Journalist Colin Woodard has written a book, American Nations, "A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America". Although his focus is mostly on the United States, he does describe some of the history of Canada and Mexico. He describes how most of the regional cultures were the result of being settled by different groups of settlers, and how those settlers brought with them their economies, cultures, and ideologies. The US Founding Fathers are not the original founders, but the great-great-grandsons and thereabouts of the real founders.

These regional cultures have competed with each other, formed alliances with each other, and even fought a bloody war, the Civil War. Though one might expect mobility and mass media to have erased regional distinctions, they are still prevalent, as is evident from the division into Red States and Blue States. They have persisted because many later settlers have tended to move to the areas that they feel most compatible with.

The Nations

Quoting from Colin Woodard's book,

Founded on the shores of Massachusetts Bay by radical Calvinists as a new Zion, since the outset Yankeedom has put great emphasis on perfecting earthly society through social engineering, individual self-denial for the common good, and the aggressive assimilation of outsiders. ...

New Netherland
Established by the Dutch at a time when the Netherlands was the most sophisticated society in the Western world, New Netherland has displayed its salient characteristics throughout its history: a global commercial trading culture— multiethnic, multireligious, and materialistic—with a profound tolerance for diversity and an unflinching commitment to the freedom of inquiry and conscience. ...

The Midlands
America’s great swing region was founded by English Quakers, who believed in man’s inherent goodness and welcomed people of many nations and creeds to their utopian colonies on the shores of Delaware Bay. ...

Settled in many cases by the younger sons of southern English gentry, Tidewater was meant to reproduce the semifeudal manorial society of the countryside they’d left behind, where economic, political, and social affairs were run by and for landed aristocrats. ...

Greater Appalachia
Founded in the early eighteenth century by wave upon wave of rough, bellicose settlers from the war-ravaged borderlands of northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands, Appalachia has been lampooned by writers and screenwriters as the home of rednecks, hillbillies, crackers, and white trash. ...

The Deep South
Established by English slave lords from Barbados as a West Indies-style slave society, this region has been a bastion of white supremacy, aristocratic privilege, and a version of classical Republicanism modeled on the slave states of the ancient world, where democracy was the privilege of the few and enslavement the natural lot of the many. ...

El Norte
The oldest of the Euro-American nations, El Norte dates back to the late 16th Century |sixteenth century]], when the Spanish empire founded Monterrey, Saltillo, and other outposts in what are now the Mexican-American borderlands. ...

The Left Coast
A Chile-shaped nation wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade and Coast mountain ranges and stretching from Monterey to Juneau, the Left Coast was originally colonized by two groups: merchants, missionaries, and woodsmen from New England (who arrived by sea and dominated the towns); and farmers, prospectors, and fur traders from Greater Appalachia (who generally arrived by wagon and controlled the countryside). ...

The Far West
The other “second-generation” nation, this is the one part of the continent where environmental factors trumped ethnographic ones. High, dry, and remote, the Far West stopped the eastern nations in their tracks and, with minor exceptions, was only colonized via the deployment of vast industrial resources: railroads, heavy mining equipment, ore smelters, dams, and irrigation systems. ...

Two other nations—the Inuit-dominated First Nation in the far north and Quebec-centered New France—are located primarily in Canada and are peripheral to this discussion.

Their History

It is a rather complicated one with shifting alliances and enmities. Though the nations that created the United States created a new nation to end British rule of them, they have nevertheless been very disunited. In particular, Yankeedom and the Deep South have been enemies for most of the US's history, and they have attempted to recruit allies from the other nations in their fights with each other.

In the first half of the 19th Century, Deep South ideologues strongly and vehemently defended Slavery, and even proposed enslaving poor whites, for their own good, of course. They even got the Federal Government on their side with the Fugitive Slave Act. On the other side, Yankeedom was the strongest supporter of abolition of slavery. Some of the other nations, like the Midlands and New Netherland, preferred to avoid taking sides, disliking both Yankee moralistic crusades and Deep-South social hierarchy, and some of their politicians even proposed a "Central Confederacy" between the northern slavery opponents and the southern slavery supporters.

All that changed with the Confederacy's attack on Fort Sumter. It provoked members of most of the nations into wanting to fight the Confederacy. These were Yankeedom, the Midlands, New Netherland, and even much of Appalachia. Many Appalachians were unwilling to fight for Southern slave lords, and some of them even created a state from western Virginia. For their part, those slave lords only succeeded in recruiting the Deep South, Tidewater, and some of Appalachia into the Confederacy.

After the war, Yankees and Midlanders went south and attempted to rebuild the South in their likeness, and Reconstruction succeeded for a while. But the Deep South and Tidewater reverted to some of their old ways, and they were joined by Appalachians who hated blacks as much as slave lords.

I note in passing that Colin Woodard has noted that Yankeedom has made its origin story the quasi-official US origin story, something that happened in the late 19th cy.

The current alignment is:

  • Northern Alliance: Yankeedom, New Netherland, Left Coast, The Midlands (leaning) -- blue states
  • Dixie Bloc: Deep South, Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, The Far West (leaning) -- red states
  • Non-aligned: El Norte

The regional differences still persist. The Sixties radicals were mainly in the Northern Alliance, as were Sixties environmentalists. Northern-Alliance nations continue to be more friendly to progressive causes than Dixie-Bloc ones.

