In the antebellum United States, a derogatory term for a Northerner with Southern sympathies, particularly politicians such as the members of Congress who seemed to side with or at least were willing to appease the South on the issue of slavery expanding into new territories and states in the West. Politicians who took this position considered themselves patriotic in their willingness to compromise to keep the country peaceful. Well-known figures who were considered doughfaces included Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, Daniel Webster (because of his participation in the Compromise of 1850) and Lewis Cass. Most doughfaces were Democrats, as the just-forming Republican party was not pro-South.

(The opposite, a Southerner who sides with the North, is a Scalawag.)

The insult came from "dough-faced," which meant pliable and easily manipulated. A mask of dough or papier-mache could be cheaply made and used to scare people, so "doughface" gained a connotation of being easily frightened. Walt Whitman made a reference to literal, malleable dough in "Dough-Face Song," published in the New York Evening Post in 1850:

"We are all docile dough-faces,
They knead us with the fist,
They, the dashing southern lords,
We labor as they list ..."
and in another poem of the same period, "The House of Friends," he refers to "Doughfaces, Crawlers, Lice of Humanity."

The term is mostly used in reference to the mid-1800s, but a few people have used it in more recent years. In the early Cold War era, Arthur Schlesinger used the term "doughface progressivism" for Democrats who opposed Communism but did not want the U.S. to support undemocratic regimes in Greece and Turkey merely to keep Communism out of those countries. As of 2006, Peter Beinart, author of a book called The Good Fight: Why Liberals — and Only Liberals — Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again uses the description "doughface liberals" for liberals who oppose the U.S's anti-terrorist efforts in largely Muslim countries, saying they are imperialistically motivated. He also referred in his blog in 2004 to "doughface feminists" who opposed the U.S's forces in Afghanistan. The blog of Tom Hermann in 2005 also used the phrase, but in a nearly opposite meaning: "Doughface (current application): Those Democrats who cannot vote against the stupidities of the Bush Administration because they are afraid of blow back in their districts. Used in the context of failure to resist caving in to assaults on the Constitution from the Bush Administration."


Dough"face` (?), n.

A contemptuous nickname for a timid, yielding politician, or one who is easily molded.

[Political cant, U. S.]


© Webster 1913.

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