Monday, August 8, 2016

American Culture: Massachusetts or Virginia

 salute of honor

Delivered at the 2016 Abbeville Institute Summer School.

A Frenchman has observed that the qualities of a culture may be identified by two characteristics— its manners and its cuisine. If that is so, then we can safely say that the United States, except for the South, has no culture at all. Aside from the South the only American contributions to cuisine consist of a few things imported by immigrant groups, like the hot dog and pizza. And a great many Americans outside the South either disdain good manners or have no concept of manners at all.

From earliest colonial times to the present, Southern manners have been noted by outsiders as an admirable exception to normal American behaviour. A Northampton, Massachusetts, newspaper says this in 1833:
“The manners of the Southern people we like far better than those of our own. They win confidence without effort, and create a feeling of sociality without ostentation, and throw around them a sentiment of kindness without affected display.”

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