls who colonized it. Unfortunately for them, the established and wealthy settlers to the east, who were set in their Anglican ways, didn’t take kindly to hordes of Germans, Welsh, Moravians, and Lord knows who else flooding into their colony with all their Dissenting religions. Even worse, the corrupt political class soon learned that these newcomers were easy marks, and took full advantage of them.
Historian John Bassett put it very nicely:
The disadvantage was that the continued effectiveness of government depended too much on the personal honesty of these officeholders. In many of the eastern counties this state of affairs seems to have worked well. But in the remote sections there is much evidence that the officers were selfish and mercenary, and that they were mutually leagued together to forward their own selfish ends. It was to try to clean out this Augean stable that Regulation had its existence.
The Regulator movement’s grievances can be boiled down to excessive taxation, sheriffs embezzling money from the public treasury, and what the Regulators called “extortionate fees.” This last complaint referred to the astonishing practice of court officers who colluded to make excellent livings on their fees alone. For example, simply for entering a judgment bond on the docket and executing it, which was a one-minute task, a court clerk could charge a yeoman farmer a fee greater than what he could earn in many days. Further, lawyers and other court officials would deliberately postpone or prolong cases in order to extract more fees from the people.
Another happenstance which conspired against the backwoods farmers was the scarcity of money. With the Crown withdrawing most of its taxes from the colonies in coin or gold, with Parliament forbidding the colonies from issuing their own legal tender, and with such a large number of new colonists emigrating to North Carolina, laying hands on cash was no easy endeavor. One particular scam involved a sheriff showing up unexpectedly at the doorstep of a farmer whose taxes were in arrears. Not having the cash on hand, the farmer would be forced to rush to a neighbor’s home to secure a loan while the Sheriff distrained some of the farmer’s property and then eloigned to the county courthouse along a different path from which he came. The farmer was then forced to race the sheriff there. If he lost, he may have ended up watching the Sheriff sell his property to the highest bidder. Apparently, this was an all too common practice.
The backwoods farmers may not have had much of a chance against their oppressors if they hadn’t possessed a genius among them named Herman Husband. While never a member of the Regulators per se, Husband served as their guide and mouthpiece against the agents of the Crown and their opportunistic local representatives. He served on various committees to speak on behalf of the Regulators, and was twice elected to the North Carolina Assembly. Hard-working, honest, and ambitious, Husband most likely became familiar with the art of pamphleteering through his correspondence with Benjamin Franklin; his pamphlets had such a rousing effect on the populace that he was often considered guilty of insurrection just for writing them. Oddly, he claimed authorship of only a few of them. It must have been an open secret in the 1760s that Herman Husband was the ghost writer of revolution.
In what is perhaps his most famous tract, “An Impartial Relation of the First and Causes of the Recent Differences in Public Affairs” (from 1770), he writes:
But as these practices are contrary to law, it is our duty to put a stop to them before they quite ruin our country and before we become slaves to these lawless wretches, and hug our chains of bondage and remain contented under these accumulated calamities.
I believe there are few of you who have not felt the weight of these iron fists. And I hope there are none of you but will lend a hand towards bringing about this necessary work (a reformation). And in order to bring it about effectually, we must proceed with circumspection, not fearful, but careful.
First, let us be careful to keep sober — do nothing rashly — act with deliberation.
Secondly, let us do nothing against the known established laws of our land — that we appear not as a faction endeavoring to subvert the laws, and overturn the system of our government. But let us take care to appear what we really-are, subjects by birth, endeavoring free to recover our lost native rights, and to bring them down to the standards of the law.
A leader Herman Husband was not, however. When it came time for action, he counseled restraint and was not always heeded. Nor did he ever take part in violence. When the Regulators seized control of the county courthouse in Hillsborough in September 1770, terrorized the court officers, and did quite a bit of physical damage to boot, they had a chance to effect permanent change in the colony — but they were leaderless and lacked direction. Instead of defending what they had captured by force, they decided to go home. According to Husband’s biographer Mary Lazenby, Husband “never contemplated any defense but an intellectual one.”
