Southern social theorist George Fitzhugh (1806-1881) of Virginia noted that the traditional South’s neo-classical structure and values bestowed upon its citizens a much greater degree of dignity than did the North’s egalitarian bourgeois structure. Fitzhugh wrote in Sociology for the South: Or the Failure of Free Society:
High intellectual and moral attainments, refinement of head and heart, give standing to a man in the South, however poor he may be. Money is, with few exceptions, the only thing that ennobles at the North. We have poor among us, but non who are over-worked and under-fed. We do not crowd cities because lands are abundant and their owners kind, merciful and hospitable. The poor are as hospitable as the rich, the negro as the White man. Nobody dreams of turning a friend, a relative, or a stranger from his door.
Fitzhugh attributed this dignity and sense of honor in part to the “loose economy” of the South, which though highly productive was admittedly somewhat wasteful as well. He saw this as a blessing as “it keeps want, scarcity and famine at a distance, because it leaves room for retrenchment.”
More importantly though, the South’s hierarchical structure and use of directed labor dignified its free citizens in a way that egalitarian societies do not. Fitzhugh compared the Southern system to that of the classical world and noted that even the poor White man in the South was treated with a respect not extended to the poor White man in the North. The Virginian pointed out:
One free citizen does not lord it over another; hence that feeling of independence and equality that distinguishes us; hence that pride of character, that self-respect, that gives us ascendancy when we come in contact with Northerners. It is a distinction to be a Southerner, as it was once to be a Roman citizen.
Also see: Part I