Texas in the Confederacy: An Experiment in Nation Building

By Clayton E. Jewett | Go to book overview

Introduction

Hath not the morning dawned with added light? And shall not evening call another star Out of the infinite regions of the night, To mark this day in heaven? At last we are A nation among nations; and the world Shall soon behold in many a distant port Another flag unfurled.

—Henry Timrod, 'Ethnogenesis'

With these words, poet Henry Timrod hailed the first Confederate Congress's meeting at Montgomery, Alabama, and what many exclaimed as the creation of a Southern nation. To what extent a true nation existed, however, is debatable. 1.

In the 1960s, historian David Potter wrote that the idea that “the people of the world fall naturally into a series of national groups is one of the dominating pre-suppositions of our time.” Potter revealed that historians use the framework of nationhood for two purposes. One is to discover the “degree of cohesiveness or group unity” of a people. Studies in this vein focus on nationalism and the prerequisites of nationhood, such as a common language, religion, traditions, and institutions. Potter, though, chided historians who are quick to equate culture with nationhood. To be sure, studies in this line of inquiry generally do not reveal the extent to which ordinary people claimed the same cultural or national loyalty, and provide only a top-down view of Southern nationhood and the Confederacy. The second purpose of the nationhood framework addresses the validity of “exercising autonomous powers.” This route of study is concerned with the relationship between individuals and the appropriateness of exercising regulatory or punitive power over them. “It is axiomatic, ” Potter asserted, “that people tend to give their loyalty to institutions which protect them—that is, safeguard their interests— and political allegiance throughout history has been regarded as something given reciprocally in return for protection.” Employing the framework in

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1.
Rollin G. Osterweis, Romanticism and Nationalism in the Old South, 154.

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