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.”
And it goes downhill 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.
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 New England’s can-do attitude, its bustling economy and strict religious beliefs. But detractors used it far more often. They said New Englandism meant the anti-slavery sentiments taking root in the Republican Party.
The New Englander, said 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.
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, newspapers reported, the feeling against New Englandism, ‘is every day growing more bitter.’
The Entitled New Englander
An Illinois newspaper 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 2020.