Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Agrarianism and Cultural Renewal

 smith sv

John Randolph, cousin of Thomas Jefferson and an influential model of statesmanship for the Agrarians, could defend the extraordinary position of an inherited Southern worldview in response to a confidant’s query about his attendance at a religious gathering:
I was born and baptized in the Church of England. If I attend the Convention at Charlottesville, which I rather doubt, I shall oppose myself then and always at every attempt at encroachment on the part of the church, the clergy especially, on the rights of conscience. I attribute, in a very great degree, my long estrangement from God to my abhorrence of prelatical pride and puritanical preciseness; to ecclesiastical tyranny…. Should I fail to attend, it will arise from a repugnance to submit the religion, or church, any more than the liberty of my country, to foreign influence. When I speak of my country, I mean the Commonwealth of Virginia. I was born in allegiance to George III; the bishop of London (Terrick!) was my diocesan. My ancestors threw off the oppressive yoke of the mother country, but they never made me subject to New England in matters spiritual or temporal; neither do I mean to become so, voluntarily.[1]


Among the contributions to I’ll Take My Stand, Allen Tate’s “Remarks on the Southern Religion” is usually interpreted as the most acerbic, immoderate, and unusual essay in the collection. All too often the essay is read as an apologia for violence or an eccentric defense of tradition. In fact, Tate–like his fellow Agrarians–was seeking to remind his readers of the religious and political society that was once the South. More importantly, Tate’s essay is a plea for a recovery of what has been lost: a humane social order.

Nourished by daily labors in the fields, it was the properly ordered agrarian community that produced a more stable and wholesome environment for families and workers than industrialism could offer.


  1. I think that Jefferson was close to belief in straight Torah. I have heard people use the term "deist" for some of the founding fathers but that does not seem accurate to me in terms of Jefferson.