Friday, June 12, 2015

Southern Conservatives And Complaining About A Self Inflicted Wound.

From the time of the Reconstruction until the election of Richard Nixon the South was known as the "solidly Democratic South" and for the most part comprised the conservative wing of the Democrat Party. Largely this was because Democrats were, well, not Republicans. The largest part of its transition from being solidly Democrat to being solidly Republican came from their inherently conservative natures finally overcoming their loyalty to the Democrats.

In the ensuing 50 or so years the racial/reactionary element of southern conservativism has tempered and as with conservatives elsewhere, become replaced with a general disgust with the hard left turn taken by the Democrat party that left no room for conservatives of any stripe.

There still remains of course a hard core element of southerners who, although they can be depended on to vote Republican, are still driven by a seething hatred of "yankees" and anything they perceive as "northern" culture.  They are imbued with an attitude that southern culture is so unique, so exceptional, so nobel, that it is exempt from a fundamental rule of human existence.  Namely that decisions have consequences and bad decisions very often have bad consequences.

They make things worse by condemning anyone who does not want to hear them crying about their lamented and long lost South. They can't understand that nobody likes to hear their complaining about what is quite simply a self inflicted wound.

Anyone who has taken the time to read the minutes of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia will clearly see that the southern delegates were determined  to cling to an agrarian based and slavery supported economy.  They felt that the south had the economic upper hand at that moment and were not about to give it up.

The political rhetoric of Southern politicians in the ensuing 70 years showed if anything, a hardening of this self-serving (to the  southern elite, what we would call 1%ers today) attitude.  The die was cast. A violent confrontation was inevitable.

Times changed however and Hamilton's platform for fostering industrialization and infrastructure development started to change the economic pattern.  Northern mercantile and industrial interests endorsed it whole heartedly and began to prosper even beyond anything of Hamilton's imaginations. But rather than embrace this change, the south, led by its own set of plantation elites, insisted on clinging to a past that had and continued to make them wealthy at the expense of enslaving millions and keeping so many others shackled to subsistence agriculture and at the same time convincing them of its nobility.

Both then and now, the mistake these whiners, and indeed most contemporary observers make and some deliberately so, is to formulate their perspectives within a vacuum of American history and ignore the facts of the imperialist, primarily British imperialist world we lived in.

During the first half of the 19th century Britain was years if not decades ahead of most other nations in what we now call the "industrial revolution" and concentrated on textile production.  Securing a near monopoly in this industry required that they gain control of the world's raw cotton production to feed it gaping maw.

This they did by securing control of Egypt and its cotton, and its short land bridge between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.  This greatly shortened the route to India where they were busy not only consolidating control over the subcontinent and its large cotton production but shutting down almost entirely native production of wove cotton cloth and finished goods.

This led to massive unemployment and starvation.  Malthus then used these artificially and deliberately created conditions of deprivation to launch his brutal, racist theory that it was "over population" not British imperialist manipulation that led to starvation.

With control of Egypt and India secured that left only the Americans with their Southern supplies of cotton and its fledgling but growing Northern textile industry as obstacles to their global domination of the industry.

It's no secret that British elites still resented the execution of Major Andre and the American's success in securing their independence.  The military conflict may have ended in 1783 but economic warfare continued and flared into renewed warfare in 1812.

By the late 1850 the course of compromise in the American regional conflict had exhausted itself and the British Empire was more than ready to exploit it for their own ends. Although not a leading factor in the conflict they had been more than willing to funnel monies to both the Southern secessionist movement and the Northern abolitionists.

It was clear to the British that a growing and unified American empire would eventually become a challenge to British international hegemony.  If exploiting the American conflict furthered their national imperialist policy and their economic goal of monopolising the cotton trade and textile production all the better.

After the North's declaration of a blockade of the Southern ports, smuggling arms and ammunition into the South became an active adjunct to those policies, but neither active intervention on the South's behalf nor diplomatic recognition was yet a risk the British were willing to risk.

Although the Crimean War had ended in a British and French victory over the Russians it had exposed that the British army, that had been largely idle since the end of the Napoleonic War, was ill prepared for a major conflict. That and thousands of troops and sailors already spread out across a growing global empire lent the Parlament to caution.

They were however fully aware that if the South prevailed they would extend their influence over the final source of cotton. They would quite naturally then become the South's preferred customer and would strangle the North as a competitor.

So their you have it.  Bad decisions and bad attitudes, exploited by a relentless and powerful enemy, created a toxic mix, the effects of which still lingers to this day.  I'm only a historian who has family roots that run deep into the soil on both sides of the Mason Dixon line. Indeed there is a congeniality, warmth and loyalty in the South that is different than that found elsewhere in America.  There is also stubborn and closed minded streak among many that I still cannot fathom even after having lived here for nearly forty years.

I can only present the facts as I understand them and try not to express any resentment for those who would ignore the facts that don't fit into their narrative. They are what they are. Neither accepting them nor rejecting them changes them in the least. I'm old and don't really have any political agenda in this regard.  I do know that their are and always will be, those who will be willing to exploit ignorance and hate for their own agendas and advantage.

I'm not a psychologist, so I cannot say or predict what it will take to purge the poison from our collective conscience.  I can't even say if it can even be done.  Like with most any other change, for it to be positive in nature it has to be undertaken on an individual basis and said individuals have to want to make it. Education as to all the pertinent facts is a necessary first step.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, there is such a mix of correct information and piss poor Yankee opinion here - that it is hard to make a statement that doesn't come off as lame or ignorant. First - I've live in the south for forty some years now. I have seen very little of this so called southern white supremacist in most southerners. Not that there aren't any - just far fewer than I've found up north, aimed at Blacks or out west aimed at Mexicans. And if you just want to talk 'supremacist' - Blacks have a corner on that market. Second - Whiners?? Come on ... really?! When it comes to whining, no one beats a Yankee! Go to any major city north (or west) of the Mason-Dixon ... and just sit at a cafe, restaurant or shopping mall and listen. Try to talk to a cashier in a grocery store or someone in line. Come on ... go to any of the many campuses and try to have a friendly debate on any subject - Ya'll are pushy, arrogant, loud, self-absorbed, walking bad attitudes. The historical facts are fairly correct - with the north playing a bit of a greater roll then you give credit for, but some of the typical Yankee misconception and accusation seeps out of your pours and into your written words in such a way - that it almost takes away from the data presented in your article. No, I not a southerner by birth or rearing ... I'm worse, Californian (SoCal to be exact), But having served in the U.S. Army for 24 yrs. I seen most of the world. I spent a lot of time in the New England states as well - dude, it ain't heaven! So, stick to the historical info - and cut the Southern bashing. you've very little room to talk!


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