The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics

By George C. Rable | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 2
Through a Glass Darkly Secession and the Future of Southern Politics

P reoccupation with past grievances and fears about the future dominated Southern thinking during the secession crisis. Worries about external threats and internal divisions, often expressed in strikingly similar language by secessionists and cooperationists, prevented Southerners from meditating much about the political future. Impassioned debates over secession, endless diatribes against Lincoln, and fears of lingering Unionism-especially in the border states -- distracted politicians from considering the South's political destiny. Worries about unity (or its absence) became a major political theme.

Ardent secessionists seeking to dissolve the Union paid little attention to the long-run consequences. The most earnest Southern "nationalists" (if they can even be called that) spoke and wrote in only the vaguest terms about their "nation's" characteristics and prospects.1 Despite their flaming rhetoric, they had no more of a blueprint for the future than did cooperationists, who appealed to conservatism, caution, and fear of revolution.

This omission involved more than a mere failure of vision or even of nerve. Perceptive Southerners were all too aware of the divisions among themselves. States of the upper and lower South viewed each other through lenses of mutual suspicion and economic competition. The Gulf states would likely favor free trade, while border states such as Virginia and Maryland would insist on protection for manufacturing. The same

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