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Stereotypes, and the Hidden Cause of the Civil War

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Mark David Ledbetter posted on Wed, Jul 6 2011 8:33 PM

A paean to stereotyping in today’s Mises Blog (Defending the Stereotype, Stephen Mauzy)! To find I am not alone in this warms my heart and excites my senses, to the point, even, of quoting myself. My own sussing out of the sources of the American Civil War has led me to believe that one major cause may be hidden to intellectuals by their aversion to stereotyping. But, in fact, the ACW was in many ways simply a repeat of the ECW, a culture conflict fought by the same two groups on a new continent. When Puritans and Cavalier-Borderers fled each other before, during, and after the ECW of the 1640s, they seeded the cultures of, respectively, the North and South. It was probably inevitable they would fight again. Any thoughts?


     QUOTE: A free market-libertarian tome might be expected to laugh off that last fatuous assertion proposed by the Friends of Domestic Industry. But this book will not. In fact, aversion to manufacture will be considered as a possibly important underground theme driving the forgotten history of America.

     Humans love to stereotype, are actually driven to stereotype. Stereotyping is a necessary built-in mental facility that provides convenient categories for organizing the world, thus simplifying and clarifying the colossal problem of making sense of it all. On the other hand, stereotyping also serves to support the prejudices of an ego desperate for validation, recognition, and aggrandizement. For this second characteristic, modern intellectuals are prone to disregard the validity of stereotypes out of hand. But stereotypes, flawed though they may be, are not generally based on nothing. Humans of an earlier time, as well as modern humans outside the circle of western intellectualism, tend to be deeply and openly devoted to their stereotypes. This can be both discriminatory and useful at the same time as stereotypes, while always flawed, are, again, rarely based on nothing.

     Stereotype though it may be, classifying Southerners as “averse to manufacture” opens a multitude of possibilities missed or avoided by intellectuals averse to stereotypes. What if the southern aversion to manufacture was generally true? Could this be an important reason the South remained agricultural while the North developed both shipping and industry? Or why it was the North that had once carried on the bulk of the slave trade even though demand for slaves was in the South? Or one reason why the South lagged economically behind the North well into the 20thcentury?

     Antebellum Southerners frequently noted that merchants and entrepreneurs in the South were often not actually southern. They were Germans, Jews, or Yankees. Just a stereotype? Southerners noted that Northerners thought differently. They were logical. Rational. Had minds for business. And - can it be said? - were hard working. Southern small farmers, the bulk of the non-slave population, were often happy enough producing for their needs and maybe a bit more. Beyond that, they’d rather be hunting. Even in a later age when a farm-and-hunt lifestyle was no longer a major option, they could still “take your job and shove it, they ain’t workin’ here no more.”

     The Puritan ethic was alien to the southern mind. Southerners were emotional, violent, and into singing, dancing, and partying. Family ties were more important than occupation, loyalty to kin and place more important than productivity, laws of honor superior to laws of state. Southerners had attitude, swagger, but not a whole lot of interest in education. Neither were they businessmen. They were, in a phrase, averse to manufacture.


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You are on the right track.


Actually the ACW is the final war in a series of Cultural wars fought by the English speaking peoples in Scotland ,England  ,Ireland and the USA.

The wars start under the tudors in England where Anglicans war with catholics and suppress reformism and Scotland where Catholics lose control to presbyterians inspired by John Knox.

The presbyterians challenged the anglicans in England and were briefly successfull and managed to ward off a threat from the baptists but were ultimately replaced by resurgent anglicanism.

Presbyterians at this time fought both Catholic and Anglican forces in ireland in the 1650's and again in 1690 (the latter with the Pope's blessing ironically).

Scotland fought two further civil wars in 1715 and 1745 as Roman catholics with episcopalian (scottish anglican) support challenged both scottish presbyterianism and english anglicanism and failed.

Meanwhile in the Americas desecendants of English and Scottish /Irish presbyterians fought descendents of English anglicans and Scottish episcopalians during the US war of independence.

Having won that encounter tried to take Canada from Episcopalians and fail in 1812 then finally fight a final war against resurgent episcopalians (and bizarrely Baptists) in the 1860's

Bring back the Gold standard.
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Marko replied on Thu, Jul 7 2011 12:25 PM

But, in fact, the ACW was in many ways simply a repeat of the ECW, a culture conflict fought by the same two groups on a new continent. When Puritans and Cavalier-Borderers fled each other before, during, and after the ECW of the 1640s, they seeded the cultures of, respectively, the North and South. It was probably inevitable they would fight again. Any thoughts?

I'd say, a difference in culture doesn't make conflict between cultures inevitable.

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Aaron, how’s it goin’ with you, bro, since the duel and your subsequent troubles?

Fascinating mini-history of the religious/cultural conflicts in England. I’ve already been to Wiki to catch up a bit on some of your info. Thx.

Just for fun, I’ll take it back one step further. Before the continental troubles infected England with the help of good ol’ Henry, you had the Protestants in the north and Catholics in the south turning Europe into a long blood bath. That, though, led to the search for a better way, the Enlightenment, and the flowering of liberal-libertarian thinking.

All those religious groups fighting in Britain are also culture groups: Scots, Irish, English etc. Same can be said for the continental wars. Instead of calling it Protestants against Catholics you could call it Germanics against Latins.

David Hackett Fischer is probably the preeminent historian of the seeding of English cultures in America (Albion’s Seed) that set America up for a repeat of the ECW. Can’t recall that he said this, though he may have… but the Puritan-Royalist split that defined the culture groups that fought both the ECW and ACW follows a line pretty close to the old Danelaw of the 10th century. Vikings were on the verge of capturing the entirety of England when Alfred pushed them back a bit. S-W of the line became the future conservative Royalist stronghold (and source of Southern culture in the US); East England became the breeding ground of radical Puritanism in England and the source of Northern culture in America.

We could take this culture thing back another 5 or 6 hundred years before Alfred. Roman Britain was home to civilized Celts (who didn’t know how to fight, as the Roman legions had taken care of that for them). When the Rome collapsed and the Roman legions left, Saxons, Angles, and Jutes came in from the continent and had a relatively easy time making the former Roman areas their own. “Angle-land” became “Eng-land.” But they hit a wall when they hit the uncivilized areas of Wales, Ireland, and Scotland – thus planting seeds for further culture wars that have continued pretty much up until the present.

Gotta run. Work calls. Thx for the comment, Marko. I'll get back to it if I have anything worthwhile

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