A Traitor and a Scoundrel: Benjamin Hedrick and the Cost of Dissent

A Traitor and a Scoundrel: Benjamin Hedrick and the Cost of Dissent

A Traitor and a Scoundrel: Benjamin Hedrick and the Cost of Dissent

A Traitor and a Scoundrel: Benjamin Hedrick and the Cost of Dissent

Synopsis

"In the fall of 1856, a young chemistry professor at the University of North Carolina suddenly found himself perhaps the most unpopular man in the state. Benjamin Hedrick, after publicly announcing his preference for the antislavery Republican presidential candidate John C. Fremont and writing a public letter defending this position, found himself denounced by newspapers across the South as a traitor to his region and a potential corrupter of its young people. Students at the university taunted him and burned him in effigy, while his friends and colleagues nervously distanced themselves from him. He was dismissed in short order, and a few days later a mob in his hometown threatened and humiliated him, resulting in his virtual exile to the North. Surprisingly, Benjamin Hedrick, one of the very few prominent white Southerners to take a public stand against slavery in the decades leading to the Civil War, has received scant attention from historians. His posthumous descent into obscurity represented one final penalty for his courageous dissent. This biography ends that neglect." "Historians have long recognized Hedrick's firing as a defining moment in the Old South's movement toward becoming a closed society on the issue of slavery, and as the foremost example of the region's lack of academic freedom. This biography explores these and other forgotten aspects of Hedrick's career that warrant further examination. This vigorous Southern dissenter also played active roles in the Southern agricultural reform movement, Civil War Unionism, Reconstruction, and administrative reform in the U.S. Patent Office, where he worked for the last twenty-five years of his stormy life. By the time of his death in 1886, the movement toward sectional reconciliation contributed to the eclipse in the national memory of the role of dissenters like Hedrick in the turbulent Civil War era. His story, which reveals much about the limits and costs of nineteenth-century Southern dissent, is here fully explored for the first time." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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