04 November 2014

North vs. South & What Held Us Together

Yes, there is a huge difference in the competing regions' perspective on the War Between the States. North South Trader's Civil War publisher, as Steve Sylvia points out in a recent editorial:
Opinions about the war were much more polarized and more obvious, too. In the South, the words "Dixie" or "Rebel" were everywhere in the names of motels, restaurants, and gas stations. Confederate flags and Rebel characters like Gen. Jubilation T. Cornpone were incorporated into ads and signs.In sharp contrast, In the North it was as though that war never happened. There were no Yankee Gas stations or Bluebelly Motels. 
Yet before the WBTS, there was a "commonality" that bound us together:
America was colonized by small groups of people from England, France, Spain, and the Netherlands with very common characteristics of race, religion, morals, ethics, education, and stations in life. They were nearly all from the working class --- farmers, tradesmen, soldiers, and speculators. There were few aristocrats. They shared a common grasp of man's responsibility to family and community and man's role in the scheme of things.

This commonality was the grounding basis for America. It probably accounts for the fact that the colonies never went to war with one another. Instead they labored at communication and compromise and never forgot that their neighbors had the right to govern themselves by their own needs and wants. This was the basis for states' rights, a concept little understood by most Americans today.

The colonists followed a basic understanding about priorities. With some variations, an individual was faithful to God first, family second, community third, colony next, and nation last. This order of loyalty began with ancient man's simple recognition of allegiance to family and clan out of self defense. Thousands of years later the structure of loyalties persisted. In 1861, most men still adhered to that pecking order of fidelity: God, family, community, state, region, and nation. [Emphasis mine.]
Note the pecking order of priorities in that last sentence. This still holds true for many Americans, despite what is often portrayed in the elitist trinity of government, the media and academia.

Sylvia continues:
It occurs to me that in our zeal to understand other nations and other peoples, we have lost sight of our own past. As a result, all too often people blindly accept the nonsense of agenda-driven revisionists who have erroneously retrofitted America's complex historical figures and events into convenient pigeonholes.
One of those historical figures is, of course, Robert E. Lee. And Sylvia rightly concludes:
From Lee's perspective, the US was about to wage war on his home, his people, and his family. Even though the basic principles of the Republic had been compromised, Lee agonized over the decision and made his choice reluctantly
Once committed, he fought like a lion. Once defeated, he was without rancor. Such a man is not a traitor but a role model for all.
If you are interested in the WBTS beyond the social justice perspective that you read on so many CW blogs today, you will find North South Trader's Civil War an oasis. I highly recommend it for CW buffs as well as scholars and collectors. 

Read the rest of Sylvia's piece here. Subscribe here.


ropelight said...

Although I agree with Steve Sylvia's conclusions: attempts to portray Robert E Lee as "a traitor who should be erased from *our history books" are appalling tripe of the most ignorant and vitriolic sort. However, it's nothing new, Jefferson Davis warned that if the North won they'd slander the South to bury the truth of their many war crimes. Clearly, they're still at it, winners write the histories and set the curriculum for the public schools. Every child is taught that Lincoln preserved the Union, but not that he trampled on the Constitution to do it.

On a separate issue, I disagree when Sylvia's attempts to extrapolate from the common working class origins of early colonial settlers that such "commonality was the grounding basis for America" and "probably accounts for the fact that the colonies never went to war with one another."

He overlooks that initially perhaps Indian attacks and the possibility of military assault from competing European powers, and later official oppression from the King's colonial overseers offer much better explanations for why the colonies found it expedient to sublimate their differences. Unity in the face of common threats is a powerful incentive to put first things first. A well established pattern of cooperation makes for the reasonable expectation of mutual assistance in defending against common enemies.

Additionally, while early emigrants may have been mostly working class they were from distinctly different areas of Great Britain and tended to settle in different colonies. David Fisher (Albion's Seed, 1989) identified the main emigration patterns from Great Britain. Early emigrants to the South came largely from Scotland, Northern England, Ulster, and the Saxon areas of South England. While emigrants to the New England colonies came largely from the more traditional English areas of East Anglia.

These people brought their ancient attitudes and prejudices with them. Consequently, even from the beginning North and the South were never all that similar.

These differences were repeatedly noted and remarked upon by British visitors. On his travels during the war's early years Anthony Trollope observed that other than language there was very little that the two sections held in common. "The South is seceding from the North because the two are not homogeneous. They have different instincts, different appetites, different morals, and a different culture."

"They (Southerners) had become a separate people, dissevered from the North by habits, morals, institutions, pursuits, and every conceivable difference in their modes of thought and action. They still spoke the same language, as do Austria and Prussia; but beyond that tie of language they had on bond but that of a meagre political union..."

Even Founding Father and Anti-Federalist George Mason of Virginia had early pointed out an inherent danger with the proposed 1787 Federal Constitution, he noted the country contained "inhabitants so very different in manners, habits, and customs."

And, the differences persist to this day, they're obvious, and even 150 years later the North is still slandering the good names of honorable men to conceal their monumental guilt.

Clint Stevens said...

Patrick Henry once said he was an American first and a Virginian second...but who pays attention to PH?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Clint, thanks for commenting. This was the actual quote:

"The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American."

This was Henry's sentiment in wanting to unite the colony's resolve against King George's tyranny.