Browsing "Southern Culture Laid Bare"

The Good Life in the South

Author Donald Davidson wrote of the decline of Northern cities committed to progress and the past resistance of Southern cities like Charleston and Savannah to the relentless march of industrial capitalism. But, he observed the ruins all around us as “the ruins of societies no less than the ruins of cities. Over the ruins stream mobs led by creatures no longer really human – creatures who, whether they make shift to pass as educators, planners, editors, commissars, or presidents . . .” lead the way on the path to destruction.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Good Life in the South

“Continuity of family, of family life, and family position – irrespective of economic status – was in fact a great distinction of Charleston among old American cities; for elsewhere that continuity had been generally broken by one cause or another. With this continuity Charleston had a stability that expressed itself in the pattern of its streets and the conservatism of its architecture. The map of Charleston in 1948 was not substantially different from the map of Charleston two centuries before.

If John Stuart, whom George III in 1763 appointed superintendent of Indian affairs in the South, could have returned in 1948 to seek his home, he would have found it at 106 Tradd Street, just where he built it in 1772 – for a brief occupancy, as it happened, since the Revolution ejected him, as a Tory, rather speedily from his new house.

The secret of Charleston’s stability, if it was any secret, was only the old Southern principle that material considerations, however important, are means not ends, and should always be subdued to the ends they are supposed to serve, should never be allowed to dominate, never be mistaken for ends in themselves.

If they are mistaken for ends, they dominate everything, and then you get instability. You get the average modern city, you get New York and Detroit, you get industrial civilization, world wars, Marxist communism, the New Deal.

Historians, noting that the antebellum South was in a sense materialistic, in that it found ways of prospering from the sale of cotton and tobacco, and relied heavily upon slave labor, have had the problem of explaining why that same South developed a chivalrous, courteous, religious, conservative and stable society quite different from that which obtained in the also materialistic, but more industrialized, rational, idealistic, progressive North.

The planters’ “aristocratic” leadership was the result, not the cause, of a general diffusion of standards of judgment that all the South, even the Negro slaves, accepted a basic principle of life. Mr. Francis Butler Simkins, in his book The South Old and New, has taken securer than the average historian when he notes that the South at the outbreak of the Civil War was almost the only true religious society left in the Western world.

That old, religious South set the good life above any material means to life and consistently preferred the kind of material concerns that would least interfere with and best contribute to the good life. Its preferred occupations were agriculture, law, the church and politics – pursuits which develop the whole man rather than the specialist, the free-willed individual rather than the anonymous unit of the organized mass.

[With] reference to material means of existence, such as money, one could clinch the discourse by pointing out the traditional attitude of the Southern Negro toward work and wages. If you paid the Negro twice the normal wage for a day’s work, you did not get more work from him – that is to say, more devotion to work within a given period, with increased production as the result. Not at all.

The Negro simply and ingeniously worked only half as many days or hours as before – and spent the rest of the time in following his conception of the good life: in hunting, dancing, singing, social conversation, eating, religion, and love. This well-known habit of the Negro’s, disconcerting to employers and statisticians, was absolutely correct according to Southern principles.

The Negro, so far as he had not been corrupted into heresy by modern education, was the most traditional of Southerners, the mirror which faithfully and lovingly reflected the traits that Southerners once all but unanimously professed.

That had been the idea in Charleston too. It was what Mr. Simkins in his book, perhaps being misled by his historical predecessors, had called the “country gentleman” idea. But Charleston, which had always been urban, always a town or a city of counting-houses, warehouses, factors, bankers, financial agents, and the like, was not a city of country gentlemen, exactly.

It had agreed with the country gentleman and with others of every sort, including the Negro, on letting the relationship between work, wages and life be determined by the metaphysical judgment indicated above. That was what made Charleston Charleston and not “The Indigo City” or something of the kind.”

