The Southern Yankee
Beyond the New England slave trade which populated the American South with millions of enslaved Africans, there were many Yankees who moved South before 1861 to engage in agriculture and the holding of slaves. And they had a Southern counterpart who learned the Yankee’s close-fisted ways. During the War and after Northern bayonets had conquered Southern regions, many industrious and profit-minded Yankees came South to try their hand at revolutionizing Southern agriculture and labor with experiments at Hilton Head and Louisiana.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
The Southern Yankee
“The name “Yankee” was originally bestowed upon New-Englanders alone, but for what reason it would be difficult perhaps to determine at this time. At present, however, with all foreigners it is used to designate the natives of any of the Anglo-Saxon States of our republic. In our Southern States all Northerners are regarded as Yankees, while the Southerner will not consent to have the name applied to themselves.
But even in the North there are those who still disclaim the appropriateness of the cognomen, when applied to any persons other than the natives of New England . . . “Yankee” with all these is looked upon usually as a term of reproach – signifying a shrewd, sharp, chaffering, oily-tongued, soft-sawdering, inquisitive, money-making, money-saving, and money-worshipping individual, who hails from Down East, and who is presumed to have no where else on the Globe a permanent local habitation.
In a sense of the word, however, we are disposed to opine that, while New-England may possibly produce more Yankees than other portions of the Republic . . . still, any numbers of the close-fisted race are to be met with all the way from the banks of the Hudson to the deltas of the Mississippi – all to the manor born too, and through whose veins courses not a drop of New-England blood.
Of these the Southern Yankee is, without dispute or cavil, the meanest. He has nothing whatever to plead in excuse or even extenuation of his selfishness; for all around him is boundless hospitality, and even the very air he breathes excites to warm-heartedness, relaxing the closed fist of more Northern latitudes into the proverbially open palm of the generous hearted South. Time was indeed, when the Southern Yankee had neither a local habitation nor a name.
During the grand old Colonial days, as well as the happy period which immediately followed the Revolution, Southerners did not dream of devoting their whole lives – all their time and talents – to the base pursuit of riches – the mere acquisition of dollars and dimes, regardless of family ties, or the duties owned to society, and the much higher duties one also owes to his God.
At the present time, the Southern Yankee is quite an institution in the South. The Southern Yankee comes of no particular lineage, but springs from all manner of his forefathers, though in most cases from persons of the middle class. Like his Northern brother, the Southern Yankee is deterred by no obstacle whatever from his tireless pursuit of riches.
In the tobacco-fields of Virginia, in the rice fields of Carolina, in the cotton-fields of Alabama, or among the sugar-canes of Louisiana, when a farmer or planter, he is in all things similar and equally bent on the accumulation of the sordid pelf: and the crack of his whip is heard early, and the crack of his whip is heard late, and the weary backs of his bondsmen and his bondswomen are bowed to the ground with over-tasking and over-toil, and yet his heart still unsatisfied; for he grasps after more and more, and cries to the fainted slave: “Another pound of money, dog, or I take my pound of flesh!”
Will it pay to press the poor African beyond what he can endure, and thereby shorten his life . . . this is the great and the only question with every Southern Yankee: “Conscience? Basta! He knows no such thing as conscience: he cares only to get gain, and get it he will, and let conscience go to the dogs. Religion? Go talk to the women and the parsons about religion.”
[The] Southern Yankee is fully as restless as the Yankees of the North – always on the move, or ready to sell out at any time if settled. Home to be loved must be made attractive, but he who is so wedded to filthy lucre as to despise all ornament that costs money, is not capable of entertaining in his selfish and narrow bosom so refining a passion as the love of home, or the love of anything else, indeed, that is pure and beautiful.
However, though often a farmer or planter, the Southern Yankee is much more frequently a trader or speculator. The slow but sure gains of agricultural pursuits are not swift enough to satisfy his inordinate craving for money; hence he speculates either in merchandise, or stocks, or tobacco, or cotton, or sugar, or rice, or grain, or lands, or horses, or men. In all which he is but the type of the Wall Street prototype. He will lie or cheat if need be, and scruples at no dirty trick provided it enables him to make a “good thing of it” – such is the chaste vernacular of these dim-witted fellows.”
(Social Relations in Our Southern States, D.R. Hundley, Henry B. Price, 1860, excerpt, pp. 130-136)