Aug 4, 2016 - Foreign Viewpoints, Sharp Yankees    Comments Off on British View of Yankees

British View of Yankees

British View of Yankees

“In England the term “Yankee” was applied to all Americans, South as well as North, and “carried with it the implication of crass commercial dealings, shrewd bargaining, and even sharp practices.” By 1815 the word “Yankee” in England evoked a general image of uncouth and curious rustics whose energies were almost exclusively given over to pursuit of economic gain. Southerners attempted to free themselves from this stigma.

For instance, William C. Preston, while traveling in England, insisted in a conversation with an English lady that he was a “Virginian,” not a “Yankee.” But she replied: “Aye, a proud Virginian. But to us you are all Yankees, rascals who cheat the whole world.”

Northerners also resented the charge that they were greedy, selfish, grasping, and lacking in genteel taste, intellectual distinction, and private as well as public decorum. Henry David Thoreau wrote that “the Yankee, though undisciplined, had this advantage at least, and he is especially a man who, everywhere and under all circumstances, is fully resolved to better his condition.”

(The Role of the Yankee in the Old South, Fletcher Green, UGA Press, 1972, page 2)

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