Here’s an amusing excerpt from Colin Woodward’s American Nations that takes us back to ideological war between the Union and the Confederacy over the future of the United States. The North and South were rival civilizations that were fighting over principles:
“The planters celebrated slavery because it ensured the stability and perpetuation of a republican aristocracy. “The planters are a genuine aristocracy, who cultivate themselves in a leisure founded on slavery,” London Times correspondent William Russell reported from South Carolina on the eve of war. “The admiration for monarchical institutions on the English model, for privileged classes and for a landed aristocracy is undisguised and apparently genuine.” One planter told Russell: “If we could only get one of the Royal race of England to rule over us, we should be content.” Many others expressed regret for the revolution, noting they “would go back tomorrow if they could.”
The planters’ loathing of Yankees startled outsiders, “South Carolina, I am told, was founded by gentlemen, [not by] witch burning Puritans, by cruel persecuting fanatics implanted in the north … [and her] newly born colonies all the ferocity, bloodthirstiness, and rabid intolerance of the Inquisition,” Russell reported. “There is nothing in all the dark caves of human passion so cruel and deadly as the hatred the South Carolinians profess for the Yankees,” he continued. “New England is to [them] the incarnation of moral and political wickedness and social corruption … the source of everything which South Carolina hates.” Another planter told him that if the Mayflower had sunk, “we should have never been driven to these extremes.” …
As the conflict with the Yankees loomed, there was renewed interest in the old Tidewater theory that racial differences were to blame. In wartime propaganda, the Deep Southern elite was explicitly included in the allegedly superior Norman/Cavalier race in an effort to increase the bonds between the regions, with the (decidedly un-Norman) Appalachian districts often embraced for good measure. For Tidewater in particular, casting the conflict as a war for Norman liberation from Anglo-Saxon tyranny neatly sidestepped the more problematic slavery issue. The Southern Literary Messenger, Tidewater’s leading journal, conceded in 1861 that “the Roundheads” may gain many victories in view of their superior strength and their better condition” but assured “they will lose the last battle and then sink down to their normal position of relative inferiority.” The journal argued the Confederate aim was to create “a sort of Patrician Republic” ruled by people “superior to all other races on this continent.”
This propaganda was embraced in the Deep South as well. In an 1862 speech, Jefferson Davis told Mississippi legislators that their enemies were “a traditionless and homeless race … gathered by Cromwell from the bogs and fens of the north of Ireland and of England” to be “disturbers of peace in the world.” The war, DeBow’s Review declared, was a struggle to reverse the ill-conceived American Revolution, which had been contrary to “the natural reverence of the Cavalier for the authority of established forms over mere speculative ideas.” By throwing off monarchy, slaveholders endangered the wondrous “domestic institution” that rested “on the principle of inequality and subordination, and favored a public policy embodying the ideas of social status.” Democracy “threw political influence into the hands of inorganic masses” and caused “the subjection of the Cavalier to the intellectual thralldom of the Puritan.” Other Tidewater and Deep Southern thinkers came to agree that the struggle was really between respect for established aristocratic order and the dangerous Puritan notion that “the individual man was … of higher worth than any system of polity.” As Fitzhugh put it, it was a war “between conservatives and revolutionists; between Christians and infidels … the chase and the libidinous, between marriage and free-love.” Some even championed the dubious notion that the Confederacy was fighting a Huguenot-Anglican counterreformation against Puritan excess. Slavery was not the issue, they argued – defeating democracy was.”
The disturbers of peace in the world.
Does that sound like a particular group of people who are known the world over for their chronic inability to mind their own business? Does it sound like a group of people who would join a Freedom Ride and travel all the way to Alabama to make sure a bus terminal has been integrated in a city they have never before visited?