(Still Rebels, Still Yankees, and Other Essays, “Some Day in Old Charleston,” Donald Davidson, LSU Press, 1957, excerpt, pp. 221-224)

 

John Laurens, South Carolina Emancipator

Though John Laurens intention to emancipate and arm African slaves was intended to blunt the actions of Lord Dunmore’s Virginia emancipation proclamation of 1775 which fomented race war, which Lincoln later copied, South Carolina had earlier considered arming slaves for community defense. This shows too that using slaves as armed combatants with freedom as a reward predates the War Between the States, and an inevitable strategy, both offensive and defensive, given the great numbers of Africans brought to North America by British and New England slave ships.

Bernhard Thuersam www.Circa1865.com

 

John Laurens, South Carolina Emancipator

[Laurens] fought in the Battle of Brandywine, was wounded at Germantown, and spent the winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge on Washington’s staff. At Monmouth the following summer he escaped unscathed when his horse was shot from under him . . . during the late summer of 1778 he had served as liaison officer between the French and American commands during the joint attack on Rhode Island. His linguistic ability made him popular with the French officers and useful to Washington who spoke no French at all.

Nevertheless, Laurens was able to prevail upon his commander to send him back to South Carolina where he hoped to raise and lead a regiment of blacks against the British in the South. Early in 1778 John Laurens broached the matter to his father, who was then president of the Continental Congress. “I would solicit you to cede me a number of your able-bodied men slaves, instead of leaving me a fortune,” he wrote.

Formed into a unit and trained, they might render important service during the next campaign, he argued. What is amazing about his plan, though, is not merely that he was willing to surrender a large part of his inheritance in order to augment the Continental Army — practically everything he did during the Revolution testifies to his willingness to sacrifice his own private interest in favor of the general welfare. Nor is it even that he was willing to arm the slaves — South Carolinians had considered that step during earlier emergencies.

Rather, the astonishing aspects of his proposal are its candor, its boldness and its lager purpose. Service in the revolutionary army would be a stepping-stone to freedom — “a proper gradation between abject slavery and perfect liberty,” which would not only prepare a slave to take his place in free society but also establish his claim to it. In short, his was a clever and far-reaching plan for the gradual abolition of slavery.

A year later, after the fall of Savannah, however, the obvious need for additional manpower led Congress to urge the Southern States to enlist three thousand blacks, who would be freed at the end of the war.”

(The Last of American Freemen, Robert M. Weir, Mercer University Press, 1986, excerpts, pp. 90-94)

 

Feb 18, 2017 - Education, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Educators    Comments Off on Southern Contributions to Philosophy

Southern Contributions to Philosophy

Author Henry C. White of the University of Georgia relates below that: “Deep thinkers were the men of the plantations; wide readers, keen observers and profound reasoners.” Not accustomed to widely publish their thoughts on great philosophical topics, their views were usually “disseminated through oral discussion with friends and neighbors and hospitably-received visitors from abroad upon the great patriarchal estates, by voluminous correspondence, by family teaching, and in the schools and colleges . . . manned by instructors of the same modest and retiring type.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Contributions to Philosophy

“And yet, if the aim of the highest philosophy be the apprehension of the fundamental and eternal principles of governing right living and determining the relations of man to God, his neighbor and Nature, the ideals of conduct exemplified by the men of the South in their individual lives and their social relations, born of their close observation and thoughtful reasoning and commended to their children and their immediate communities, must have had an influence upon current local thought and upon the development of the communal life even greater than that which would have been afforded by technical investigation and publication, no matter how profound.

It is not contended, by any means, that exemplary living was universal throughout the South, nor is it denied that its peculiar social institutions involved something of evil to all concerned and something of injustice in the classification of peoples’ consequent thereon.

But all observers are agreed that, from its early settlement to the time when its intellectual energies were absorbed in the great political disputes which led to the War of Secession, the thought of the South and its communal spirit were directed and dominated by the quiet and profound thinkers of the great plantations and the superb examples of ethical living which they afforded.

