Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Civility in a Democracy

NEH Chairman Bruce Cole has a conversation with Miss Manners (Judith Martin) "about how standards of behavior were adapted for an American democracy." There are a few interresting passages. Here’s one on Southern hospitality:

The plantation owners thought they were being English country gentlemen, but who was teaching etiquette to their children? The house slaves. The house slaves often came from a more elevated background than the masters. They were chosen among the slaves as the people who were more refined. They had been captured and brought over from Africa, whereas, of course, voluntary immigrants came because things weren’t so great at home. The house slave, usually the mammy, taught manners to the children. So she taught them the manners she knew. The "y’all come see me" kind of hospitality is an African tradition that they brought over. Using honorary family titles, aunt so-and-so and uncle so-and-so, where there’s no relationship, but to convey something between strict formality and informality--these kinds of things crept in to become what are now known as Southern manners.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Nice story. U.S. government is based on the Iroquois confederation too.

G.M.

Yea, sounds like myth-making to me. Southern manners came (originally) from the manners of English gentry. Gees, I wish people would read some history.

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