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Thread: The Challenge of Southern Tradition.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Western Pa.

    Default The Challenge of Southern Tradition.

    In 1966, Senator JimEastland of Mississippi walked into the Senate Judiciary Committee and asked,“Feel hot in heah?”

    A staffer replied: “WellSenator, the thermostat is set at 72 degrees, but we can make it colder.”
    Eastland, puzzled by theresponse, doubled down, “I said, Feel Hot in heah?”

    The staffer now wasperplexed and fearing that he might not understand the question suggested thathe would lower the temperature.

    Eastland shot back, “Damnit, son!” Is Sen-a-tor Feel P-H-I-L Hot H-A-R-T in heah?

    I begin with this storybecause it is emblematic of the regionalism of the United States. Or at leastit used to be. Listening to congressional debates from the middle of the 20
    century was like hearing a symphony of dialect. The Kennedy brothers—thoughhailing from Irish Catholic bootleggers—sounded like they were from an oldBrahmin Massachusetts family. Stennis, Russell, Thurmond, Ervin and otherSoutherners brought their instruments to the show.

    I attended school inDelaware, but my eighth grade English teacher was from Alabama. Yet because herhusband was a minister and had to move around, she dropped her accent andadopted a flat Midwestern timbre all while assigning great Southern writers ornotably anti-Yankee partisans like Washington Irving. You can take the girl outof Alabama, but you can never take Alabama from the girl

    With a few exceptions, itwould hard to detect any regionalism among the current crop of 535 members ofCongress. As Americans move and consume, we become a less independent and moreplastic people dominated by a Midwestern Yankee Puritanism. Recent studies haveshown that children who move frequently are less likely to excel in school orin a social environment. They aren’t from anywhere and have no real culture.This is by design. Nationalization creates a crop of drones with an“Americanism” that suggests saying the Pledge of Allegiance makes you anAmerican and that Abraham Lincoln and Hamilton’s state capitalist dream are thegreatest parts of American history. We have replaced Billy’s Grocery, HarveyLumber Company, and Daniel Appliance with Publix, Home Depot, and Best Buyrespectively. Buy your American flag at the Home Depot with your credit cardduring our Presidents’ Day sale in every town USA. Let’s do this.

    The South always offereda counterweight to this type of “Americanism,” but today you can’t soundSouthern and still be taken seriously, just as you can’t suggest that anythingfrom the Southern tradition is true and valuable without being slapped over thehead with the book of bigotry. I’m surprised the modern left doesn’t walk aboutlike the monks in the Monty Python film the Holy Grail chanting “Pius MotherPlanet Earth, Save Us From Our Privilege, Slap.” The only thing they haven’tdone is require a bonfire of the vanities and demand that every heretic throwsome traditional vice—the Bible, your guns, precious metals, certainly yourConfederate flags—into the fire in a communal cultural cleansing. That’sprobably coming.
    Senator John Stennis fromMississippi said in 1974 that while people in the South “lacked for money, andlacked for worldly things…they got plenty of things money can’t buy—like goodneighbors, good friends, the community spirit of sharing with the otherfellow.” Sam Ervin, the last Jeffersonian to serve in the Senate, shared asimilar sentiment when he suggested defeat was good for the soul because itshook the glory out. Ervin was from Burke, North Carolina and the spirit ofthat place and people ran through is blood and bones

    Some interwar Southernersknew that the world was changing, just as their ancestors knew the UnitedStates was destroyed by fire in 1865 and replaced with a unitary Americanempire beholden to Hamiltonian political economy and Yankee social engineering,the very thing John Taylor of Caroline and other “Old Republicans” warned aboutin the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Nothing had changedafter the War. Robert Lewis Dabney derided the “New South Creed” for itsinfatuation with progress in all forms. Industrialization was simply themistress of social transformation and the destruction of tradition. The fusionof big banks, big business, and unconstitutional big government along withgovernment sponsored social engineering made for a Frankenstein that could notbe tamed. There is a reason Populist Senator Tom Watson of Georgia titled hisnewspaper the
    in the early twentieth century. Thecontinuity between generations, the traditions that shaped the South and herpeople, were the most important part of Southern identity.