Perhaps, therefore, the noteworthy and peculiar contribution of the South to philosophy in its early history was the creation and the fine effort at realization of high ideals of human conduct based upon the essential and immutable principles of truth, equity and justice.

The great teachers of the schools and colleges of the South of the period, many of whom, after the fashion of the times, were clergymen as well, held to these ideals and exalted them in the estimation of their pupils and thus, although contributing but little to the literature of philosophy, they impressed upon the community at large a truly philosophic mode of thought which subsequently became creative and now bids fair to become highly and richly productive.

The various philosophical movements in America became sectionalized in their broader aspects, the North standing for idealism, while the South stood for materialism and the middle West for the philosophy of common sense. [The] earlier writers of the South were some whose works are worthy to rank as original and valuable contributions to the technical literature of philosophy.

The Essays, Moral and Philosophical, of the brilliant and versatile George Tucker (1775-1861), the biographer of Thomas Jefferson and for many years professor of philosophy at the University of Virginia, contain, among many other reflections which are valuable, a treatment of the Will which is strikingly original and suggestive.

Other native materialists of the South [were] Joseph Buchanan (1785-1812) . . . another early materialist was Thomas Cooper (1758-1840) . . . another was Frederick Beasley (1777-1845), who was born in North Carolina . . . John Berry Gorman (1793-1864) of South Carolina . . . Thomas Lanier Clingman (1812-1897) of North Carolina . . . Another type of contribution of this period which should be taken into account . . . is furnished by writers of the character of Joseph LeConte and Nathaniel Southgate Shaler, some of whose works are more philosophic than scientific.”

(The South’s Contributions to Philosophy, Henry C. White, The South in the Building of the Nation, Volume VII, Southern Publication Society of Richmond, 1909, excerpt, pp. 261-265)

Southern Manners and Personal Integrity

Antebellum Southern concepts of manners and personal honor set a very high standard in education with the logical expectation that this would result in a more enlightened society and government.  Even code duello was seen to have a “decorous influence” on manners, as it made men careful in their conduct toward each other through personal honor and accountability.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Manners and Personal Integrity

“[The official historian of the University of Virginia noted that the bulk of pre-Civil War graduates] . . . were of “the planting class.” Analysis of their post-college careers and modes of life led him to say that they were men who “kept alive in their country homes that loyal devotion to family, that chivalrous respect for womanhood, that considered tenderness for weakness, that high recognition of the claims of hospitality, that reverence for religion, and that quick sensitiveness upon all questions of personal integrity and honor, which they had inherited from their fathers.”

The cult of manners in the Old Dominion was so intertwined with the concepts of personal honor and integrity that all appeared part of a single theme. The diary notes of a young Virginian, attending VMI, contained the following passage, inserted as a kind of conclusion to the entries for the year 1842. It was set off in quotation marks:

“Among the many branches of education, that which tends to make deep impressions of virtue ought to be a fundamental object in a well-regulated government. For depravity of manners will render ineffectual the most salutary laws; and in the midst of opulence, what other means to prevent such depravity, but only a virtuous discipline?”

In this climate of opinion, with its emphasis on manners and personal integrity, the famous “Honor System” of American academic life first appeared. The founders were two professors at the University of Virginia; George Tucker, romantic litterateur before his appointment to the chair of moral philosophy; and his relative, Henry St. George Tucker, distinguished jurist before settling at Charlottesville as a teacher of law.

Judge Tucker submitted the epochal resolution to the faculty in 1842 that, at all future written examinations, the students should certify on their honor the receiving of no improper assistance. Later, this pledge was extended to include the imparting as well as the accepting of aid.

While visiting Richmond in 1853, Frederick Law Olmsted observed the importance of the cult of manners there. He added this observation to his travel diary, “In manners, I notice that between man and man, more ceremony and form is sustained in familiar conversations than well-bred people commonly use at the North.”

