1 JUNE 1991, Page 24

Southern discomfort

Sir: I am so glad that Taki feels com- plimented when his views are described as politically incorrect. Hopefully he will feel equally flattered if I describe his comments on Southern values as historically incor- rect.

To romance that the Civil War put an end to a unique civilisation of graciousness and manners in the South is like describing Dunkirk as a victory. The country gentle- man of Virginia descended from Cavaliers. Theirs was an agrarian and military culture contemptuous of the industrial North. Poli- tically radical they presided over an unst- able economy, a high rate of illiteracy and considerable rural poverty.

As the political argument swung against them ante-bellum the South became a place of tyranny and terror. Northerners were flogged and killed. Negroes were burnt alive. Strict censorship was imposed. Hunger and destitution were the lot of most Red Indians and poor whites. Escaped slaves were hunted like foxes. Lynchings were commonplace. It was these things that roused the North to war as much as the secession.

The South was unable to see the march of history towards the abolition of slavery and the march of North America to nation- hood. The aristocratic sense of superiority was the downfall of the South — just as it LETTERS was for Britain before the first world war. The South was corrupt, ignorant and brut- al. Had it prevented the formation of the United States the balarice of power in the 20th century would have been very diffe- rent with possibly the destruction of Europe.

Had Taki dined with some of these gentlemen he would have taken the next horse north. By comparison the New Yor- kers whom he castigates so effectively would seem positively civilised.

Gervas Steele

The Moorings, Tower Road, Burnham Overy Staithe, King's Lynn, Norfolk