The Differences between the Antebellum North and South

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The Differences between the Antebellum North and South by JAMES M. MCPHERSON
From James M. McPherson, “Antebellum Southern Exceptionalism: A New Look at an Old Question,” Civil
War History, Volume 29, #3, 1983, pp. 230—244. Copyright © 1983. Reprinted by permission of The Kent State University Press. The Differences between the Antebellum North ... - The American Story

Emphasis mine.

Why was it so bad that a war broke out just because the Yankees were politically dominant? What about that political dominance so adored the Southerners that they could not live in the same country as the Northerners. Why did the Northerners not see things the Southern way and accommodate it? Why the rage for a war of the secessionists. There was something going on other than mere slavery. There were 2 Americas and 2 sets of Americans in a single country. No wonder there was war and bloodshed.

Many antebellum Americans certainly thought that North and South had evolved separate societies with institutions, interests, values, and ideologies so incompatible, so much in deadly conflict that they could no longer live together in the same nation. Traveling through the South in the spring of 1861, London Times correspondent William Howard Russell encountered this Conflict of Civilizations" theme everywhere he went. The tone in which [Southerners] alluded to the whole of the Northern people indicated the clear conviction that trade, commerce, the pursuit of gain, manufacture, and the base mechanical arts, had so degraded the whole race” that Southerners could no longer tolerate association with them, wrote Russell. “There is a degree of something like ferocity in the Southern mind [especially] toward New England which exceeds belief.” A South Carolinian told Russell: “We are an agricultural people, pursuing our own system, and working out our own destiny, breeding up women and men with some other purpose than to make them vulgar, fanatical, cheating Yankees.” Louis Wigfall of Texas, a former US. senator, told Russell: “We are a peculiar people, Sir! . . . We are an agricultural people. . . . We have no cities—we don’t want them. . . . We want no manufactures: we desire no trading, no mechanical or manufactUring clasSes. . . ..As long as we have our rice, our sugar, our tobacco, and our cotton, we can command wealth to purchase all we want. . . . But with the Yankees we will never trade—never. Not one pound of cotton shall ever go from the South to their accursed cities.”(1)

Such opinions were not universal in the South, of course, but in the fevered atmosphere of the late 18503 they were widely shared. “Free Society!” exclaimed a Georgia newspaper. “We sicken at the name. What is it but a conglomeration of greasy mechanics, filthy operatives, small—fisted farmers, and moon—struck theorists . . . hardly fit for association with a southern gentleman’s body servant.” (2)In 1861 the Southern Literary Messenger explained to its readers: “It is not a question of slavery alone that we are called upon to decide. It is free society which we must shun or embrace.”(3) In the same year Charles Colcock Jones, Jr.———no fire—eater, for after all he had graduated from Princeton and from Harvard Law School—spoke of the development of antagonistic cultures in North and South: “In this country have arisen two races [i.e., Northerners and Southerners] which, although claiming a common parentage, have been so entirely separated by climate, by morals, by religion, and by estimates so totally opposite to all that constitutes honor, truth, and manliness, that they cannot longer exist under the same government.”

1. My Diary North and South, Volume 1 By Sir William Howard Russell P 179 Link
2. Chambers's Journal, Volume 27 By William Chambers, Robert Chambers P 9 Link
3. Southern Literary Messenger, Volumes 32-33 P 152 Link
 
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