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American History


Magna Charta: The Foundation of American Liberties
by John A. Marshall

The Nationalist Myth and the Fourth of July
by Greg Loren Durand

Were the North and South Culturally Distinct Nations?

Understanding the nature of the American Union as "a treaty between two nations of opposite civilizations" (E.A. Pollard, The Lost Cause [New York: E.B. Treat and Company, 1866], page 47) is the key to properly assembling the complex puzzle of American history, especially the period of 1861-1865 which saw both sections locked in deadly combat with one another. Right from the beginning, the two sections had different interests; the warm climate and long planting season of the South created an agricultural economy which was mainly self-sufficient, while the harsher climate and shorter planting season of the North created a manufacturing economy which relied heavily on commercial trade. The differing economies naturally engendered differing political worldviews the agricultural South inclined towards decentralization of power and finance, private enterprise, and free trade while the manufacturing North inclined towards centralization of power and finance, government subsidies and internal improvement, and protectionism in the way of a high import tariff system. These differences were the root cause of the bitter animosities which have existed between the two sections right from the beginning. As noted by one historian, "[O]utcroppings of sectional differences based upon occupations left their imprint upon the compromises of the Constitution itself, and upon the objections north and south to its ratification" (Jesse T. Carpenter, The South as a Conscious Minority, 1789-1861 [New York: New York University Press, 1930], page 8). Pierce Butler of South Carolina considered the interests of the North and South to be "as different as the interests of Russia and Turkey" (in Max Farrand, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 [New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1913], Volume II, page 449). Patrick Henry of Virginia would argue for his State's rejection of the Constitution for the same reason: "There is a striking difference, and great contrariety of interests, between the states. They are naturally divided into carrying and productive states. This is an actual, existing distinction, which cannot be altered" (in Jonathan Elliott, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Washington, D.C.: Self-published, 1837], Volume III, page 328). Henry's colleague, John Tyler, agreed: "So long as climate will have effect on men, so long will the different climates of the United States render us different" (in Elliott, ibid., page 600).

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