This mistake allowed Governor William Tryon to raise an army and crack down on the Regulators once and for all. The struggle culminated in the Battle of Alamance in May 1771. The Regulators, who lacked a military commander, were unprepared for pitched battle against trained troops and were quickly routed.
Although Husband took no part in the battle and had attempted only to prevent it, the authorities intended to hang him nonetheless. He was forced to flee North Carolina and lived the remainder of his days in western Pennsylvania, where he carved out a home from the wilderness and brought his family to live with him. As a homespun philosopher, Husband embraced the American Revolution and was active in local politics for many years.
As an old man in 1794, he must have been overcome with déjà vu when he represented his county in talks regarding the Whiskey Rebellion. As one would expect, he counseled restraint and refused to sanction violence. But due to his reputation with the Regulators and the fact that he had participated in erecting a liberty pole in defiance of Alexander Hamilton’s excise tax on whiskey, he was one of the people the federal government was searching for when they finally took action.
Husband was arrested and sentenced to death. Intercessions from friends secured his release, but after six months in prison, his health had deteriorated. He died in a tavern outside of Philadelphia while he was on his way home. He was 70 years old.
Not only did Husband’s vision of the North Carolina backcountry demand a free citizenry and the absence of a corrupt and predatory government, it also demanded ethnocentrism for white farmers. What is less known about Husband is that he was an early white advocate — a prophet, even.
A letter he wrote in 1755 to Lord Granville, the King’s proprietor of northern North Carolina, outlined his plan of “a new government of liberty” in the backwoods. As we would expect, Husband complained of the nascent political machinations that were making it difficult for migrant farmers like himself to acquire land. He also took religious freedom seriously, which for him was tinged with a streak of anti-clericalism. In the letter, he fretted over the North Carolina authorities’ recent expansion of the Anglican Church, and was particularly offended that the Governor had awarded outlandish salaries to Anglican rectors.
Most relevant to our times, however, was Husband’s reaction to the threat Negro slavery posed to the free white farmer. As an ancient institution, Husband had no moral objection to slavery. Instead, he correctly feared that the enslavement of blacks in the New World would deprive free whites of land and work, and that if left unchecked the “destructive canker” of slavery would eventually make North Carolina resemble the West Indies. Slavery adversely impacted poor whites, he noted.
He also recoiled at men who were ill-suited to farming — his profession — becoming influential upon the labor of others. While he had respect for Native Americans and lamented the way in which wealthy whites were displacing them in order to build slaveholding plantations, he envisioned a country for whites only. He recognized quite clearly that although the Negro was “of human shape and understanding,” he was “forriegn by one half both in nature, shapes, and coulour” and was indeed the “unaturall ennemy” of whites. Herman Husband peered into the future — our present — and saw nothing good resulting from the importation of blacks.
Here is the passage from this letter which deals with Husband’s aversion to slavery and the Negro (emphasis mine; editorial brackets are by A. Robert Ekirch):
The first stun that I got was on a discovery of some of our northern men who had got a little money was curruptted already from that true Christian and Brittish disposition of encourageing our own poor, but are falling into that practice of buying Negro slaves by which poor labouring white men are discouraged, and consequently the white people cannot nither encrease nor thrive where the treasure of a country is carried from them to purchase those blacks. Whereas if this custom was prevented there would not be only a white person employed and encouraged to settle for every black so bought, but that money which goes to purchase those blacks would be put into their hands for their labour, wherewith they soon would become able to procure a farm to themselves and thereby become able to employ more poor; and those places not only thrive to his majesties enterest and the enterest of any propriator, as expieriance hath shewn, but to the enterest of the publik and possitively twould be the enterest of every privite person, as is loudly confessed by the almost universsall consent of all them who have had triall and bought of those slaves, for instead of becoming an ease to himself and famaly the more any man purchases of them the more trouble, care, discontent, and uneasiness he brings on himself and famaly, besides the dismall consequences that must unavoidably follow (unless Providance interpose in more then an ordanary maner), in a few ages of the white peoples being quite deminished where they now abound and their neighbours obnoxious to an unaturall ennemy.
