The South, then and now

This has been a bad week for the South, what with the ‘removal’ of the monument to that great American, General Robert E. Lee, and the removal of the monument to Rear Admiral Raphael Semmes, who was called “the Nelson of the Confederacy. In addition to that, the Marines have now banned the Confederate Battle Flag, in yet another blow to the South and its people.

“I have determined it is time to act to exclude from our Corps public displays of the battle flag carried by the Confederate Army during the American Civil War,” Berger wrote. “In doing so, I am mindful that many people believe that flag to be symbol of heritage or regional pride. But I am also mindful of the feelings of pain and rejection of those who inherited the cultural memory and present effects of the scourge of slavery in our country.”

In other words, the military is now converged. And in other words, Southern heritage is less valuable than someone’s subjective feelings. This is all happening so fast that it makes heads spin. Is it a coincidence that this is happening as our country is under siege? Do they think that with all the turmoil we won’t notice this so much?

I write about the South and the people of the South because they are one of the two major branches of Anglo-Saxon colonial stock Americans, along with the New England branch of our family. As of now it seems that the South is the home of the largest number of Anglo-Americans, as many of the New England colonist stock went west, and immigrants replaced them.

I happened to find the following piece about the South, written in 1960, (some 60 years ago) and reading it, we can see how much the South has changed — or has been changed.

Note the statistics about the predominant ethnicity of the South in the colonial days.

‘The South of today, as of yesterday, is a family — not altogether a happy family, yet happier than most and certainly closer knit than any of the other regional clans in the nation. It is a big family, both in geographic spread and in diversity of its members; and yet all members are bound together by a tribal identiy which transcends state lines (although they, too, are important family factors). From Tidewater Virginia to Texas, the family ties of blood, belief, or behavior distinguish Southerners from other Americans, and there is a like-mindedness on ways of life (not just on race relations) which is almost incomprehensible to the Northerner.

Despite a reputation for quick temper, the Southerner is amiable, friendly, and tolerant of all save those who would interfere with his family life. Southerners will wrangle among themselves over their own code of conduct, and practice it with relative degrees of faithfulness, but they will draw together in quick resentment against the non-Southerner who proposes to alter their conduct by compulsion of word or deed. There is a regional consciousness which virtually establishes a “mutual defense alliance” among Southern states. An attack against any one is considered to be an attack against them all.

A major portion of this common bond stems from a heritage which might be termed Anglo-Saxon, Nordic, North European, or Celtic Teutonic. The manifestations of that heritage have remained meaningful and measurable for centuries, and even today they account for some of the Southern character traits which perplex and sometimes exasperate non-Southerners.

An understanding of the Southern character (if the reader will go along with the concept that there is such a central character typical of the white South) comes with study of the Southerner’s antecedents back through the centuries.

An interesting facet of any such study is the quite obvious but little-noted diagonal transposition of North European culture to the American South. Through the Colonial and Revolutionary War days, and during the earlier days of the United States as such, the Anglo-Saxon atmosphere was apparent throughout all of the New World which had been settled by the British. It was in this atmosphere that the South developed, and it was this atmosphere which the South retained as successive waves of immigrants swept into the North, there to dilute the customs and traditions which remained relatively unchanged in the South. Thus the South escaped much of the influx of new ideas, new peoples, and of new practices which were poured into the melting pot of the North.

The South went through its “melting pot” phase early in the game, with the result that the French and German Protestants, along with the handfuls of other non-British peoples, were absorbed and assimilated into a way of life reflective of Anglo-Saxon traditions. All this took place in the years before the Yankee slave traders had begun to discharge their profitable cargoes at Southern ports. Thus there developed a regional consciousness in the South, stemming from common problems and a common ancestry, while the North remained in a constant state of flux.

In both population and political outlook, the South remained a microcosm of early America which brought forth the United States of America and which laid the basis for the peculiarly successful form of constitutional, republican government which has given the nation unparalleled prosperity, progress, and personal freedom.

There is a definite correlation between the complexion of the Southern states today and that of the early Americans who wrested their independence from the British Crown. As evidence of that, look at these percentages of nationality reflected in the nation’s first census — 1790:  English — 82.1%; Scottish — 7.0; Irish — 1.9; German — 5.6; Dutch — 2.5, and French –.6. That same sort of overwhelming identification with Anglo-Saxon (Teutonic) Europe characterizes the South of today. Is it any wonder that differences should exist in the outlook of persons with that cultural heritage as contrasted with those whose national ties are with the Balkan, Mediterranean, African, or Asiatic nations?

For one thing, it has meant that the South has continued as the most homogeneous section of the country, that region where, except for the distinct separation of the white and black races, there has been greatest assimilation of all persons into the political, social, and cultural pattern of the existing dominant groups. The South has fewer enclaves of non-assimilable population groups than any part of the nation; it has fewer “ghettoes,” fewer “foreign element” problems, fewer language difficulties, and more harmony in civic and community functions than any area of equal size in the nation.”

It’s too bad that the South has lost its original character thanks to demographic changes and now, with this new hostility towards the South on the part of those in power, things are not likely to improve, I am sad to say.

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