The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina

The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina

The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina

The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina

Synopsis

In this comprehensive analysis of politics and ideology in antebellum South Carolina, Manisha Sinha offers a provocative new look at the roots of southern separatism and the causes of the Civil War. Challenging works that portray secession as a fight for white liberty, she argues instead that it was a conservative, antidemocratic movement to protect and perpetuate racial slavery.

Sinha discusses some of the major sectional crises of the antebellum era--including nullification, the conflict over the expansion of slavery into western territories, and secession--and offers an important reevaluation of the movement to reopen the African slave trade in the 1850s. In the process she reveals the central role played by South Carolina planter politicians in developing proslavery ideology and the use of states' rights and constitutional theory for the defense of slavery.

Sinha's work underscores the necessity of integrating the history of slavery with the traditional narrative of southern politics.Only by taking into account the political importance of slavery, she insists, can we arrive at a complete understanding of southern politics and the enormity of the issues confronting both northerners and southerners on the eve of the Civil War.

Excerpt

Antebellum Carolinian political history can perhaps tell us more about the creation of the Confederacy than the history of any other southern state. South Carolina's slaveholding politicians not only pioneered in elaborating an ideological defense of racial slavery but also developed the political theories that justified disunion: nullification, state sovereignty, state ownership of national territories, and the constitutional right to secession. Given the crucial role Carolinian slaveholders played in the rise of southern separatism and proslavery thought, it is surprising that we still lack a comprehensive and unified historical account of their political brinkmanship. Some of the best political histories of pre-Civil War South Carolina focus mainly on individual events. Recent works in Carolinian history look at only certain sections of the state and either undermine or ignore the state's exceptionality. As one historian has observed, "the need for a monograph which persuasively bridges the generational distance between nullifiers and secessionists remains clear." An analysis of politics and ideology in antebellum South Carolina would not only fill a historical void but also answer important questions on the origins and nature of southern nationalism and the coming of the Civil War.

This book examines the political history of South Carolina from 1828 to 1860, or from nullification to secession. It focuses on four events: the Nullification Crisis of 1828-1834; the first secession crisis over the Compromise of 1850; the movement to reopen the African slave trade in the 1850s; and lastly, South Carolina's secession in 1860. Each of these historical events is indicative of Carolinian planter politicians' leading role in the formulation of the ideological and political discourse of slavery that precipitated secession. It is perhaps proper to focus on the sectional crises to understand secession and the coming of the Civil War rather . . .

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