Thomas Jefferson, one of the greatest and most revered of the “founding fathers” was a great man, without doubt. But nobody is perfect. Every time I travel, I love noticing the differences big and small between cities and towns of the south verses those of the north. The difference is immeasurable. Why? Short answer: everything in the South got burned and blown to smithereens in the Civil War, and has since had to be rebuilt. I have a short attention span, very short, therefore I typically love short answers. Not true of all, I’ll gladly provide a long answer to the question. For those of you lifelong Dixie boys who were born south of the Mason-Dixon Line and are determined to die south of the line, those of you who will take simple country life to city life any day…looks like you owe TJ a thank you note. Then there’s those (like me), who appreciate the Southern US (God bless it) and its cities for what their worth, but sometimes envy Northern towns like Boston, New York and Pittsburgh (but never Philadelphia). There’s also some folks (I know quite a few) who absolutely hate the region. People like owe a different kind of note to Tommy.
Dixie-boy Thomas Jefferson and his Yankee counterpart Alexander Hamilton, and their differences played an enormous role in shaping modern urban landscape, political parties and more such as interpretation of the constitution, role of government and even “bail-outs”. Al Hamilton was a northerner and member of the Federalist Party. Hamilton favored considerable government assistance for people and businesses, an implied interpretation of the Constitution, larger government and banks and protective tariffs. For all intensive purposes, by today’s standards he’d probably watch MSNBC. T.J. on the other hand, a member of the Democrat-Republican Party, supported state’s rights, literal interpretation and strict adherence to the constitution and being “self-made”, so to speak. It’s fairly safe to say he’d have the Fox News app on his iPhone. Oh…you’re sick of high school level history? Sorry. Let me get to my point.
Hamilton’s big stance was as a proponent of industrialization. The biggest and baddest economy, and everyone (black or white) with equal work in the industrial sector. Jefferson was still a passionate supporter of an agrarian society and culture, based on these self-made workers raising their own strong American agricultural society. Long story short, North: big factories and big buildings, South: farms and farm houses. And here we are a couple of centuries later. Capitalizing on industrialization, Northern cities built themselves up throughout the 19th century. With great wealth of work, immigrants poured into these cities as they became major economic, population and cultural centers. Massive networks of roads and railroads connect them, and seaports and airports connect them and their industry to the world. Given a focus on farming (and destruction of many of its cities in the Civil War), the South is not exactly known as a major urban corridor. The most populated southern cities (like Atlanta and Miami) remained far smaller than northern cites until recently, as did their industrial contributions. Southern cities are far apart and largely independent, with numerous farms and rural towns in between (such as good ole Plant City). Two centuries have brought great change, mainly that the two regions are becoming more and more similar. However, key differences remain – even on the most basic level, city streets and suburbs are far more built up (and older) in the north than in the south. The North has become less reliant on manufacturing (with the emergence of the “rust belt”) due to international competition; conversely the South has become less reliant on agriculture. So…both economies can get together and share sympathies about how much the economy sucks.
And there’s your weekend history lesson. Hope you paid attention…this will all be on the final exam.