Primitive Delaware

For anyone who claims the New York Times is biased, or looks down upon certain areas of the country, it’s impossible to imagine them calling a state “primitive” as they did to Delaware in 1919.

This opening passage is brutal:

When Caesar Rodney put to blush all the other historic Caesars and Czars and Kaisers by signing the Constitution of the United States, he also put Delaware, whose representative he was, into the very forefront of the thirteen Colonies, for she was first to ratify. That was nearly a century and a half ago; and Delaware, having a contented sigh at this indefeasible proof of her initiative and progress, thereupon went away back and sat down.

The article lists several supposed examples of the state’s backward ways:

Delaware alone has the whipping post. It is not so very long since she abolished the pillory. She even retains the ancient system of indenture, whereby children are “bound out” to masters until they reach maturity; and in not other State, even in the “benighted” South, was it stipulated, say, a year ago, as it was in Delaware, that white men should not be taxed to help educate the negro.

Why was this the case?

Wilmington, with 105,000 inhabitants, is the only city having a population of more than 10,000. The peninsula between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays was settled by English stock, and until within the last quarter of a century no railroad disturbed its agricultural tranquility.

The peninsula stock, in Maryland as well as in Delaware, was almost undefiled with the passage of a century. The families intermarried. They retained many quaint locutions of the England of an earlier day. They were a people apart, somewhat like the mountaineers of Kentucky and Tennessee, a people of singular frugality and piety, among whom it was a special creidt to be a “meetin’ man” and who, when the charter was granted for the railroad which now forms the Maryland Division of the Pennsylvania, specified that no trains should run on Sundays. It was not until ten years ago that a law was passed amending that chart. The rural population takes its Bible verbatim.

It wasn’t just that those people existed in the state, but that their political power was disproportionate:

Each of the three counties is now represented equally in each branch of the General Assembly: so that Wilmington, which has half the population of the State and pays 95 per cent of its income tax, is outvoted two to one by the rural down-State Senators and Representatives, who cherish toward the “city” legislators that cordial animosity common to all such State Assemblies.

Interestingly, Wilmington’s population has actually declined in the past century. 105K at the time, it’s now about 70K, according to a 2018 Census estimate.

As for Delaware being backwards, they seem to have largely shed that reputation over the past century. (Although some Republicans might disagree.)

What is America’s stupidest state? In a series of segments a few years ago, Bill Maher tried to find out:

Arizona vs. South Carolina

California vs. Oklahoma:

Montana vs. Florida:

 

Primitive Delaware: State of the Whipping Post and “Bound” Children, Awakened Now, Is Fighting Hard for Decent Schools (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 30, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 30th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

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