Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 40/The South is American

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1893—In the October Number of the Arena, Joshua W. Caldwell writes to show that the South is American as much as any other section of the Country.



The fact first to be noticed is that of all the British colonies Virginia was the most English. In blood the Virginians were not more English than the Puritans; but they held to the English forms and methods, social, political and religious, whereas the New Englanders attempted to set up a theocracy which should realize the ideals of the Puritans of old England and of the Covenanters of Scotland. In Virginia institutions were as English as the people.

The Puritan was, from the beginning, a malcontent, a rebel; not so much, however, for political as for religious reasons. Colonial Virginia, upon the contrary, was, except during the short-lived insurrection known as Bacon's Rebellion, constantly upon the most amicable terms with the home country and government.

The Puritan repudiated, as a thing abominable, the Church of England; the Virginians established the church and persecuted dissenters. The Puritan embraced the Commonwealth, and made haste to banish the royal Governor; the Virginian was steadfastly loyal to the Stuarts, invited the banished king to plant his sceptre anew in the virgin soil of his faithful colony, and refused to recognize the Commonwealth until Cromwell's war ships trained their cannon upon his capital.

To the superficial observer, Massachusetts and Virginia may appear to have been essentially unlike. In reality the unlikeness was superficial and beneath it was a likeness which was essential. Their people were of the same race, and had the same conception of liberty and the same love of liberty. In the end, the two were to lead all the other colonies to the establishment of their common principles.

The Puritans were mainly of the English middle class, and so were the Virginians. It is true that the rich planters dominated Virginia, and that her institutions became, in a measure, aristocratic; but it is to be remembered that the love of liberty has never been confined to any class of Englishmen, and at all events the supply of plain people in Virginia was abundant.

Massachusetts was turbulent, Virginia placid; but when the time came Virginia was as quick as her Northern sister to declare for freedom. When Massachusetts defied England, it was George Washington of Virginia who declared that to aid her he was ready to raise and subsist a regiment at his own expense. If Massachusetts gave Otie, Hancock, Adams, to the good cause, Virginia gave Randolph, Marshall, Madison, Jefferson and Washington. Thus it appears that Virginia, the typical and dominant Southern colony, bore, in the struggle for independence, a part no less trying, no less important, no less honorable than Massachusetts.

John Fiske in an article published in Harper's Magazine some years ago declares that of the white population of Virginia at the time of the seven years' war all but two per cent, were English. In the second place, the Scotch-Irish were late comers. When they arrived the colony was already populous, and its institutions definitely and firm established. As non-conformists, they were by circumstances, as well as by their own inclination, kept apart, in some measure, from their neighbors, and thus possessed the influence which union and concentration always secure. But this could not prevent the natural results of incessant contact with the far more numerous English and practically they were, in the course of time, absorbed and assimilated.

If it had been otherwise, it would have made very little difference. While the Scotch-Irishman had one of the most divergent and complicated genealogies in Europe, he was principally Anglo-Saxon in blood, and had been for centuries under English influences. For nearly 200 years his people had been subjects of the English crown. And in this connection it may be further said that both the Scotch and Irish settlers of North America shared the political beliefs of their English neighbors. The Anglo-Saxon civilization was not the separate property of the race from which it takes its name. The lowland Scotch and the Irish were and are as much Anglo-Saxon in this respect as the English themselves. In the War of the Revolution the Scotch and the Irish patriots held the same opinions and cherished the same purposes as the English, and fought for them with no less courage and devotion.

The American Revolution implied no change of principles. If it resulted in institutional changes, the new institutions are essentially English in origin and in quality. The establishment of the American republic was an advance in the true line of Anglo-Saxon development, and no part of the country has ever been so thoroughly Anglo-Saxon as the South. Even Mr. Douglas Campbell, who has written an ingenious polemical book to prove that everything good in the North is of Dutch origin, stops with Pennsylvania, contents himself with saying that the South, which was not under Dutch influence, contributed only one principle to the commonwealth and that a borrowed one.

The Anglo-Saxon supremacy in the South has never been overcome. The South has had almost no immigration. Foreigners go to the West and Northwest.

But statistics are more convincing than general statements. In order to show how thoroughly American the population of the Southern States is, I present the following statistics taken fresh from our new census. I confine my attention to the white population.

According to the census of 1890 there were for every 100,000 native-born Americans 17,330 foreign born. The State of New York has in round numbers 4,400,000 native and 1,600,000 foreign born citizens, being 35,000 foreign for every 100,000 native. In Illinois for each 100,000 native born citizens there are 28,200 foreign born; in Michigan, 35,000; in Wisconsin, 44,400; in Minnesota, 56,600; in Montana, 48,400; in North Dakota, 80,400.

When we turn to the Southern States the contrast is impressive. By Southern States I mean Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

The white population of Tennessee is 1,336,000, and of this number 20,029 are foreign born; that is to say, for each 100,000 native born whites there are 1,500 foreign born. North Carolina is the most American of all the States, having a native-born white population of 1,055,000, and foreign born 3,702, or for each 100,000 native born 370 foreign born. In other Southern States the figures are as follows:

  Native. Foreign.
Alabama 833,000 15,000
Arkansas 818,000 14,000
Florida 225,000 22,000
Georgia 978,000 12,000
Kentucky 1,600,000 59,000
Mississippi 545,000 8,000
Louisiana 558,000 49,000
South Carolina 462,000 6,000
Texas 1,700,000 152,000
Virginia 1,000,000 18,000
West Virginia 730,000 18,000

I have omitted the odd hundreds; and the total foreign born white population of the South, counting in these hundreds is about 380,000.

A comparison of census reports for 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1890 shows that in none of the Southern States—except Kentucky, with the large city of Louisville, Louisiana, with the large city of New Orleans, and Texas, lying upon the Mexican frontier—has there been any increase of foreign population since 1860. We know that there was none before that time. The white people of the South are almost exclusively the descendants of the Americans of 1775. Upon the other hand, it is safe to say that of the male of voting age in the Northern and Northwestern States not less than fifty per cent. are foreign born, or the sons of foreign born parents.

The white people of the South are not only American—they are, in the main, the descendants of a race which from the days of Tacitus has been known in the world's history as the exemplar and champion of personal purity, personal independence, and political liberty. For them no life but one of freedom is possible, and I can never believe that the hybrid population of Russians, Poles, Italians, Hungarians which fills so many Northern cities and States, has the same love for our country, the same love of liberty, as have the Anglo-Saxon Southerners, whose fathers have always been free.

The strongest, most concentrated force of Americanism is in the South, and Americanism is the highest form of Anglo-Saxon civilization. There is no part of the globe, except the Kingdom of England, which is so thoroughly Anglo-Saxon as the South.