    That identity has beenremarkably consistent even when it seems otherwise. Take for example theefforts of “progressive” Southerners to tame the evils of Yankee financecapitalism in the pre-World War I Congress. The War saw the complete victory ofHamilton’s economic system in the post bellum period. Protective tariffs,central banking, federally funded internal improvements, and corruptionsignaled Republican rule. Southerners had some success in pushing back againstthese measures in the 1880s and 1890s, but it wasn’t until the Wilsonadministration that they achieved any sort of legislative victory. TheGlass-Steagall Act, the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, and the Underwood Tariff wereall part of a broad Southern effort to place a Jeffersonian stamp on theeconomy. These were undoubtedly “big government” and constitutionallyquestionable ideas and policies, but to these Southerners, using the apparatusthe Republican Party created to undermine what they considered to be thebackbone of anti-Southern and anti-Jeffersonian principles seemed natural.Oscar Underwood of Alabama even classified the Federal Reserve as aJeffersonian inspired central banking system. Henry DeLemar Clayton of Alabamaalso secured federal loans for farmers in the 1910s, a type of reparations forbeing punished by poverty after the War

    But in spite of orperhaps because of this crushing economic dislocation, Southerners clung totheir history, their regionalism, and their culture and used it as both ashield and a blanket when confronting modernity or in some cases adopting it.For example, Fuller Callaway, a Southern industrialist in LaGrange, GA, toldthe muckraker Ida Tarbell that he “made American citizens and used cotton millsto pay the expenses.” His son Cason Callaway focused his energy on scientificagriculture and eventually made his Blue Springs farm a private nature reservecalled Callaway Gardens. He and his wife Virginia cultivated the Jeffersonianagrarian spirit and believed in independent farmers and localism. The familyfarm dominated their lives, and azaleas, blue spring water, woods, and outdoorrecreation were their Southern legacy

    This is something everySoutherner took for granted in the 1920s and 1930s. Jimmy Carter’s agrarianmanifesto
    An Hour Before Daylight
    portrays his father as a Jeffersonianworried about New Deal regulations on hogs and tomatoes. Like a good Yankee,Franklin Roosevelt drove through Georgia and thought he could fix it. It’s nocoincidence that the first industrial hog slaughterhouses appeared in theUnited States in 1930s. Chicken houses followed in the 1950s and soon“industrial farming” was ripping apart the family farm, the backbone of the Southerntradition.

    The twelve Southernerswho wrote
    I’ll Take My Stand
    in 1930 could not have been more prophetic,but most people, even some Southerners, didn’t want to listen to what MaryCuff, in a recent piece in
    Modern Age,
    describes as an “untenable” prescription.She writes: “Thus even for those who sympathize deeply with the agrariandiagnosis of modern society’s ills—the social alienation and dehumanizationtriggered by sprawling urbanism, industrialism, and the dominance oftechnology—there is often the sense that agrarianism is unhelpful as a solutionin the twenty-first century.” These Southerners have been labeled romantics whohectored about farming and never picked up a plow. Southerners, even in theearly twentieth century, seemed to agree. As eleven-year-old Lillian Nettles ofMagnolia, MS told a photographer in 1911, “we like the mill work much betterthan farming.” Five of her nine family members worked in the mill

    But these criticisms missthe point. Did “agrarianism” make the man or did the man make “agrarianism?”More directly, was
    I’ll Take My Stand
    or a
    manifesto? The authors could have called themselves twelve farmers, twelvepoets, or twelve writers, but they chose twelve Southerners, and the title iscertainly a Southern choice. David Chandler in his book
    The NaturalSuperiority of Southern Politicians
    wrote that “the South has produced thepre-eminent geniuses of American political history.” That genius was only madepossible by Southern culture, the root of “agrarianism.” A
    mancould still be agrarian and not live on a farm. It certainly helped, but at itscore the Southern agrarian tradition was based on an organic rhythm of life, aChristian sensibility of “good friends, good communities,” faith, property,independence, and a chivalric code that had honor as one of the highest traitsof man and organized society. To be Southern meant that you embraced the oldorder of Western Civilization as handed down by the Anglo-American traditionand peppered with the cultural mosaic of the various peoples that settled southof the Mason-Dixon

