The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics

By George C. Rable | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

C onfederate politics has hardly been a neglected topic in Civil War history. Biographies and monographs have probed the operations of the Confederate government, analyzed the conflicts between Jefferson Davis and his critics, dissected the issue of states' rights, and examined the workings of the Confederate Congress. More recently, as part of a broader effort to reassess the causes for Confederate defeat, scholars have interpreted political conflicts as sources of ambiguity and weakness in Southern nationalism. Yet there has been no comprehensive work on Confederate politics itself because historians have generally neglected the interplay of ideology and practical politics during the war and have not thoroughly evaluated the complex interaction of state and "national" politics in the Confederacy.

This book will explore Confederate political culture in its own right rather than as a reflection of the problematic character of Southern nationalism or as a possible factor in Confederate defeat. The emphasis is on both the assumptions, values, and beliefs that laid the foundation for a Confederate political culture and on the immediate questions and problems that bedeviled Southern leaders. From the secession crisis through the end of the war, competing visions of the Southern nation's political future, and especially the emergence of rival political cultures, forced Confederates constantly to reconsider their most fundamental political assumptions even as they wrestled with more immediate economic and military crises. What is termed here a "revolution against politics" did not entirely succeed in transforming political behavior. A major theme that runs through the chapters that follow is the constant tug between political

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