John Mayfield


The Southerner," wrote Frederick Law Olmsted in 1854, "is greatly wanting in hospitality of mind, closing his doors to all opinions and schemes to which he has been bred a stranger, with a contempt and bigotry which sometimes seems incompatible with his character as a gentleman. He has a large but unexpansive mind." Harsh words, but they stuck. For decades after the Civil War, Northern observers such as Henry Adams and Southern grouches such as Wilbur J. Cash echoed Olmsted to one degree or another. Southerners had 'temperament," not "mind," the argument went, and if they thought at all it was to devise painfully devious evasions of basic human rights. This was not the fault of dirt-eaters or crackers. It was a self-conscious posture assumed by a Southern elite that prided itself on insularity and sociability, not cosmopolitanism and self-discipline.