The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics

By George C. Rable | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
A New Political Universe

T he Confederate voter is the forgotten man of Civil War history. Many knowledgeable students of the conflict are only vaguely aware that the Confederate and state governments held elections; even scholars of the Confederate Congress have given short shrift to congressional elections. This neglect is striking but hardly surprising and something of a tribute to Confederate success in creating an antiparty (and in many ways an antipolitician) political culture. Yet these elections revealed the Confederacy's central beliefs, values, and symbols that served both to regulate and limit public debate and participation.1

Although the war naturally reduced political activity, considerable effort was made to eliminate the more unseemly features of elections. If the revolution against politics succeeded, Confederates would be able to see the results: the absence of public agitation or even electoral competition would be a sure sign of political health.

Wartime distractions and antipolitical ideology explain how the Confederacy's only presidential election passed almost unnoticed. In constitutional law and political theory, elections had become troublesome. Robert Ridgeway, editor of the Richmond Whig, suggested that the presidential election be delayed for at least a year and that the provisional government be continued much as the old Continental Congress had operated under the Articles of Confederation during the revolutionary war. With so many voters in the army, the country hardly needed the distraction of a presidential

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