New Hampshire

When Calling Someone a New Englander was an Insult

In November 1852, newspapers in Pennsylvania gave over 650 words to assailing the flaws of New Englanders. In a wide-ranging screed they attacked the region as being full of dis-unionists, atheists and abolitionists.

New England, they wrote, “Began its career by burning and hanging Baptists and Quakers, anyone who differed from its Puritanical notions of Religion.”

new englander

1860 political cartoon, Dividing the National Map (From the Library of Congress.)

And it goes down hill from there, recounting Massachusetts' expulsion of Roger Williams, John Adams' imposition of the alien and sedition acts, the region's opposition to westward expansion of the country, its opposition to the War of 1812.

The region's latest outrage was the abolitionists from New England who were settling in Kansas to create an anti-slavery voting block in the new territory.

Across the country, the expression New Englandism began gaining popularity. Supporters of the region would use the term to describe its can-do mindset, a bustling economy and strict religious beliefs. But detractors, who used it far more often, said New Englandism was shorthand for the abolition movement that was taking root in the national Republican Party.

New Englanders, the critics noted, were seeking to deprive the nation of slavery when its states had, in fact, “grown rich by importing slaves from Africa; and which is living now in luxury upon the blood and bones of the human beings it thus trafficked in.”

In July of 1858, the Cincinnati Enquirer, in support of President James Buchanan, noted that New England congressmen and senators were voting in a block against Buchanan. This, the newspaper suggested, was the latest in a long string of New England bad judgment.

Among the region's flaws: its failure to give even a single electoral vote to Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson when they first ran for president and its opposition to the War of 1812.

In 1859, after abolitionist John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, New England was excoriated for providing funds for his attack. One southern newspaper noted: “. . . he went back to New England, traveling through its several villages, and collecting money, which was freely contributed.”

By 1863, newspapers in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Indiana were lashing out full strength against New England.

“Through the west and midwest, the newspapers reported, the feeling against New England and New Englandism in that section of the country is every day growing more bitter.”

A newspaper in Illinois noted “their policy from the beginning of the government has been to make all others pay tribute to them; first; by commerce, then by protective tariffs, and now, in the abolition of slavery. They will next try on their Unitarianism, Congregationalism, or Independentism, as the established religion of the country.”

And a newspaper in Indiana suggested that it was a good thing the nation was considering breaking away from New England. “We predict that if New England persists in her present policy, she will be "left out in the cold" to draw subsistence from her bleak and barren hills, cast off from the protection " and commercial advantages which she has so ungratefully enjoyed at the hands of the other States of the Union.”

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Polly Baker

    March 13, 2018 at 7:31 am

    Interesting

  2. Cathy

    March 16, 2018 at 10:52 am

    Proud to be a “New Englander”!

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