Cultural Differences Between the Upper South and North


Abolitionist leaders of the North looked South and saw nothing but the evil of slavery. Virginians, saddled with an economic system inherited from the British and perpetuated by Eli Whitney’s invention and gold-grasping New England cotton mills, saw a puzzle without a solution.  After the murderous rampage of Nat Turner in 1831 — encouraged by those they thought were fellow Americans – Virginians also sensed a Saxon race to the north intent on their destruction.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"


Cultural Differences Between the Upper South and North:

“The cultural consciousness of Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky – as it evolved during the antebellum years – was a consciousness of Southernism differentiated as to standards and ideals from the intellectual climate
of the north. It lacked the drive for seeking positive solutions but possessed a feeling of kinship with other areas of Dixie where such a drive was developing. In the Upper South the cult of chivalry was intense; here the demand for a distinctly Southern literature was sustained; here the belief that local ideals contrasted sharply with the gold-grasping North was cherished.

Once during the Civil War, the Albany (New York) Evening Journal taunted the refusal of General

[John B.] Hood to accept money raised for him by popular subscription, with the comment, “Hood can’t be of the full-blooded chivalry…[This] is the first instance we have ever seen recorded of a “Southern Gentleman” too proud or too self-reliant to accept filthy lucre, come from what source it may.”

To this the Petersburg (Virginia) Index replied with heat, “Then you are extremely ignorant of contemporary history – that’s all. Hood has only done what Lee did a dozen times, what Beauregard did, what Magruder did,
what Longstreet did, and what no Federal General has done.

Virginia and Kentucky newspapers are rich sources for evidence of the conviction that the people of those States were descendants of noble Normans, possessed of finer sensibilities than the progeny of the Saxons who lived in New England.  The Southern Literary Messenger of June, 1860, carried a full-length monograph on this subject under the title, “The Differences of Race Between the Northern People and the Southern People.”

This cultural consciousness, this sense of Southernism as something apart from the civilization of the North, marked the Upper South as a region susceptible to any movement toward Southern nationalism which might come from elsewhere below the Mason and Dixon line. It was the raw material from which participation in a confederacy could be developed.  To the south lay the Cotton Kingdom, ever expanding, volatile, energetic, smarting under the attack on its “peculiar institution.” And leading the Cotton Kingdom was the State of South Carolina.”

(Romanticism in the Old South , Rollin G. Osterweis, LSU Press, 1949, pp. 109-110)