Never Surrender: Confederate Memory and Conservatism in the South Carolina Upcountry

By West, Stephen A. | South Carolina Historical Magazine, January 2005 | Go to article overview

Never Surrender: Confederate Memory and Conservatism in the South Carolina Upcountry


West, Stephen A., South Carolina Historical Magazine


Never Surrender: Confederate Memory and Conservatism in the South Carolina Upcountry. By W. Scott Poole. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004. Pp. 280; $49.95, cloth; $19.95, paper.)

W. Scott Poole has written an ambitious and wide-ranging book. He seeks to tie together a number of familiar topics in southern history-antebellum political economy and religion, secession, Reconstruction, the Farmers' Alliance, and the rise of a New South-through a study of southern conservatism. By analyzing commemorative addresses, political speeches, sermons, and periodicals, Poole especially wants to trace the rise and fall of the "Lost Cause aesthetic," a term he uses to describe how postwar conservatives "fashioned a variety of cultural materials into a public articulation of an ordered and organic society, a society that worked harmoniously guided by a patriarchal ethos" (p. 3).

Those ideals had their roots in the slave society of the Old South, Poole argues, but existed uneasily with the individualism and profit-seeking that marked South Carolina's antebellum upcountry, an area where slavery and cotton agriculture were firmly established by the mid-nineteenth century. During the roughly two decades after 1865, the conservative vision fused with celebration of the Lost Cause and flourished as the basis for a culture of dissent, which inspired yeoman and planter alike to resist the destabilizing consequences of emancipation and the economic changes that followed the Civil War. Poole sees the Farmers' Alliance as the "last great charge of traditional southern conservatism in South Carolina" (p. 137); after it had been co-opted and undercut by Ben Tillman, the way was finally and fully clear for a new economic order headed by town merchants, bank presidents, and cotton mill owners. Remembrance of the Civil War survived, but with little of its former oppositional character. Poole singles out the United Confederate Veterans for its role in preaching an "ideology of reconciliation" and making the Lost Cause "an agent of bourgeois values throughout the South" (p. 179).

In this journey through a half-century of South Carolina history, Poole offers some keen observations on several topics of scholarly interest. Other historians have looked to pro-slavery republicanism, evangelical religion, and white supremacist politics to understand the ideals of propertied independence and patriarchal authority associated with white manhood in the South; Poole's contribution is to explore how those ideals were encapsulated in, and perpetuated by, remembrance of the Civil War. …

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