(Romanticism in the Old South, Rollin G. Osterweiss, LSU Press, 1971, excerpt, pp. 87-88)

Feb 18, 2017 - Antebellum Economics, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Jubal Early and the Goddess of Liberty

Jubal Early and the Goddess of Liberty

West Point cadet Jubal A. Early was nineteen years old when he wrote the following letter to his father in 1835, begging for permission to join the Texans in their fight for independence from Mexico. He would hold the same opinion of combatting tyranny in what he viewed to be Northern tyranny in the War Between the States — and continuing unabated after the War.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jubal Early and the Goddess of Liberty

“The Texans are bound by every principle of self-preservation and are justified by the natural law of rights, as well as by precedent, to declare their independence and to resist the attempt which is being made to annihilate them. And we of the United States are called upon by every principle of humanity, by our love of liberty and our detestation of oppression, to go to the succor of our countrymen and aid in overwhelming the tyrant.

Shall we shed tears over the fate of Greece and Poland, yet see our countrymen slaughtered with indifference? The respect we entertain for our forefathers of the Revolution forbids it.

The gratitude we owe another country for espousing our cause imperiously commands us to espouse that of the oppressed. The cause of the Texans is more justifiable than was ours. We resisted the usurpation of our lawful government. They are resisting the tyranny and cruelty of [a] usurped government.

Liberty has been driven from the old world and its only asylum is in the new. It is the imperious duty of every one, who in this fair land has received it and its principles unsullied from his ancestors, to extend its dominion and to perpetuate its glorious light to posterity.

How can this be done if tyranny more despotic than that which exists in Europe is allowed to exist in our own confines? In succoring the Texans we should consider that we extend the sway of the goddess we worship, that we secure to their progeny the benefits of which we are so tenacious, and secure to the oppressed freemen of other countries an asylum which our own country will, ere long, not be able to afford them . . .

The great end of all education is to expand the mind and gain a knowledge of human nature. What is more calculated to expand the mind than the espousing of and working in the cause if liberty? What better book in which to study human nature than such a variety of characters as I would be constantly thrown with?

All things cry out to me to go [to Texas]. Oh, my dear father, will you not give me permission? Do not think that my resolution has been taken unadvisedly, and do not smile at my aspirations. I do not believe that I shall become a Bonaparte or [Simon] Bolivar, but he who never aspires, never rises. I have confined this letter to one subject because my whole soul is taken up with that subject.”

(Lt. Gen. Jubal Anderson Early, CSA, Narrative of the War Between the States; Da Capo Press, 1989 (original 1912), excerpt, pp. 471-472)

The Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man

The Southern was said to the “the apotheosis of the lowbrow in manners. His speech is wrecked on a false ideal of freedom and ease; his traditions are huddled up under aggression and haste; his manners are sacrificed to a false democracy.” It was also said that it takes three generations to make a gentleman, and that he is trained in the heart as a scholar is trained in the mind. Ellen Glasgow wrote in her “Virginia” in 1913 regarding the vanishing Southern lady that “the less a Southern girl knew about life, the better prepared she was to deal with it.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man

“As the shifting social scene swims before my eyes, I realize that two of the most picturesque figures of the past have almost disappeared, the Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man. There are a few survivals of the Southern Lady, but their voices are growing fainter.

The old-time Southern Lady with purring and ceremonious manners was the queen of what has been called the moonshine and magnolia era. The memory of her is like the faint perfume of old roses, a little sweet, a little melancholy, a little suggestive of decay. Her mind ran in deep groves and her manners were brocaded. The worst of it was that she had many spurious imitators who lacked her charm.

The Grand Old Man type has disappeared from village life in the South. He was an institution. He had form, background, and color. He was often a lawyer and politician, in frock coat and high hat. He was sometimes an old-line Whig of the Henry Clay school. An old-line Whig has been described by somebody as a man who wore a ruffled shirt and drank a lot of whiskey. The Grand Old Man’s more remote ancestors fought the Indians and the British; he and his more immediate relatives fought the Yankees.

