Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 8: No 2) >> Tiger's Meat: William Gilmore Simms and the History of the Revolution >> Page 25

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Secondary Scholarship | 2000
Transcription England way.9 Remember Poe's lampooning of the Boston literati, published in New
In fact, the word Yankee is apparently of Dutch or Native American origin,
first applied by New Yorkers as a negative term for New Englanders, presumably of
the pure Anglo-Saxon variety. It was not applied to all Northerners till the Civil War,
when Southerners assumed that all the Northerners were now Yankeeized. Young
Abraham Lincoln had a fund of Yankee stories to amuse his neighbors in southern
Indiana and Illinois, the most popular part of his repertoire except for his obscene
stories. For Lincoln's neighbors, Yankees were shifty hypocrites from Connecticut,
swindling honest people with shoddy goods. The New Englanders, who moved
somewhat later into the Midwest than their Southern-bound neighbors, returned the
favor by referring to the latter as shiftless "Hoosiers." The cultural faultline, I am told,
can still be seen across the Midwest.
Before 1856 Simms's abundant Northern contacts had been largely among Old
Northerners who did not share in the New England chauvinism. (Two partial
exceptions: Bryant was a New Englander who had written a poem referring to
Jefferson as a "wretch" and the Louisiana Purchase as a useless swamp. However, he
was courteous in personal relations and widely acquainted among Southerners.
Bancroft exhibited positive but not negative Massachusetts chauvinism. He was an
opportunist who liked to keep all bases covered.)
Through his Northern acquaintances, Simms had perhaps been lulled into a
false sense of security. For that reason, he may not have appreciated the changes in
Northern society that were bringing out the ravenous and the venomous.
In 1856 Simms entered the belly of the beast. Western New York was not only
the core of the Chautauqua circuit: Chautauqua was the name of a town in the region.
It was also "the Burnt Over District," well-known in American popular lore as a
hotbed of religious and social ferment. At the time of the Revolution western New
York had been empty frontier. In the antebellum period it filled up with the overflow
of the poorer population of New England, the people that Cooper complained about.
By 1830 half the people in New York State were New England-born and there was
a very different social climate from that of Old Yorkers like Cooper, Irving, Paulding,
or Mrs. Elizabeth F. Ellet, who wrote good non-sectionalist Revolutionary history
that Simms admired. And in New York City, most of the big money men, and the
leading editors like Bryant and Greeley, were also Yankees.

9 Given time and resources, a book could be devoted to Northern dislike of New Englanders and
their aggressions, from the Revolution to the Civil War. For a start, see H.A. Scott Trask, "The
Constitutional Republicans of Philadelphia, 1818-1848: Hard Money, Free Trade, and State
Rights" (doctoral dissertation, University of South Carolina, 1998).
10 See "Boston and the Bostonians," Broadway Journal, November 22, 1845.