Politics in the Border States: A Study of the Patterns of Political Organization, and Political Change, Common to the Border States: Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri

By John H. Fenton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
POPULATION AND POLITICS

IN THE SPRING and in the fall, when the cool air retreats to the north or when the warm air grudgingly withdraws to the south, the residents of the Missouri plains keep one eye upon the sky as they plant their corn or harvest their wheat. It is in this middle area of the nation that a funnel is most likely to dart out of the heavens and twist and skip its way across the countryside, leaving broken homes and bodies in its wake.

Geographically and culturally, as well as climatically, the Border States are middle states. It is along the northern fringes of the Border States that two great population fronts and cultures meet. One of these population fronts was born in the humid Tidewater region of Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas; and the other has its roots in the rockbound coasts of the states to the north. The meeting of these two population fronts along the northern reaches of the Border States created in the mid-nineteenth century a cultural condition analogous to the meeting of cold and warm masses of air.

During the decade following 1850, the farmers of Kansas and Missouri often paused anxiously in their work to scan the far horizons. Their eyes did not search for clouds of concern to meteorologists, but for billows of dust raised by the hoofs of horses ridden by Quantrill's raiders or by the avenging Jayhawkers, led by the "wild-eyed" John Brown, producing human

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