The Idea of a Southern Nation: Southern Nationalists and Southern Nationalism, 1830-1860

The Idea of a Southern Nation: Southern Nationalists and Southern Nationalism, 1830-1860

The Idea of a Southern Nation: Southern Nationalists and Southern Nationalism, 1830-1860

The Idea of a Southern Nation: Southern Nationalists and Southern Nationalism, 1830-1860

Synopsis

As the nineteenth century began, the United States was a country in search of definition, of national character. Like other Americans, Southerners found the process of national self-definition urgent and exhilarating.

Excerpt

The proslavery argument emphasized an institution that formed the basis of a distinctively Southern way of life. Southern nationalists tended to use the defense of slavery as a means of pointing out irreconcilable sectional differences between North and South. As it developed, their definition of Southern civilization embraced a whole set of values and beliefs that were rooted in slavery.

Slavery provided the basis for a Southern way of life that was superior in its distinctiveness. But some Southerners believed that distinctiveness had little value so long as the South remained dependent on Northern commerce and industry. Thus, there arose in the South after Nullification an impulse toward economic self-sufficiency, toward independence of Northern influences. Probably the most significant economic manifestation of this impulse was the commercial convention movement, which began in 1837 and continued until 1860.

When the first Southern commercial convention assembled in Augusta, Georgia, in 1837, its businessman—delegates were concerned with little more than economic development through diversification. By the time the last . . .

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