December 8, 1860: Fashion news from a Southern correspondent in New York

From the Charleston Mercury, December 13, 1860 — a December 8 letter from the Mercury’s New York fashion correspondent:

Fashion in New York.  
Our New York Correspondence.
                                                                                                                  New York, December 8. 
                In my bulletin for this month, credit me, mes amies, for a strict avoidance of all Republican houses–whose very show-windows I avoid as I would a pestilence.  The agitation of the past month has utterly overcome the usual equanimity of your correspondent’s temperament, serving, however, but to strengthen, if that were possible, the ardent affection cherished for the South, and still more ardent detestation of all Republican Northerners. 

                I wish I could positively endorse, with any degree of certainty, the sentiments of many of your friends here, that the morning will never dawn upon the inauguration of Lincoln; whatever his fate may be I care not; but at all events, it is a far more comforting reflection to be a beaten Democrat than one of the insolent, triumphant corps of renegade Lincolnites.  We shall see! 

To a significant degree, many Southerners’ grievance with the North was a matter of honor and pride. Numerous secessionists cite with anger the fact that Northerners continually impugn their morality, calling them evil for holding slaves. The Southern response to abolitionists’ moral outrage was to develop the concept of slavery as a positive good for both masters and slaves — see DeBow’s Review for a leading proponent of this view — and to castigate abolitionists as immoral and Godless.

Here even the Charleston Mercury’s fashion correspondent starts an article about the current couture with a tirade against the “insolent” Republicans. The South had furnished many of the leaders in the Revolutionary war, and most of the nation’s early presidents; it was a bitter pill for Southerners to lose the high moral ground over slavery, and Northerners’ confidence in their own moral superiority grated on them. I think you can’t underestimate their wounded pride as a motivation for secession, and ultimately a cause of war.

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