28 April 2009

Those Who Live In Glass Houses


Early 19th century New Englanders had real motives for forgetting their slave history, or, if they recalled it at all, for characterizing it as a brief period of mild servitude. This was partly a Puritan effort to absolve New England's ancestors of their guilt. The cleansing of history had a racist motive as well, denying blacks -- slave or free -- a legitimate place in New England history. But most importantly, the deliberate creation of a "mythology of a free New England" was a crucial event in the history of sectional conflict in America. The North, and New England in particular, sought to demonize the South through its institution of slavery; they did this in part by burying their own histories as slave-owners and slave-importers. At the same time, behind the potent rhetoric of Daniel Webster and others, they enshrined New England values as the essential ones of the Revolution, and the new nation. In so doing, they characterized Southern interests as purely sectional and selfish. In the rhetorical battle, New England backed the South right out of the American mainstream. ~ Douglas Harper

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