The Yankee Problem Again by Clyde Wilson

…..The identification of God with America and the United States with infallible righteousness is Yankee stuff through and through. It is exactly the type of “religion” that was used to deify Lincoln and justify the conquest of the South in 1861—1865. In Yankee history it is the stage they went through between the hyper-Calvinism of their early days and their present atheism. It did not arrive in Dixie until the early 20th century when various evangelists began imitating the style and content of the Yankee Billy Sunday. (See “The Real Old Time Religion” by the late theologian A.J. Conyers in Vol. 23, No. 3, one of the most important articles ever published in SP.) Traditional Southern clergymen would have made short shrift of heretical mountebanks like Pat Robertson.

The flourishing of Bushian religion, like the flourishing of the Republican party, is a product of too many Southerners heeding the endless lectures about the need to forget the past,

Clyde N. Wilson

Clyde N. Wilson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“join the 20th century,” etc. The religion and the politics are the same thing, the adoption of discarded Yankee ideology that equates America with God.

Some Southerners are starting to show less of our traditional patriotic loyalty and more of the idiot nationalism that thinks the U.S. government and the President can do no wrong and are entitled to bomb anybody who disagrees. In both religion and politics the dilution of Southern tradition has been a loss to Dixie — and to the whole country. For Southerners, and our sympathizers over the border, have always been the only true conservatives in the United States.

The country has continued its leftward roll for almost a half century now, despite repeated Republican election victories. Northern “conservatives,” as the Rev. Robert Lewis Dabney pointed out 150 years ago, have never, in the entire course of American history, conserved anything. The leftward lurch corresponds exactly in time with the loss of power of the old-time Southern Democrats in Congress.

There have been grave mistakes in the course of Southern history, apart from the original one of going naïvely into a Union with bad people. There was Bragg commanding the Army of Tennessee and Longstreet fumbling at Gettysburg. In the same class is the decision of Southern leaders, when they were kicked out of the Democratic Party, to join the Republicans rather than form our own party. As a result we are powerless. It was probably inevitable but nevertheless a great loss. Today there are no Southerners in Congress or in governors’ chairs — only Republicans and Democrats.

But we still have something the Yankees don’t have and have never had. There are still people writing books and poems and songs about Dixie. There is, despite all, a real Southern culture left. If you want to put secession on the table, let’s consider the only part of the United States that really could be its own country. A true culture is the best basis for a viable country. Compared to that, all the Blue state talk of secession amounts to nothing but an adolescent tantrum at not having everything exactly their own way…..


This article appeared in Vol. 24, No. 2 of The Southern Partisan.

April 4, 2005

Dr. Wilson [send him mail] is professor of history at the University of South Carolina and editor of The Papers of John C. Calhoun.

Copyright © 2005

Clyde Wilson Archives

via The Yankee Problem Again by Clyde Wilson.


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