Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South

By Grady McWhiney | Go to book overview

PREFACE

IN Southerners and Other Americans ( 1973), which emphasized various similarities between Southerners and Northerners, I also recognized that important differences have separated the South and the North throughout American history. Noting that such an authority as Thomas Jefferson "characterized Southerners as hot- headed, indolent, unstable, and unjust; Northerners as cool tempered, sober, persistent, and upright," I concluded: "Of course the South is different." But my attempt to explain why the South and North were not alike left me uncomfortable. My observations about southern "style" or "sensuality" failed to address, much less answer, the big question: How does one account for the differences between Southerners and Northerners?

Fifteen years ago I had no satisfactory answer to that question; now I believe I have. More than a decade of research and analysis done by Forrest McDonald and me, by some of our students, and by a number of other scholars has convinced me that fundamental and lasting divisions between Southerners and Northerners began in colonial America when migrants from the Celtic regions of the British Isles--Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Cornwall--and from the English uplands managed to implant their traditional customs in the Old South. From a solid eighteenth-century base in the southern backcountry, these people and their descendants swept westward decade after decade throughout the antebellum period until they had established themselves and their anti-English values and practices across the Old South. By 1860 they far outnumbered the combined total of all other white Southerners and their culture dominated the region. The antebellum North, on the other hand, was settled and influenced principally by people who had migrated from the English lowlands. They were joined in some places, and in their movement westward, by other immigrants, especially Germans, who easily meshed with prevailing northern ways but often

-xiii-

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Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Prologue xxi
  • I - Settlement 1
  • II - Heritage 23
  • III - Herding 51
  • IV - Hospitality 80
  • V - Pleasures 105
  • VI - Violence 146
  • VII - Moral 171
  • VIII - Education 193
  • IX - Progress 218
  • X - Worth 245
  • XI - Collision 268
  • Appendix - Sources on the Origins of Surnames 273
  • Index 278
  • About the Author 291
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