Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South

By Grady McWhiney | Go to book overview

VII
Moral

"THE state of morals differs so much in different parts of America," proclaimed an Englishman. In the South, he wrote, "the people . . . all seemed degenerate. . . . Their general demeanour [was] . . . more rude and familiar [than in other parts of the country], and their conversations more licentious and profane." Most Englishmen and Northerners agreed that antebellum Southerners were far more immoral than Northerners. After visiting both North and South, a foreigner concluded that New Englanders "appear to me in general, a cleaner people in their morals." A Russian visitor declared: "If the inhabitants of the southern states reproach their northern brothers for their coldness and dryness, the latter reproach the southerners, and quite justifiably it seems to me, for their luxury and immorality, which are not at all the same as gaiety and nonchalance." A New Yorker called Southerners "the greatest criminals of the age," these men of the "brave South," who threatened with "bowie knives, and pistols, and bludgeons" the northern preachers who went among them to teach righteousness. "Let us pray for the day when honest [Yankee] wine and oil shall take the place of . . . [southern] barbarous whisky and hog-fat," wrote another Northerner, who exclaimed that any New Yorker would "rather own . . . ten acres on the Hudson [River] than . . . five hundred . . . on the Mississippi."1

Such critical observations were made throughout the South. A Northerner announced that Virginians "are profane, and exceeding wicked." Another man declared that North Carolinians "live for the

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1
Adam Hodgson, Letters from North America . . . ( 2 vols., London, 1824), II:248, 1:37-38; John Griffith, A Journal of the Life, Travels, and Labours in the Work of the Ministry of John Griffith ( London, 1779), 60; Aleksandr Borisovich Lakier , A Russian Looks at America: The Journey of Aleksandr Borisovich Lakier in 1857, ed. Arnold Schrier and Joyce Story ( Chicago, 1979), 223; Abram Pryne quoted in John Hope Franklin, A Southern Odyssey: Travelers in the Antebellum North ( Baton Rouge, 1976), 247-48; Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey through Texas . . . ( 1857; reprint, New York, 1969), 7, 41.

-171-

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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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