Author: Bruce Lerro
The reason Yankee fans and Red Sox fans hate each other goes a lot deeper than sports. In his book American Nations, Colin Woodard identifies eleven regional cultures in the United States. He compares the conditions of the home country, settler conditions, climate, geography, religious history, population density and international loyalties. He points out the parallels between how settlers' regional locations in England impacted the type of regional culture they developed in the United States. My purpose in this article is to:
- reveal the political bankruptcy of trying to fit eleven different regions into two political parties, and;
- reveal the economic bankruptcy of industrial capitalists in forming a single nation-state by attempting to pulverize the differences between these regions.
There are good reasons why the United States has rarely, if ever, unified, whether in war or peace. The notion that we were and are united is pure political and economic propaganda.
Questions about regional rivalries
- How might the time of settlement affect the culture of the region and how might the region feel about other regions?
- How might the country of origin and its politics (feudal, capitalist) affect the politics of the region and how might that region might feel about different regions?
- How might the geography (rivers, rainfall, flat-mountainous, valleys, plains) and means of subsistence (hunting, fishing, farming, herding, trading, industry) affect the culture of the region and how might that region feel bout different regions?
- How might the religion of the region affect the culture and how might that region feel about different regions?
- How might the size of the population of the region (dense or sparse) affect the culture of the region and how might that region feel about different regions?
- How might the history of the region's relationship with immigrants or native Americans affect the culture of the region and how might that region feel about other regions?
- Given the answer to the first six questions, which regions will have the greatest tensions? Why might they have these tensions?
- The author of the book implies that the United States is too big for a single nation-state. Whether you agree or not, are there any regions that might have enough in common to join together? Or would it be better to be broken into regions that become nation-states like European states?
I cannot address all these questions in this article. I intend to answer most of them and leave the rest to stimulate your thinking.
Issues that Divided the Regions of the United States
The federal government of the United States only began to try to unify the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific after the Civil War with massive architecture, street names, and flags in every classroom. It is questionable how successful they have been. To talk about a common national experience over such a large territory confronts many problems.
David Hackett Fischer in his book, Albion's Seed, identified four major regions in the United States with significant differences in their means of subsistence, their religion, the conditions of settlement and the parts of England these first settlers were from. In his book American Nations, Colin Woodard has expanded these settlements from four to eleven regions. Please see Table A (in the book) to understand which country of Europe settled the region, the time of settlement and the region of the U.S. it occupied.
For this section I will be following Woodard's description. According to him, Americans have been divided since the days of Jamestown and Plymouth. Colonists saw each other as competitors for people to settle their land, for the land itself, as well their ability to draw capital to their settlement. Here are some of issues that divided the colonies:
- Loyalty to England: Royalist Virginia (Tidewater) vs Yankee Massachusetts
- Individualism: Yankees and New Netherlands were for individualism vs social reform orientation of New France
- Religion: Puritanism (Yankees, New England) vs Quakers' freedom of conscience (Midlanders). In addition, there was a tension between the liberal and evangelical spectrum about how to practice their religion.
- Politics: The importance of politics for the Deep South and the Yankees as opposed to apathy to politics of the Quakers (Midlanders)
- Use of force: Active use of force by Tidewater, the Deep South and Appalachia vs Midlanders, (Quakers) non-violence.
- Secession: Not only Tidewater and the Deep South, but Appalachia and New England also considered secession.
These regions had differences in religion between Catholics, Puritans, Anglicans, Quakers and Mormons. Each region differed in the kind of work people did, from cattle rearing, hunting, fishing, fur trapping, agricultural capitalism (producing tobacco, sugar and cotton), subsistence farming, herding, and industrial production (mining, railroad work and smelting). These regions were formed with different intentions including for religious purposes, commercial purposes, political independence or as a home for refugees. The politics of the regions differed drastically, from authoritarian (Deep South) to egalitarian (New France) to liberal (New England town-hall and the Left Coast) to classical republican (Tidewater) to libertarian (Far West).
Regionalists in the U.S. respected neither state nor international boundaries. It was only when England began to treat these colonies as a single unit and implemented policies that threatened them all, that they formed a united force. It is important to realize the uniting against an enemy does not create unification after the confrontation is over. After all, the greatest regional battle in US history occurred almost a hundred years after Independence Day.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).