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 the New Englander. In a wide-ranging screed they attacked the region as 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 deriding the New Englander, Dividing the National Map (From the Library of Congress).

And it goes down hill from there. The tirade recounted Massachusetts' expulsion of Roger Williams and John Adams' Alien and Sedition acts. It also attacked the region's opposition to westward expansion and to the War of 1812.

Latest Outrage

In 1852, the region foisted its latest outrage on Kansas.  New England abolitionists began settling there to create an anti-slavery voting bloc in the new territory.

Across the country, the expression 'New Englandism' gained popularity. Supporters used the term to describe iNew England's can-do attitude, its bustling economy and strict religious beliefs. But detractors, who used it far more often, said New Englandism meant the anti-slavery sentiments taking root in the Republican Party.

The New Englander, said the critics, sought to deprive the nation of slavery. But New England states had, in fact, 'grown rich by importing slaves from Africa.' Further, they said, the region lives 'now in luxury upon the blood and bones of the human beings it thus trafficked in.'

In July of 1858, the Cincinnati Enquirer supported President James Buchanan. The newspaper attacked New England congressmen and senators for voting in a bloc against Buchanan. This, the newspaper suggested, represented the latest in a long string of New England bad judgment calls.

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

In 1859 abolitionist John Brown raided Harper's Ferry. Newspapers then denounced New England 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 lashed 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.

The Entitled New Englander

A newspaper in Illinois noted the New Englander from the beginning demanded tribute from the rest of the country. They made others pay homage, 'first by commerce, then by protective tariffs, and now, in the abolition of slavery.'

The newspaper then warned New Englanders will try to impose their 'Unitarianism, Congregationalism, or Independentism,' as the national religion. 

And a newspaper in Indiana applauded the other states considering breaking away from New England. The editors also predicted New England would be 'left out in the cold' to survive on her 'bleak and barren hills.' The region, they said, would be 'cast off from the protection and commercial advantages' that it enjoyed from the other U.S. states. 

This story about calling someone a New Englander was updated in 2019.

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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