questions are without end.)nIn the earliest postwar period, when itncould be simply declared that the warnwas a crusade to suppress wickedness,nunderstanding was not much of a problem.nAs time passed, as the worldnbecame more complicated, as the ambiguitiesnof victory and progress becamenmore apparent to the thoughtful, and asnmore was learned about the sheer complexitynof the war, this would not do.nThen for a long time the question ofnthe cause or causes of the Civil Warnfascinated historians. Unfortunately,nposing the blank question of “why” wasnbound to lead to abstraction, bad reasoning,nand artificial disputes. In history,nas in every other field of human knowledge,nfinding the right answers is far lessnimportant and difficult than asking thenright questions. (My friend LudwellnJohnson, a Civil War historian, hasnwritten how it came home to him thatnwe historians were on the wrong tracknsome years ago, when, to the standardnessay exam question “Why the CivilnWar?” a student returned the philosophicallynflawless answer, “Whynnot?”)nSuch analytical dead ends suggestnthat the old-style history, which attemptednto tell a story or to describe anpast era, teaches us more than anynamount of abstraction over “causes.”nHistory is not an expression of abstractnlaws, or the record of progress. It is andescription of the actions of men, ofnlife, which in turn is an expression ofnthe (partly unknowable) mind of God.nA historian who does an honest andncompetent job of narrative or descriptionnhas created something permanentlynuseful to everyone, whether theynagree with him or not. The historiannwho claims to have found the finalnexplanation is a fraud.nYou and I may agree in our descriptionnof a historical phenomenon ornepoch, but disagree in values, as tonwhether we like or not what we havendescribed, or whether we regard it asngood or bad. On the other hand, younand I may be in complete agreement innvalues but disagree in the proper descriptionnand import of a historicalnphenomenon or period. We may agreenthat the New Deal was not really verynrevolutionary. I may be glad of the fact,nand you may be sorry. Or you maynthink that it really was revolutionary,nwhen I don’t. If we are both honest andncompetent it does not matter, we willnlearn from each other. The historiannwho recognizes and declares his viewpointnup front is much more objectivenand unbiased than the one who thinksnthat he is simply purveying the universalntruth.nProfessor McWhiney of TexasnChristian University has produced onenof those permanently valuable works ofnhistorical description. You may valuenthe distinctiveness of the South, asnProfessor McWhiney and I do, or younmay want it wiped out. Either way, andneven if you disagree with his answers,nyou can respect his accomplishmentnfor its solidity, originality, and contributionnto understanding.nIn Cracker Culture McWhineynmakes a quantum leap in understandingnthe South. He enhances ournknowledge of what was at issue andnwhat imperatives fueled the giganticn19th-century sectional conflict. Thus,nby asking some of the right questions,nhe contributes toward the advance onnthe big answers. McWhiney’s ideasnhave been gathering momentum fornseveral years in preliminary works, andnare here brought into fully developednmaturity.nTo understand what this book signifies,none has to understand what ancracker is in McWhiney’s lexicon. Henis not simply, as we used to think, ansomewhat benighted native of an areanof poor soil in South Georgia andnNorth Florida. A cracker is an Americannof a particular ethnic heritage: thenethnic descendant of Celtic Britain,ntransferred to this continent in the 18thncentury, where he underwent an entrenchmentnand adaptation in thencongenial environment of the Americannfrontier and became a majorncomponent of American culture —nbecame, that is, what has been knownnas the Southerner.nThe cracker is in part what we usednto understand as a Scotch-Irishman,nthough one of McWhiney’s strengthsnis that he gives the concept ofnCelticness in America much greaterndepth and breadth. The cracker cannperhaps be most readily grasped as thenmythological Southern redneck, in annethnic contrast to an American ofnpuritan Brit descent, epitomized in thenmythological image of industrious,npsalm-singing New Englanders. Thatnthe largest ethnic rift in Americannnnhistory took place between two difl^erentntypes of Brits will be a difficultnpoint to grasp, perhaps, for those latercomersnwho think that all WSP’s looknalike.nLet us assume as a model a feudal,nlater a modern, England, developingnover many centuries along the lines ofnintensive agriculture, commerce, andnorderly communal life. By contrast,nconsider the outer fringes of Britain,nnot only Wales, Scotland, and Ireland,nbut the north and west/ of Englandnherself, existing over several millennian(until the 19th century) with an economynbased upon stockgrazing and anmuch looser social structure, more tribalnthan feudal or commercial — withnall the differences in manners, attitudes,nand ways of life that these difiisrencesnin ethnic origin, economy, andnsocial structure entail.nBoth these models were implantednin America in the colonial period andnboth underwent development here, accordingnto the large historical schementhat is postulated and vigorously fillednin by McWhiney, with the aid ofnForrest McDonald in the prologue.nA cracker is not simply a backwardnfellow. Crackers come in all classesnwith all levels of education and in anvariety of religious denominations.nThough I have a doctor’s degree andnhave published a few books, I don’tnmind telling you that I am a cracker, atnleast by descent. Nor do I think ProfessornMcWhiney will mind too much if Incall him one as well. Perhaps the mostnconspicuous cracker in American historynwas our seventh president. GeneralnAndrew Jackson. I would even argue,nthough McWhiney does notnmake this point, that Abraham Lincolnnwas a cracker. Certainly that was hisnbackground, though he worked hardnand with only partial success to assimilatenhimself to a puritan model as hisnpolitical career progressed. After hisndeath, the New Englanders simplynappropriated him as a puritan, as theynhave done everything else in Americannhistory that they wanted to control. (Inwish you had been there when I triednto explain to the lady guide at PlymouthnRock that we were not on thenscene of the first English colony. Talknabout stonewalling!)nWhere earlier historians have beenninterested in the aristocracy of thenSouth, whether they admired it ornNOVEMBER 1988/23n