Northern-Alliance nations have long been much more averse to violence than the core Dixie-Bloc nations. Lynching has been rare in Northern-Alliance nations, and those nations abolished the Death penalty for most nonlethal crimes over a century ago. But in the Dixie Bloc, Tidewater and the Deep South have favored violence as a means of social control, and Greater Appalachia has long has a taste for violent vengeance. These three nations have also long had a taste for lynching, which got its name from Virginian Appalachian William Lynch, who was a noted advocate of vigilantism. To this day, the Dixie Bloc supports the death penalty much more than the Northern Alliance.

But there are oddities here and there. Though Barack Obama did better overall in 2008 than John Kerry in 2004, there was a nation where he did worse: Greater Appalachia. In 2008, Appalachians favored Hillary Clinton, and in 2012, many of them favored challengers that were a bit difficult to take seriously. Also, the Occupy movement was initially strong in the Northern Alliance, and weak in the Deep South -- but surprisingly strong in the Far West.


The presidents' regional affiliations can give hints about why they did what they did.

Each president may have colleagues and rivals in a sublist.

  • George Washington: Tidewater
    • Benjamin Franklin: Midlands
    • Alexander Hamilton: New Netherland
  • John Adams: Yankeedom
  • Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe: Tidewater
  • John Quincy Adams: Yankeedom
  • Andrew Jackson: Greater Appalachia
  • Martin Van Buren: New Netherland / Yankeedom
  • William Henry Harrison, John Tyler: Tidewater ("Tippecanoe and Tyler Too")
  • James Knox Polk: Greater Appalachia
  • Zachary Taylor: Tidewater
  • Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce: Yankeedom
  • James Buchanan: Greater Appalachia
  • Abraham Lincoln: Yankeedom / Midlands / Greater Appalachia
    • Jefferson Finis Davis: Deep South
  • Andrew Johnson: Greater Appalachia / Tidewater
  • Ulysses Simpson Grant: Greater Appalachia
  • Rutherford Birchard Hayes: Midlands / Yankeedom
  • James Abram Garfield, Chester Alan Arthur: Yankeedom
  • Grover Cleveland: New Netherland / Yankeedom / Midlands
  • Benjamin Harrison: Greater Appalachia / Tidewater
  • William McKinley: Yankeedom
  • Theodore Roosevelt: New Netherland
  • William Howard Taft: Yankeedom
  • Woodrow Wilson: Greater Appalachia
  • Warren Gamaliel Harding: Midlands
  • Calvin Coolidge: Yankeedom
  • Herbert Clark Hoover: Midlands
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Yankeedom
  • Harry S. Truman: Greater Appalachia / Midlands
  • Dwight David Eisenhower: Midlands
    • Adlai Stevenson II: Midlands
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy: Yankeedom
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson: Greater Appalachia
    • Barry Morris Goldwater: Far West
  • Richard Milhous Nixon: El Norte (Dixie-like Anglo)
    • Hubert Horatio Humphrey: Yankeedom
    • George Corley Wallace: Deep South
    • George Stanley McGovern: Midlands
  • Gerald Rudolph Ford: Midlands / Yankeedom
  • James Earl Carter, Jr.: Deep South
  • Ronald Wilson Reagan: Midlands / El Norte (Dixie-like Anglo)
    • Walter Frederick "Fritz" Mondale: Yankeedom
  • George Herbert Walker Bush: Yankeedom
    • Michael Stanley Dukakis: Yankeedom
  • William Jefferson Clinton: Greater Appalachia
    • Robert Joseph "Bob" Dole: Midlands
    • Henry Ross Perot: Greater Appalachia
  • George Walker Bush: Deep South
    • Richard B. Cheney: Far West / Midlands
    • Albert Gore, Jr.: Greater Appalachia
    • John Kerry: Yankeedom
  • Barack Hussein Obama: Yankeedom
    • Joseph Robinette "Joe" Biden, Jr.: Midlands
    • Hillary Rodham Clinton: Yankeedom
    • John Edwards: Greater Appalachia
    • John Sidney McCain III: Far West
    • Willard Mitt Romney: Yankeedom
    • Michael Dale "Mike" Huckabee: Greater Appalachia
    • Richard John "Rick" Santorum: Greater Appalachia / Midlands
    • Newton Leroy "Newt" Gingrich: Deep South
    • Ronald Ernest "Ron" Paul: Greater Appalachia / Deep South

Related Work

Colin Woodard's overall thesis is not original. Joel Garreau's The Nine Nations of North America (1981) and David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed (1989) had covered much of his territory. The latter author had identified four groups of British settlers that influenced the different parts of the United States:

  • English Puritans from East Anglia to Massachusetts.
  • Cavalier noblemen and indentured servants from south England to Virginia.
  • Quakers from the North Midlands to the Delaware River
  • Scotch-Irish Borderlanders to the Appalachian Backcountry

Likewise, Daniel Elazar has identified three regional political cultures:

  • Moral: good government for the good of society -- New England, northern Midwest, northern West
  • Individual: private initiative, corrupt government -- Mid-Atlantic, north-central Midwest, northern West
  • Traditional: hierarchical, in-family government for maintaining social order -- the former Confederacy and some nearby states

External links