Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South

By Grady McWhiney | Go to book overview

V
Pleasures

"THE slave States are proverbial for their amusements," noted a disapproving Yankee, who stated that Southerners "are seldom taught to labor, or to engage in any kind of business. Life is to them but a play-day, and the question of every morning is--how to kill time?" In the antebellum South, insisted a foreigner, "man's love of pleasure is the equal of that in any part of the world." Other travelers contrasted the different attitudes toward diversion in the North and the South. "The southerner very often prosecutes his amusements as actively as the northerner engages in sterner occupations," stated a European. "In one section the people are in the habit of curbing their passions," another man observed, "and refraining from those pleasures which are inconvenient or expensive; in the other, they are more accustomed to indulge the propensities of their nature." Frederick Law Olmsted put it more bluntly. "The people of the Northern States, as a whole, probably enjoy life less than any other civilized people," he contended. "Perhaps it would be equally true to add--or than any uncivilized people." Southern lavishness appalled good Yankees. One wrote from the South: "A most sinful feast again!" Another said of a ball in Mobile that cost $3,000: "Money poorly spent & worse than wasted."1

Wherever visitors went in the Old South they commented on the prominence of entertainment in social life. A traveler claimed that

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1
Charles G. Parsons, Inside View of Slavery: or, a Tour Among the Planters ( Cleveland, 1855), 98; Edouard de Montule , Travels in America, 1816-1817. trans. Edward D. Seeber ( Bloomington, 1951), 85; Frederick Hall, Letters from the East and from the West ( Washington, D.C., 1840), 244; Alexander Mackay, The Western World . . . ( 3 vols., London, 1849), II:134; Frederick Law Olmsted, The Cotton Kingdom: A Traveller's Observations on Cotton and Slavery . . ., ed. Arthur M. Schlesinger ( new ed., New York, 1953), 560; Alice Morse Earle, Home Life in Colonial Days (reprint, Middle Village, N.Y., 1975), 160; Henry Benjamin Whipple, Bishop Whipple's Southern Diary, 1843-1844, ed. Lester B. Shippee ( Minneapolis, 1937), 93.

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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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