For though the white people on this continant do encrease and the native Endians decrease, yet the Negroes are imported in greater numbers and do encrease two to one to what the white people do, and unless the white people take to beat out their brains as they do the piggs when over stocked, as the Egyptians did the Hebrews, they must unavoidably (according to the naturall course of things) wholy over run in a serious [series] of time the whole provinces; and that in a little time as within one hundred years where they first took root have encreased so fast as to be from two to one and in some places io to one, if not in some of the Islands 20 to one. By the time they come to such a pitch on the continant, as they are already in most of the Islands, it will be morrally impossible to govern them, as allass how many thousands daily obscond from their masters in those little spotts of islands, which never could be got again had they such wide wildernesses to run to as there is on the continant. Witness Jamaca where the white people are obligued to come to terms with them, and how many ten thousand such places there is on this continant to run to is known to every enquirer.
And even were they like cows and horses in respect to look[ing] for freedom and liberty, yet being of human shape and understanding [they] are not to be stoped from breeding or destroyed when overstocked with them. And as lands being capable of maintaining but such a number of inhabitants, for each of those Negroes the publik is deprived of a white person, a white person deprived of a livelihood, the king of a subject, a soldiar, etc., besides the ruination of the lands inhabited by them, as their masters becomeing in generall above husbandry affairs employ over seers for such a share who care as much for the preservation of the lands as the Negroes and both as much care that way as a storm of floods and riseing waves. All this might be foreseen by a studious person but tis here spoke from knowledge taught by wofull expieriance.
The parallels between Herman Husband’s life and outlook to today’s White Nationalism should be quite clear. Both oppose corrupt, anti-white power structures; both care sincerely for whites as a people, especially the white working class; and, most importantly, both understand the paramount importance of race realism and ethnocentrism. Only this can lead us to the point of no return:
Then in the greatest earnestness let me once more press it home to you to consider and let not a little pomp and glory accruing to the Affrican Co. cause the utter ruination of your largest dominions, not inferior to Europe which contains many kingdoms.
However trifling this may seam, it will one time or other be the exercise of the whole nation either in timely stoping such growing evill or when time is past in lamenting that which cannot be recalled.
The race troubles Husband predicted nearly 270 years ago have all come to pass. White people have become “deminished” in America. Blacks have “wholy over run” entire provinces. It has proven to be “morrally impossible to govern them.” And blacks do behave towards whites as “obnoxious to an unaturall enemy.”
It is uncanny how accurate Husband was!
Sadly, there was an additional wrinkle in Husband’s life which I hope won’t become a parallel to ours. The Regulator movement failed not only because of a lack of hands-on leadership, but also due to a lack of civic, religious, and racial concerns among his own backcountry people. None but the most “publik-spirited people,” like Husband himself, were moved to act according to the interests and welfare of whites as a whole. Most were more preoccupied with “private enterest.” When this private interest was demonstrably threatened by government excess, as in the case of the Regulator movement, they acted. When the impingement wasn’t so demonstrable — as in the case of Husband’s perspicacious concern with blacks and slavery — they didn’t. And the people eventually suffered as a result.
The only way to reverse this suffering moving forward is for whites to embrace this “publik spirit” as conscious, self-identifying whites and follow in mind and in spirit the worthy example set by Herman Husband.
Mary Elinor Lazenby, Herman Husband, a Story of His Life (Washington, DC: Old Neighborhoods Press, 1940).
John S. Bassett, “The regulators of North Carolina (1765-1771)” in Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1894 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1895), pp. 141-212.
A. Roger Ekirch, “‘A New Government of Liberty’: Hermon Husband’s Vision of Backcountry North Carolina, 1755,” in The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Oct., 1977), pp. 632-646.
Richard Lyman Bushman, The American Farmer in the Eighteenth Century: A Social and Cultural History (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2018). (My review here).
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