Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 8: No 2) >> Tiger's Meat: William Gilmore Simms and the History of the Revolution >> Page 24

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Page 24

Secondary Scholarship | 2000
Transcription The Southern reaction was to be expected. John Tyler, father of the future
President, wrote that Morse and his readers were "Northern cattle," jealous of
Virginia.5 One of the staples of Jefferson's letters is complaint about the New England
"intelligentsia." In fact, his insistence on separation of church and state rested in
considerable part on his distaste for the arrogance and political power of the New
England clergy.
In his autobiography, Jefferson points out an instance, personally known to
him, where Federalist historians had given Massachusetts credit for something that
had been due to the action of Virginia.6 In the House of Representatives in 1798,
Northern members were pushing for the funding of a regular army (an increase of
centralized power) because of the need to defend the allegedly enervated South.
Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina, who had fought through the Southern campaigns
of the Revolution, remarked: "in the last war no man eastward of the Delaware was
ever seen fighting in the Southern States, and that now the Southern members are
satisfied, with few exceptions, to be left to themselves."7 Broadly speaking, Macon's
history is correct and in agreement with Simms's branding of Sabine's account of New
Englanders fighting the Revolution in the South as false.
One will not begin to understand the controversies that occupied Simms over
Revolutionary history unless one takes notice of aggressive New England chauvinism.
It was not limited to history. In 1828 Noah Webster published his Dictionary of the
American Language, and in 1831 his American spelling book. Readers of Webster's
work are informed that New Englanders speak the purest and most refined version of
English, not only in America but in the world. New England spelling and
pronunciation were the standards which all others should strive to attain.8 Southerners
and others ridiculed or ignored such presumption until after the War for Southern
New England chauvinism did not work in the beginning with most Americans.
Washington Irving wrote of the disagreeable Connecticut Yankee, Ichabod Crane,
who intruded his unwelcome presence upon New Yorkers. Cooper decried the pushy
Yankees who had swarmed into New York and condemned interference with the
South over slavery. Paulding wrote a book in defense of the South. Melville and even
the New Englander Hawthorne can be interpreted easily as opponents of the New

5 Tyler to St. George Tucker, July 10, 1795, in Tucker's 1795 pamphlet, "A letter to the Rev.
Jedidiah Morse, A.M., Author of 'The American Universal Geography'," reprinted in William
and Mark Quarterly, series I, (January 1894), 2: 184-200.
6 Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson (New York: Capricorn Books, 1959), 23.
7 Debates and Proceedings in Congress (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1851), 5' Congress, p.
1826 (May 26, 1798).
8 For Webster's South-hating, see Harry R. Warfel, ed., The Letters of Noah Webster (New York:
Library Publishers, 1953), 54-55, 111-130, 433-513, and passim.