This detached foreign opinion of antebellum New Englanders reveals the deep cultural chasm between the sections in antebellum times, and somewhat persistent to this day as the North has nearly accomplished its avowed postwar purpose of repopulating the South with its people, mannerisms and traditions.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Sly, Grinding, Selfish and Tricking People
“I heard an Englishman, who had been long resident in America, declare that in the following, in meeting, or in overtaking, in the street, on the road, or in the field, at the theatre, the coffee-house, or the home, he had never overheard Americans conversing without the word DOLLAR being pronounced between them. Such unity of purpose, such sympathy of feeling, can, I believe, be found nowhere else, except perhaps in an ant’s nest.
The result is exactly what might be anticipated. This sordid object, forever before their eyes, must inevitably produce a sordid tone of mind, and, worse still, it produces a seared and blunted conscience on all questions of probity. I know not a more striking evidence of the low tone of morality which is generated by this universal pursuit of money than the manner in which the New England States are described by Americans.
All agree in saying that they present a spectacle of industry and prosperity delightful to behold, and this is the district and the population most constantly quoted as the finest specimen of their admirable country; yet I never met a single individual in any part of the Union who did not paint these New Englanders as sly, grinding, selfish, and tricking.
The Yankees (as the New Englanders are called) will avow these qualities themselves with a complacent smile, and boast that no people on earth can match them in over-reaching in a bargain. I have heard them unblushingly relate stories of their cronies and friends, which, if believed among us, would banish the heroes from the fellowship of honest men forever . . . yet the Americans declare that “they are the most moral persons on earth.”
(America Through British Eyes, Allan Nevins, editor, Oxford University Press, 1948, excerpt, pp. 136-137)