He will tell over and over the story of his grandfather who was stood up by a group of Tories after King’s Mountain and threatened with death unless he gave certain information; of how his grandfather looked down the gun barrels and told them to “shoot and be damned.”

The Grand Old Man most likely had an old uniform and a sword somewhere in the house, the uniform to be buried in and the sword to hang over the fireplace. If his grandchildren today were asked about the sword, they would probably display indifference and ignorance. To them Gettysburg is little more than a name – a name they have heard too often.

But the history of that sword, lying dormant for years in their brains, will perhaps come to life in their later years and whisper in their ears its story of courage and sacrifice.

The Grand Old Man was undoubtedly a social force in his day. He was ceremonious, courteous, deliberate, positive, and a trifle pompous. If he ever posed, he was not conscious of it. He always knew to a certainty what the government should have done and what it should do. His opinions always hardened his convictions. But this stalwart and picturesque figure has faded out. If there be any of his kind left, they are today little more than museum pieces.

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, excerpt, pp. 271-272)

The True Story of the Late War

Northern General Don Piatt was a prewar Ohio lawyer who was critical of Lincoln, whom he believed a skeptic, believing only what he saw, and possessing a low estimate of human nature. Piatt believed the latter blinded Lincoln to the South as Southerners valued honor and were determined to achieve political liberty and independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The True Story of the Late War

“[James] Madison said: “A Union of States with such an ingredient as coercion would seem to provide for its own destruction.”

It certainly would provide for the destruction of the principles of liberty itself. Looked at in the lurid light of the [18]60’s, one expression in the above letter of President Madison will make the reader pause and reflect a moment. The “feeble debility of the South could never face the vigorous activity of the North.”

The Republican Party had inherited from its progenitor, the Federal [Party], the above idea of the South’s feeble debility. Members of that party invited United States Senators and Congressmen to take their wives and daughters out to see the first fight of the war, especially to “see rebels run at the sight of Union soldiers.” Everybody knows how the rebels ran at Bull Run.

Republican officers of the Union army have expressed their opinion of the South’s “feeble debility.” General Don Piatt, a Union officer, on this subject has this:

“The true story of the late war,” wrote General Piatt in 1887, “has not yet been told. It probably never will be told. It is not flattering to our people; unpalatable truths seldom find their way into history. How rebels fought the world will never know; for two years they kept an army in the field that girt their borders with a fire that shriveled our forces as they marched in, like tissue paper in a flame. Southern people were animated by a feeling that the word fanaticism feebly expresses. (Love of liberty expresses it.)

For two years this feeling held those rebels to a conflict in which they were invincible. The North poured out its noble soldiery by the thousands, and they fought well, but their broken columns and thinned lines drifted back upon our capital, with nothing but shameful disasters to tell of the dead, the dying, the lost colors and the captured artillery. Grant’s road from the Rapidan to Richmond was marked by a highway of human bones. The Northern army had more killed than the Confederate Generals had in command.”

“We can lose five men to their one and win,” said Grant. The men of the South, half-starved, unsheltered, in rags, shoeless, yet Grant’s marches from the Rapidan to Richmond left dead behind him more men than the Confederates had in the field!

The Reverend H.W. Beecher preached a sermon in his church on the “Price of Liberty” . . . [and] astonished his congregation by illustrations from the South:

”Where,” exclaimed the preacher, “shall we find such heroic self-denial, such upbearing under every physical discomfort, such patience in poverty, in distress, in absolute want, as we find in the Southern army? They fight better in a bad cause than you do in a good one; they fight better for a passion than you do for a sentiment. They fight well and bear up under trouble nobly, they suffer and never complain, they go in rags and never rebel, they are in earnest for their liberty, they believe in it, and if they can they mean to get it.”

“Lincoln’s low estimate of humanity,” says Piatt, “blinded him to the South. He could not understand that men would fight for an idea. He thought the South’s [independence] movement a sort of political game of bluff.”

