The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics

By George C. Rable | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Origins of Political Crisis

T he new Confederate politics soon became an amalgam of unity and divisiveness, harmony and contentiousness, apathy and anger. In addition to lingering partisan feeling, contradictions between ideology and political practice soon appeared. Political conflict took place under a broad umbrella of Southern republicanism with its general antipathy to a wide range of political activity.

Another ingredient was the sheer cantankerousness of Confederate leaders who had imposing egos and an appalling inability to cooperate with anyone who disagreed with them. Indeed, the notion of honest differences seemed utterly foreign to men like Toombs, T. R. R. Cobb, and the Stephens brothers. A basic touchiness, a hypersensitivity, along with a frequent obsession with personal honor made for prickly relationships among the Confederate elite. If Jefferson Davis often appeared stubborn and unyielding, so did many of his opponents and supporters.

During the transition to the permanent government and in the absence of strong congressional leadership, the president became the focus of both adulation and criticism. Whether he would be a rallying point for beleaguered Confederates became more doubtful by the spring of 1862, when a series of military defeats and political disputes severely tested a political culture dependent on economic, social, and political harmony.

Shortly after Davis's election as permanent Confederate president, a brief but sharp controversy erupted over supposedly well-settled constitutional

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