Mrs. Merriweather's disdain of Northerners was not an uncommon feeling among Southerners during the Depression of the 1930s. First, the South's defeat during the Civil War alienated most Southerners against Americans living in the North. Secondly, many Southerners blamed the Depression on Northerners and the government. Third, many people in Maycomb were suspicious of any outsiders. (Miss Caroline was looked down upon because she had come from Northern Alabama!)
Mrs. Merriweather's rant was specifically aimed at First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who had recently visited Birmingham, Alabama and, had apparently, "sit with 'em"--" 'em" being Negroes. Southerners were not particularly happy with the Roosevelt Administration and its liberal, progressive social reforms, and Roosevelt's attempts to advance the rights of Negroes via the NAACP, the WPA, and other New Deal programs. Mrs. Merriweather doesn't like Northerners or their more positive view of race relations, and she considers them
"Hypocrites... born hypocrites... At least we don't have that sin on our shoulders down here. People up there set 'em free, but you don't see 'em settin' at the table with 'em... Down here we just say you live your way and we'll live ours."