Hannibal Hamlin said: “The South will have to come to us for arms, and come without money to pay for them.” “And for coffins,” said John P. Hale, with a laugh. “To put a regiment in the field,” said Mr. Speaker Banks, “costs more than the entire income of an entire Southern State.”

It was not long before the men of the North found that the South’s soldiers supplied themselves with arms and clothing captured from Union soldiers.”

(Facts and Falsehoods Concerning the War on the South, 1861-1865, George Edmunds, Spence Hall Lamb, 1904, pp. 117-119)

Feb 12, 2017 - Southern Conservatives, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots, Southern Women, Withdrawing from the Union    Comments Off on Love and Southern Loyalty

Love and Southern Loyalty

An admirer of Southern society and culture, Northern Major-General John Pope held in very high esteem the Southern officers he had served with or under in the old army to include Joseph E. Johnston, P.G.T. Beauregard, G.W. Smith, and Barnard Bee. He feared that had General Winfield Scott departed Washington to serve his native State of Virginia, “no man can now tell how many more officers would have gone South with him.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Love and Southern Loyalty

“The Adjutant-General of the [United States] Army when the war broke out was Samuel Cooper, a native of New York and a graduate of West Point. He married a Virginia lady and had long before identified himself with that section of the country. It was a noticeable fact that, whilst almost every Northern man who married a Southern woman attached himself at once to his wife’s country and became naturally the most violent and bitter partisan of the South, very few Northern women were able, perhaps they were not anxious, to hold their [Southern] husbands loyal to the [Northern] government.

One of the strangest social phases that characterized the years before the war was the recognized social supremacy of the South and the deference paid to it. The South did not possess the wealth, the culture or the polish given by the experiences of foreign travel, yet in any society anywhere they dominated almost without question.

The South had been ruined in fortune and their customs and habits of life altogether overthrown. Yet poor, indeed well-nigh destitute, they still hold their heads high and are recognized as among the leaders of men of society by their far more prosperous fellow-citizens of the North. If things go on as they have been for the past ten years, the South by the end of another ten years will be as fully in possession of the government and will as completely direct its policy as in 1858 . . . [the South] blazes that power to rule and that fitness to command which characterized them before the war and which is rapidly being recognized and submitted to now.

General Cooper, as I have said, was a native of New York and except through his wife could have had neither interest in the South nor sympathy with its purpose . . . I do not now recall a single Northern officer who married a Southern woman who did not go South with her.”

(The Military Memoirs of General John Pope, Cozzens & Girardi, editors, UNC Press, 1998, pp. 200-201)

Feb 12, 2017 - Foreign Viewpoints, Myth of Saving the Union, No Compromise, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Withdrawing from the Union    Comments Off on Southern Nationhood and Foreign Recognition

Southern Nationhood and Foreign Recognition

 

Southern Americans believed themselves the “heirs of the American Revolutionary tradition of 1776,” underscored by their President being inaugurated on Washington’s birthday and stating that “We hope to perpetuate the principles of our revolutionary fathers.” President Jefferson Davis told his countrymen, “you assumed to yourselves the right, as your fathers had done before you, to declare yourselves independent.” Also, when considering the failure of British and French recognition of the Confederacy, the Russian fleets in San Francisco and New York harbors in the fall of 1863 had far more to do with this than a foreign abhorrence of slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Nationhood and Foreign Recognition

“[General Robert E. Lee] and Davis had decided to take the offensive in the east. As he had done the previous fall, Lee drove his army west of his enemy, crossed the Potomac upstream, and sent widely dispersed columns into Maryland. This time the Confederates continued up into Pennsylvania and posed a distinct threat to Washington and Baltimore.

The invasion would not draw off troops from Vicksburg, but should Vicksburg fall, its loss would be small indeed compared to a major victory before Washington. Lee had no illusions about besieging the enemy capital immediately. He and Davis hoped to draw Hooker into another Chancellorsville; this time the ultimate prize would be Washington instead of Richmond, and this time perhaps the Southerners could achieve a battle of annihilation and at the same time a diplomatic coup.

