In the aftermath of the War Between the States, the French came to regret their failure to intervene on behalf of the Confederacy. The defeat of the Confederacy was reinterpreted as an epochal defeat for France, Europe, and Western civilization.
The following excerpts comes from a fascinating book by Philippe Roger called The American Enemy: The History of French Anti-Americanism. It explains how the term “Yankee” became a pejorative synonym for American in Europe.
There is a discussion about the rise of the Yankee, how the Yankee became synonymous with the American after the War Between the States, and how the Yankee woman became a dominatrix and lascivious sovereign over the henpecked American man in a perverted society, which had menacing imperial ambitions as its gaze turned toward Old Europe.
When General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, the project of Western civilization in North America effectively came to a crashing end. BRA must be seen in the context of other radical utopian social movements that swept Yankeeland in the years that followed.
After liberating the negro and elevating African-Americans over Whites in the Southern states, the same Radicals turned their attention to the next three great reform movements: civil rights, temperance, and women’s suffrage.
That is why the 14th Amendment (negro citizenship), the 15th Amendment (anti-discrimination), the 19th Amendment (women’s suffrage) and the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) are now part of the Constitution.
“The return to the Civil War after a twenty-year latency period was an inaugural moment for the anti-American discourse, which chose as its star actor its preferred villain, the Yankee. This was because, for the French commentators of the 1880s, the war’s most tangible outcome was less the abolition of slavery (they would take pleasure in saying that emancipation had destroyed the South without improving the black’s situation) than the “Yankee” takeover of the United States’ entire territory and wealth. Beyond the ideological differences, the North’s victory was retrospectively analyzed as a failure for France. Anti-Americanism was anchored in regrets over a lost opportunity. Just recently, General Robert E. Lee’s capitulation had been nothing more than the forgettable epilogue to a very foreign war. Now, all of a sudden, doubt was taking hold. What if the whole chessboard of the world had changed? Those were the questions gnawing at the tardy chroniclers of a war that had been lost not only by the South, but, it would seem, by France as well.
One regret tormented the French: their nonintervention. The republican Gaillardet’s 1883 conclusions fell in line a posteriori with Southern propaganda and the official imperial press: France ought to have thrown all its efforts into helping the South win, thereby dividing the Union. Moreover, “strictly speaking, the South was constitutionally in its rights, by the federal pact and the very act of American independence.” The former Jacobin did not shrink from the most nitpicky legalism, and his republican regrets look just like the emperor’s most cautious wishes. Napoleon III was not accused not of collusion with the South, but of timid weakness toward the North: “Once Napoleon III had come to share England’s [anti-North] views, what should the two European powers have done? Not just recognize the Southern Confederacy’s independence … but also form a defensive and offensive military alliance with the Confederacy to force the North into peace.” Alas! Instead of taking this “straight and courageous path, England and France followed a different one, one that was pusillanimous and convoluted.” This was a considerable revision and a spectacular change of perspective. During the war, liberal associations and militant republicans had bitterly reproached the imperial government for its overly favorable stance toward the “slave owners” and overly reserved one toward the North. Now the accusation was reversed: the empire should have intervened on the South’s behalf and used all of France and England’s military might to tip the scales! Instead, the two countries’ inertia had allowed a fearsome reunion of the divided states to take place, under the North’s iron rule.
