The Gentlemen’s Agreement
Under the Gentlemen’s Agreement between the North and the South, the South would let the North have the Presidency, and the North would redraw troops from the South. Furthermore, the Southern States would be allowed to govern themselves as they deemed appropriate and resolve their race problem the way that they thought best. The North would be allowed to control the government of the United States for the benefit of big business. This agreement held for forty years. (Today the North still controls the government of the United States for the benefit of big business although other parasites, such as big labor, academia, social engineers, and welfare victims have become attached along the way. However, the Southern States no longer have control over their domestic affairs.)
With the close of Reconstruction, the New South began to move into its own. That which made the South different must be destroyed. The South must be remodeled. Industrialism and commercialism must replace agrarianism as the way of life in the South.
In addition to remaking Southern society, the Southern mind must also be remolded. Southerners must be made to think like Yankees. Frank Owsley described this phase of the war to destroy the South as follows:
After the South had been conquered by war and humiliated and impoverished by peace, there appeared still to remain something which made the South different — something intangible, incomprehensible, in the realm of the spirit. That too must be invaded and destroyed; so there commenced a second war of conquest, the conquest of the Southern mind, calculated to remake every Southern opinion, to impose the Northern way of life and thought upon the South, write ‘error’ across the pages of Southern history which were out of keeping with the Northern legend, and set the rising and unborn generations upon stools of everlasting repentance.After having financed the destruction of Southern agrarianism, the Northern banking interest, often with the aid of the New South Southerner, kept Southern agriculture in bondage with the crop-lien system until well into the twentieth century. The crop-lien system compelled Southern farmers to grow one crop, the money crop for that region — hence, it was also known as the one-crop system. Farmers were forced to use so much land for the money crop that they often lacked enough land to provide their own food. Thus, they were driven further into debt to purchase their food. Over planting of the money crop kept prices low and farmers impoverished. This vicious debt cycle kept them in bondage for decades and eventually drove most of them out of agriculture. Eighty to ninety percent of the Southern farmers were entrapped in this debt cycle into the twentieth century.
With the passage of time farmland once again began to be valuable. Land mortgages began to supplement crop-liens. When hard times came, as they did in the 1890's, a number of these mortgaged farms passed into the hands of creditors, bankers, and merchants. Some farmers remained on “their” farms as tenants while others moved on to factory work. In 1880, 63 percent of all farms in the South were operated by owners. By 1900 only slightly more than 46 percent of all Southern farms were operated by owners.
As agriculture languished, manufacturing grew. Industrialism had supplanted agrarianism as the culture and way of life in the South. The New South Southerners had won. (One of the virtues of Southern manufacturing during the later part of the nineteenth century was that it was mostly financed by local capital and locally owned. Also during this period, and well into the twentieth century, most Southern industrialists, unlike many of their Northern counterparts, took a personal interest in the welfare of their workers.) Kendrick and Arnett described this change as follows:
. . . by 1900 the Old South was little more than a memory. Most of those who had remembered, perhaps over-remembered, its ‘glories’ had passed to the Glorious Beyond. Their places were being filled by modern ‘go-getters.’ Northern capital was responding to urgent invitations to exploit Southern resources, physical and human. Dependence upon Northern business connections was steadily growing. Imitation of Northern manners and customs had become the mode. The South had developed a veritable inferiority complex. It would now imitate the North. Even the best of its old life and traditions must now give place to relentless nationalization. If Toombs and Yancey had been supplanted by Grady and Aycock, Washington and Lee had given place to Babbit.By 1900 the North had thoroughly conquered the South as Kendrick and Arnett testified:
The war broke down physical resistance and brought outward changes in institutions, but it did not at the time break the spirit of the South, its reliance upon its own cultural standards and pride in its own way of life. By 1900, however, the South had become the willing and almost humble disciple of its one-time foe. Only a dwindling and impotent minority was left to question the dominant philosophy that the South’s way out was to imitate the North. Its cities must be like Northern cities, its schools and colleges like Northern schools and colleges. Atlanta must be the New York of the South, Birmingham the Pittsburgh, Spartanburg the Lowell, High Point the Grand Rapids, and so on ad infinitum. Northern culture and cultural standards were accepted at their own valuation. No Southern scholar, statesman, poet, novelist, or playwright could hope for recognition in his own section until he had first been recognized in the North. The South had no standards of its own, and only a puny, imitative culture.The New South Southerners had sold their souls and the soul of the South to the Northern money interest. They had subverted the South into a poor imitation of the North. (Even today New South Southerners continue their work of utterly destroying all that is uniquely Southern.) Nearly all the industrial development in the South after 1900 was financed and controlled by the North. By 1920 the Southern States had been reduced to little more than tributary provinces. The era of the Cold War had begun.