    And as Southerners beganto wrestle with the implications of a Yankee victory in 1865, they becameconsciously more Southern, but that did not change their traditions. The historianDrew Gilpin Faust vaulted into a college presidency at Harvard by, in part,continually insisting that “Confederate nationalism” was inorganic, a creationof racism and white supremacy. But is this true? The evidence points in anotherdirection. Edwin Alderman, the first president of the University of Virginiaand editor of the comprehensive
    Library of Southern Literature
    , told aUniversity of California audience in 1906 that, “when the age of moral welfareshall succeed to the age of passionate gain-getting; when blind social forceshave wrought some tangle of inequality and of injustice, of hatred andsuspicion, when calculation and combination can only weave the web morefiercely; when the whole people in some hour of national peril shall seek forthe man of heart and faith, who will not falter or fail, in the sweet justiceof God, hither shall they turn for succor as once they turned to a simpleVirginia planter.” This Southern tradition had nothing to do with race. It wasan expression of the Jeffersonian mind, a critique of the Hamiltonian visionfor America.

    Turning to the Virginiaplanter—the “man of heart and faith”—not the industrialist or the shopkeeper,had to be the solution, and that planter brought up on the traditions of hispeople, the stories of his ancestors, men of action when the time called forit, had to be a Southerner. This was a call to Washington or Jefferson, notLincoln or Grant, and certainly not J.P. Morgan or John D. Rockefeller. Butwould America, now in the throes of industrialization, look to the sage ofMonticello for answers, and if not, how could a defeated people sell thistradition, or should they?

    Literature professorCharles Kent advised Southerners to look inward, to become better Southerners,not coopted Yankees. “It seems,” he wrote in 1907, “much more desirable that weshould endeavor to comprehend what our fathers stood for, especially in allmatters relating to self-government, then study calmly our own situation, andresolutely acknowledge and adapt the principles and policies that seem mostconstant with our welfare. So far as my own studies allow me to judge, no otherpeople or fraction of a people has a more admirable body of publicists fromwhose writings inspiration and guidance may be derived.”

    The Southerners who wrote
    I’ll Take My Stand
    in 1930 and contributed to
    Who Owns America
    in1936 took this challenge seriously.
    Who Owns America
    is, in somerespects, a more interesting book. It is more prescriptive and lessphilosophical, a practical application of the principles the twelve Southernerssought to define just six years earlier, and while not explicitly Southernfocused like
    I’ll Take My Stand
    , the Southern tradition dripped from itspages.

    The great poet DonaldDavidson outlined a plan for regional government that incorporated FrederickJackson Turner’s prophecy that the core of American government was naturallythe relation of “section and nation,” not “state and nation.” Davidson calledit a “New Federalism,” not be confused with Richard Nixon’s bastardization ofthe term in the early 1970s. He wrote, “For the United States, the idealcondition would be this: that the regions should be free to cultivate their ownparticular genius and to find their happiness, along with their sustenance andsecurity, in pursuits to which their people are best adapted, the severalregions supplementing and aiding each other, in national comity, under awell-balanced economy.” This has not happened, he lamented, because theConstitution could not allow it. The result had been the clash of competingimperialisms, with the Northeast the ultimate victor. “The old outcry againstWall Street,” Davidson argued, “is an outcry against a regional foe symbolizedby a single institution. It means that the towers of New York are built uponSouthern and Western backs.”

    Andrew Nelson Lytle, thephilosopher as historian and writer, heaped praise on Franklin Roosevelt foracknowledging the importance of the family farm, what Lytle called the“livelihood farm.” He was giving FDR too much credit, for Roosevelt’s discoverythat the Southern agrarian tradition was vital to American prosperity was likeAugustus telling Livy to write glowing histories of Rome in the first centuryA.D., or in Josiah Baily of North Carolina writing the “conservative manifesto”in 1936 warning about the potential constitutional and legal hazards of the NewDeal. In both cases, the empire had already consumed its parents

    Regardless, Lytleinsisted that a United States with one quarter of the people engaged as livelihoodfarmers would boast the most stable economy in its history. The tangiblebenefits would be seen in the welfare of the general population, what he termedtheir more “natural living conditions.” Lytle continued “this should be theimportant end of polity, for only when families are fixed in their habits, sureof their property, hopeful for the security of their children, jealous ofliberties which they cherish, can the state keep the middle course betweenimpotence and tyranny.”