Once in Pennsylvania, Lee expanded his thinking about the campaign and urged that Davis collect all available troops from the Carolinas, place Beauregard in command, and order an assault on Washington from the South. The idea might have had a decisive effect upon what began as a limited offensive, but Davis believed it too complicated and too risky.

Emperor Napoleon III . . . [in the late spring of 1863] came as close as he ever would [to recognizing the Confederacy]. While Napoleon was fretting anew about his nation’s need for cotton, . . . and digesting reports of the Southern victory at Chancellorsville, in England John A. Roebuck announced his intention to place before Parliament a resolution supporting immediate Anglo-French recognition of the Confederacy.

The Palmerston government let it be known that it opposed the project and justified the opposition on the ground that Napoleon had lost all enthusiasm for recognition. Such was not the case, though, though, and on June 18 the Emperor told Confederate diplomat John Slidell that he would “make a direct proposition to England for joint recognition.” Thus Roebuck confidently prepared to introduce his resolution on June 30, and Europe became an active front, along with Pennsylvania and Vicksburg in the Confederate war.

During June of 1863 the tide of Confederate independence and nationhood probably reached its flood. [At] the time Southerners had a right to be optimistic, or at least hopeful, that their revolution would prevail, or at least endure. In the minds of its citizens the Confederacy was more a nation in June of 1863 than ever before or after.

Two years of war had transformed Southern political and economic institutions and the Southern people. War and Confederate nationalism also conditioned Southerners creative energies in music, art, literature and learning. The black experience during wartime underwent subtle but profound metamorphosis, and slavery in the Confederate South was an unsettled institution. The end product of these Confederate alterations of antebellum norms was a distinctive national life behind the battle lines.”

(The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Harper & Row, 1979, excerpt, pp. 219-221)

Old World Nationalism of the South

Henry Steele Commager and Richard Morris note below the advantages held by the new American Confederacy in 1861, the most important of which was “that the South did not have to win on the field of battle in order to achieve independence, for it could afford to lose all the battles and all the campaigns and still triumph as long as it was prepared to settle simply for independence with no demands on the Union except the elementary one that it let the Sisters depart in peace.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Old World Nationalism of the South 

“Nationalism has been a perennial theme in American historiography, but surprisingly enough historians have devoted but scant attention to the analysis of Southern nationalism. Yet the brief and tragic experiment of the Confederate States of America with nationalism provides a laboratory scarcely less interesting than that provided by the American States between 1774 and 1789.

Because historians are camp followers of victorious armies, most of them take for granted the triumph of the first American bid for nationalism and the failure of the Southern. Yet on the surface at least, the Old South of the fifties and sixties boasted more and more persuasive ingredients of national unity than had the American States in 1774.

For the South – and the Confederacy – had, among whites at least, far greater ethnic homogeneity than had the United States of the 1770s, for less than one percent of the population of the Confederate States was foreign born. It acknowledged a greater degree of religious unity than could be found in the original States – for outside Maryland and Louisiana the whole of the Southern population was not only Protestant but evangelical.

By modern standards it confessed pronounced class differences, but by its own standards it could boast that it was a classless society, for all whites could claim membership in an upper class: here was a principle of social philosophy which speedily took on the authority of a moral and a religious principle and provided the South with one of the most powerful of all the forces making for national unity – a common ideology.

Nor, for all its inferiority in population and resources, was the Confederacy without military advantages: a territory more extensive than any which had ever been conquered in the whole of modern history; interior lines of communication; a long military tradition and superior military leaders; and a not unreasonable expectation of a foreign intervention which could rescue the South as French and Dutch intervention had rescued the new United States during the Revolutionary war.”

(The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Commager/Morris, editors, Harper & Row, 1979, excerpt, pp. xi-xii)

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