Most patriotic Southerners resisted this political effort to remake them. However, a new type of Southern was given birth during the First Reconstruction — the New South Southerner. (The New South Southerner is basically a populist scalawag. Carter L. Clews describes him, “. . . as something akin to kudzu — at first harmless-looking and seemingly beneficial, but relentless, thriving in any soil, and impossible to kill. This most representative product of the New South soon chokes out and overwhelms everything God intended to grow and prosper.”) The New South Southerner lead the economic reform of the South. What politics failed to do, economics would do. The South would be industrialized like the North. Agrarianism would be replaced by industrialism. Northern wealth was too tempting for the New South Southern leadership. Francis Simkins illustrated the seductiveness of Northern wealth:
The Northern reformers who arrived in the 1860’s and 1870’s carrying carpetbags were driven out by Southerners armed with shotguns before these outsiders could make their projects effective. But a later generation of Northern reformers, coming mostly in the twentieth century, have experienced a different reception. Riding in expensive automobiles, emanating an aura of wealth, this later generation has, through lavish expenditures, received the enthusiastic co-operation of Southerners. They have introduced Northern ideals of literature, architecture, and landscaping, and have instilled into the Southern mind a definite preference for Northern concepts of civilization.Henry W. Grady, who was one of the leaders in developing the New South following Reconstruction, said that the South was “the last hope of saving the old fashion in our religious and political government.” He warned Southerners to preserve and protect their traditional virtues and way of life although much of what the New South Southerners were advocating were inimical to these virtues and way of life. His warning was not heeded and probably could not have been if the dream of the New South was to be realized. The South’s religion and politics were too old fashion for the world that the New South Southerners were creating. As a result nearly all of the virtues of the Old South have perished.
Instead of reviving and recreating Southern economy, culture, and civilization, the leaders of the New South chose the lazy way of importing the Northern economy, culture, and civilization. The North was only too glad to comply. Such importation gave the Northern reformers another chance to remake the South in their own image. Along with industrialization came hordes of Yankee immigrants to manage the Southern economy and Yankee reformers to remold the Southern society into the image of Yankeedom. This economic and social assault has been largely successful. It has destroyed many unique aspects of the Southern way of life. This economic and social assault continues even today.
1. Frank L. Owsley, “Irrepressible Conflict,” in A Southern Treasury of Life and Literature, ed. Stark Young (New York, 1937), pp. 449-450.
2. Benjamin J. Kendrick and Alex M. Arnett, The South Looks at Its Past (Chapel Hill, 1935), pp. 140-141.
3. Ibid., pp. 142-143.
4. Charles L. Clews, “Bill Clinton and the Southern Liberal Mystique,” Southern Partisan, XIII (Fourth Quarter, 1993), p. 22.
5. Francis Butler Simkins, The Everlasting South (1963), p. 71.
6. Richard M. Weaver, The Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver, ed. George M. Curtis III and James J. Thompson Jr. (Indianapolis, 1987), p. 345.
Copyright © 1995 by Thomas Coley Allen.
More articles on the South.