But it got worse. France and England were not equally responsible for the fiasco. Great Britain was obviously the loser in the situation, insofar as a reunited United States with immense resources would become its industrial competitor, hamper its trade, and before long make claims to being a great naval power. In the long run, though, the negative outcome for England would be offset by a phenomenon Gaillardet considered essential – and one that would become a French obsession in the last decade of the nineteenth century: the American continent’s Anglo-Saxonization. The new, post-Civil War United States’ imperialist impulse would be combined with the Anglo-Saxon race’s rise to power within the Union itself … Crushing the South was a decisive step in the plan for domination. But it was just one step. As early as 1865, the conquering race had started look farther afield. It was already eyeing other prey.…
In 1900, that was all over. The coexistence of very different connoted uses belonged to a forgotten past. Not that there was perfect agreement about the referent; the leeway for person interpretation remained fairly wide. (Lanson’s Yankee, for instance, is synonymous with “nouveau riche”; he is “the billionaire who has not yet cleaned himself up, the business-man who, in the struggle for money, starts seeing money as the only goal in life.”) But the very possibility of a positive use was ruled out. In fact, the inexorable shift to the pejorative had started in the 1860s. The Civil War had three main effects. Until then, the Yankee had been a geographically hazy figure, found in New England or else the “North” of the United States, or even the entire North American continent; he was now assimilated with the “Northerner,” as opposed to the “Southerner.” At the time, pro-South war propaganda definitively gave the word a negative connotation. While Lincoln’s America was singing “Yankee Doodle,” only the North’s enemies used the word Yankee in Europe. (Its supporters said “the Union” or “Federals.”) Monopolized as it was by hostile pronouncements, the term was definitively taken out of all noncontentious circulation. In the end, the last stage of an evolution spurred on by the Civil War was that the North’s victory led the French to retool the word’s meaning. The Yankees (Unionists) had become the masters of the whole country, so all of (white) America would be considered “yankee country.” We have observed this with the early anti-Americans of the 1880s: Yankee designates, with denigrating overtones, the North American in general. The word’s prior multiplicity of meanings was consolidated and stabilized: Yankee had become the generic pejorative for the Homo americanus nordicus, excluding the Indians and the blacks. . .
The fact was that in less than a generation, the American woman, still discreet in the works of writers like Gaillardet and absent from those of Mandat-Grancey, had taken center stage in French descriptions and analyses. The feminist movement and “suffragism” certainly had a hand in this, at least indirectly. It is hard to confirm, other than militant literature, most French texts written before 1914 do not mention the topic. Le Correspondant, generally attentive to all things American, flippantly evoked “the gynocratic movement,” confirming that in America it had “its most important base of operations. That is where its general staff holds its deliberations and where its assault columns against male tyranny receive their orders.” But on the whole, the French press did not bring up the topic, not even ironically. Most books about America gave it no space at all. Male chroniclers’ probable lack of interest or enthusiasm was coupled with the unshakable conviction that woman was the “real sovereign of the great Republic,” as Urbain Gohier would repeat ten years after Crosnier de Varigny.
North America was a gynocracy. This affirmation was dogmatic or at least axiomatic in France as of the 1890s. The American woman’s supremacy was thus twofold. The superiority of her “type” also corresponded to the empire she had taken over the opposite sex. The same cliche was tirelessly repeated, somewhere between fascination, fear, and reproach: the American woman ruled over the country just as she governed her home. The American man was her servant, or even her slave. The Yankee husband was not master of the house. He was lucky if he was not treated too badly! What Frederic Gaillardet had once called the “republican duchess” had moved up from the footstool to the throne. And she occupied it as a despot rather than a sovereign.
The omnipotence the French saw American women wielding did not make them laugh, even at the husbands’ expense. This was not time for sly witticisms or colorful pleasantries; this upside-down world did not enchant its explorers. … But it was clear that their heart was not in it – that they feared the American woman was setting a bad example, and a contagious one. …
The author of La Femme aux Etats-Unis firmly believed that “the ‘dame,’ not satisfied with having also conquered the New World, is well on the way to Americanizing the old one. ” One more push and that born dominatrix would substitute the right to flirt for the rights of man and the citizen, because “the freedom to flirt is as sacred and inalienable in the United States as are the immortal principles of 1789 are in our country. …
“Mrs. Flora Thompson wants to colonize France – and probably Europe, too. Here, she is imprudently betraying the secret wishes of the most notorious of her imperialist compatriots, who not only dream of making the Old World the outlet for their industrial overproduction, but also a vacation spot! The question is whether Europe will comply.
