The colonies North and South before the Revolution had little in common other than being transplanted Britons; Southern troops were there to help the North in the war it initiated over trade and taxes. The model of American statesmanship was the Southern planter-aristocrat until the arrival of Andrew Jackson – seen as the product of the ragged edges of British civilization. Such a product, also, was Abraham Lincoln.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
North and South Before the Alien Tide
“New Englanders at all stages in the history of the country have busied themselves so actively with advertising in print their part in the making of America; the compact circle of New England authors before the war managed so effectively to enhance each other’s reputations by piling criticism on authorship and authorship on criticism again; that most foreigners and many busty Americans have absorbed the notion that American character is a New England product, and “culture” a plant nourished solely in that region.
This idea has been reinforced by the assiduity of New Englanders since the war, in working over their material, in composing voluminous biographies, appreciations, memoirs, poems, critiques, histories, about every New Englander whoever wrote a book, or, indeed, did anything out of the ordinary.
As a matter of fact, what is called the Puritan influence, what is fathered on the New England conscience, is not essentially Puritan at all; it is British seriousness, aggravated by a hand-to-hand conflict with a new country, and th4e responsibility for it is shared about equally by Massachusetts and Virginia.
The truth is, that so long as America was distinctly a nation of transplanted Britons, the New England conscience, so-called, was a common heritage of all. It is only since the flood of alien blood has swamped the country and diluted the original strain that this conscience has ceased to be the common standard, however modified as to particular judgments by differences in the conditions to be faced.
In New England proper at one time, for instance, it approved capital punishment for witches, promoted piracy and drew sustenance from the [transatlantic] slave traffic.
In the South, at another period, it sanctioned the duel and the holding of the involuntary black man in bondage. At the present time, because the white population of the South is still is of predominantly British descent, because the alien has not swarmed over the land and diluted the original stock, the last stronghold of New England conscience is actually below Mason and Dixon’s line, with its citadel in Richmond, Va.
The thing survives, in spots, in New England also, but only in little pools and back waters not yet reached by the tide. Even the presence of the Negro, with his stone-age morals, has not sufficed to destroy it in the South – though it has, of course, modified it – for the Negro stands outside the stream.
In the first place, then, the Briton in the South, even if he were not descended from the landed gentry, a special breed of masters of other men in the old country, presently developed for himself a special breed of masters of men by reason of his training on the plantation where he ruled over many. At the same time he gained a boldness, and initiative, an adaptability quite foreign to the stay-at-home Briton. For he had to rule over an alien and barbaric people in a new and unformed country strange to him and to them.”
(Contributions of the South to the Character and Culture of the North, H.I. Brock; History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States, Volume VII, Samuel Chiles Mitchell, editor, Southern Publication Society, 1909, pp. 269-271)