Being born and raised in Pennsylvania, I am a northerner but not a Yankee. The same is true of my friend Lew Rockwell, a native of Massachusetts who would qualify for membership in Sons of Union Veterans. The word “Yankee” gained popularity in the early to mid nineteenth century to describe a particular brand of New Englander: arrogant, hypocritical, unfriendly, condescending, intolerant, extremely self-righteous, and believing that he and his were God’s chosen people.
Yankees have never shied away from using the coercive powers of the state to compel others to be remade in their image. That’s why compulsory government schooling originated in New England, as did prohibitionism. It’s also why Stalinism took hold in the North (especially in New York City) in the twentieth century, as did its offshoot, neoconservativism, in more recent times. Indeed, many of the more notorious neoconservatives openly admit that they were Stalinists in their youth and have never fully abandoned those beliefs.
At the outbreak of the War to Prevent Southern Independence there was a vigorous secession movement in what were known then as the Middle States — Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, New Jersey. During the war there were thousands of Northern “peace Democrats” who opposed Lincoln and his Yankee cabal. These people, who were essentially Jeffersonians, had one thing in common with the Southern Confederates: they despised the arrogant, pushy, greedy, and insufferably self-righteous Yankees. They were ruthlessly censored and imprisoned by the tens of thousands by the Lincoln government. When they rioted over military conscription, the Yankee army shot them dead in the streets by the hundreds if not thousands (See Iver Bernstein, The New York City Draft Riots).
The idea of Yankee moral superiority was carefully crafted almost from the time of the Pilgrims. By 1861, New England Yankees and their Midwestern cousins had concocted the myth of a free, white, and virtuous New England that, by virtue of its moral superiority, had a right to remake all other sections of the U.S. in its own image, creating a Heaven on Earth (i.e., the New England-ization of North America). A corollary of this myth was the notion of the morally corrupt, slave-owning South.
But the notion of a morally superior New England Yankee nation is all a myth, as is explained in great detail by Joanne Pope Melish in her book, Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and Race in New England, 1780—1860 (Cornell University Press, 1998). Professor Melish, who teaches at the University of Kentucky, documents how New England propagandists rewrote their own history, not unlike how the Soviets rewrote Russian history, to say that slavery in that part of the country was only very brief and very benevolent.
The truth of the matter is that slavery existed in New England for more than 200 years (beginning in 1638) and it was every bit as degrading and dehumanizing as slavery anywhere. In mid eighteenth century Rhode Island slaves accounted for as much as one third of the population in many communities. Newport, Rhode Island, and Boston, Massachusetts, were the two biggest hubs of the transatlantic slave trade. Many slaves worked in the shipping industry in New England. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island were the three biggest Northern slave-owning states.
Virtually all of the household and farm labor of New England’s aristocracy was done by slaves…..
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