On this point, the French clearly failed to get the joke. That Le Figaro‘s correspondent could transform a New York socialite into a Valkyrie of yankeesme speaks volumes about the place American women held in belle epoque France’s imagination. . .
A type within a type, the East Coast American woman, the supreme stage of Yankee femininity, was an icy sphinx: “There is a type of East Coast American woman, neither young nor old, with golden spectacles, I will particularly remember, as I met several examples. She has thin lips, any icy gaze, an impassive face. We can easily see in this New England gorgon the Frenchman’s classic nightmare: an unpleasant cross between the Americano-Puritan and the prudish Englishwoman “with thin lips.” The anti-Miss Betsy …
Ten years later, the 1920s would bring along the Fitzgerald era, of emancipated flappers, short hair, and crazy ideas – a little too crazy for the French. The American girl’s excessively liberated attitude rekindled blame and censure: she still embodied the “type’s perfection,” but now she was tyrannical, egotistical, arrogant, and all the more pernicious because she was desirable and cynically deployed her flagrant sexual freedom. …
A run-of-the-mill scene of carousing – the Americans do not know how to throw a party, so they get drunk – is suddenly broken by an obscene and strident streak: “Miss Diana gets up; she lifts her short skirt up to her face. She dances the most Negro steps, in white underpants. The underpants twist and gape. I see tufts, her shady crotch, her genitals. I get a joyless eyeful.” This is a strange dive into American femininity’s heart of darkness – there is even the indispensable racist touch of “Negro steps” animating the white Diana’s pallid body. …
So the American man was not having much fun. That was a known fact in France in the late nineteenth century. His home was a contentious place where he suffered his daily martyrdom of resignation. Fortunately, he was not really wanted there, and his occupations, which kept him working long hours at the office, reduced his sufferings. But was he completely innocent? At the end of the nineteenth century, more than one French traveler suggested that the American man deserved his misfortune, or that at least, because of various shortcomings, he had his part in conserving the status quot that set the wife up as domestic tyrant. Some went so far to question his desire for women. To the question, “Is the American a good husband”? Jules Haret responded with this tactful parable: “A man says: I love to read and he reads two or three books a year. Do we really think he loves it? No. However, he believes it, and he is sincere.”
For the Frenchman describing it, the American man’s situation did not arouse any notable commiseration or sympathy. Perhaps because the same man – a docile and self-effacing husband, a domestic serf deprived in his own home of all the sexual and/or gastronomic satisfactions that could justify marriage – turned back into a menacing predator once he left the house: vir americanus horribilis. Never trust a man would around his wife’s finger. When he unleashed on the outside world the energy he did not use in his private life, the maritally subjugated Yankee became a fearsome overlord. Though self-effacing and shy, unrecognizable in his domestic setting, as soon as he was outside he turned into a wild beast, recognizable at a glance.
Update: The latest news is that California, which just recently passed the DREAM Act to further expand the rights of illegal aliens to in-state tuition, is being forced to cut $1.4 billion dollars to K-12 education and $600 million dollars to higher education.
The state of Massachusetts, which has created its own miniature version of BRA by reelecting the negro Deval Patrick as governor of the Bay State, has passed “a transgender civil rights bill” that will make Massachusetts the 16th state to treat “transgendered people” as “a protected class.”
Two great victories for the illegal alien freedom movement and the homosexual rights freedom movement! Now you see why the CSA had to go to war!
Note: The whole “Men’s Rights movement” or the “Game movement” is inexplicable outside of the indispensable context of the triumph of the women’s suffrage movement and twentieth-century feminism which was another radical utopian social reform movement based in the Northern states.
Antebellum Southerners would have found the whole concept of “Men’s Rights” ridiculous. Like Roman culture, Southern culture was patriarchial and anti-egalitarian and was based on the “mastery” of the Southern White man over his dependents, namely his women, children, and negro slaves.
That’s a topic we will explore tomorrow in our review of Gone With The Wind which was set in Antebellum Georgia.