    This, however, requiredthe Southern tradition. John Crowe Ransom argued that “the South may be avaluable accession to the scattering and unorganized party of all those whothink it is time to turn away from the frenzy of Big Business toward somethingolder, more American, and more profitable.” What Ransom loathed and feared mostwas a South beholden to “foreign ideas.” And notice that he used the term“American” along with the descriptive “older.” The Southern “agrarian”tradition is older than the United States. The straight line from the “oldRepublicans” like John Taylor of Caroline to Ransom, Davidson, and Lytle shouldbe easy to see. But that tradition, that “older, more American” vision ofAmerica was swallowed up in the post-World War II nationalist orgy and Cold Warpropaganda. Us against them had no room for regionalism and Southernagrarianism. The machine age and the nuclear age required a HamiltonianAmericanism. We had to beat the commies, but more importantly, beating thecommies required a civic religion that also took aim at tradition, the verything Dabney said would take place immediately following the War.

    Which brings us to 2019and Tucker Carlson’s now infamous—at least among neoconservatives—monologuecriticizing what he called “market capitalism.” This was a clumsy thoughrefreshing attempt to articulate the “older, more American” vision of thetwelve Southerners. The establishment panned it as anti-capitalist and foolish,with media darling Ben Shapiro immediately going on the offensive in both printand video.

    Carlson mislabeled hisenemy “market capitalism.” He was really throwing barbs at Hamilton’s statecapitalist system and the over century long Republican Party led attempt toremake America. That involved an economic, social, political, and diplomatictransformation that replaced of the “older, more American” world of theSouthern agrarians with the Lincolnian American empire. Regardless, whenCarlson asked for “A fair country. A decent country. A cohesive country. Acountry whose leaders don’t accelerate the forces of change purely for theirown profit and amusement. A country you might recognize when you’re old. Acountry that listens to young people who don’t live in Brooklyn. A countrywhere you can make a solid living outside of the big cities. A country whereLewiston, Maine seems almost as important as the west side of Los Angeles. Acountry where environmentalism means getting outside and picking up the trash.A clean, orderly, stable country that respects itself. And above all, a countrywhere normal people with an average education who grew up no place special canget married, and have happy kids, and repeat unto the generations. A countrythat actually cares about families, the building block of everything,” he waschanneling the Jeffersonian America that dominated politics and culture untilthe close of the War in 1865 and that found a voice in fits and spurts in thepost-bellum period, particularly from Southerners who knew they told you so

    Richard Weaver offeredthe best explanation for why the Southern tradition still has currency inmodern society in his
    The Southern Tradition At Bay
    . He wrote, “TheSouth possesses an inheritance which it has imperfectly understood and littleused. It is in the curious position of having been right without realizing thegrounds of its rightness.” The interwar Southern critique of Hamilton’s Americacame closest to doing so, and in the end, we are left with Weaver’s conclusionthat the Southern tradition offers not an example but a challenge. “The challenge,”he said,” is to save the human spirit by re-creating the non-materialistsociety.” This is the very challenge Carlson offered his viewers, the twelveSoutherners scribbled about, Dabney thundered from the pulpit, and Taylor ofCaroline, the most Jeffersonian of all Jeffersonians, insisted we remember whenfaced with Hamilton’s schemes. Weaver concluded by suggesting that “The OldSouth may indeed be a hall hung with splendid tapestries in which no one wouldcare to live; but from them we can learn something of how to live.” You don’thave to be a farmer to be an agrarian. We could all use a little more of theSouthern tradition, but it’s up to us to take the challenge of “saving thehuman spirit” through an “older, more American” worldview, seriously.

    ''... I believe that the maintenance of the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people...are a safeguard to the continuance of a free government...whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast Republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.''- Gen. Robert E. Lee

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Western Pa.


    ​This was a little long...but it is in paragraphs.
    ''... I believe that the maintenance of the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people...are a safeguard to the continuance of a free government...whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast Republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.''- Gen. Robert E. Lee

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2010


    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Huk View Post
    ​This was a little long...but it is in paragraphs.
    Regardless I did read it. So much is explained as to what it's like to be Southern. I must admit, they were reading my mail, so to speak. In more modern terms it would easily be a description of me.
    Wise Men Still Seek Him

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