Nation within a Nation: The American South and the Federal Government

Nation within a Nation: The American South and the Federal Government

Nation within a Nation: The American South and the Federal Government

Nation within a Nation: The American South and the Federal Government


"Original, illuminating, and provocative, Nation within a Nation is certain to challenge those who deny southern exceptionalism. These essays show the complexity, hypocrisy, and, yes, perversion in this tortured relationship."--Orville Vernon Burton, author of The Age of Lincoln

"Feldman has put together an impressive array of scholars who intelligently analyze the peculiar, somewhat dysfunctional, somewhat hypocritical relationship of the South to the federal government."--Ralph Young, author of Dissent in America: The Voices That Shaped a Nation

"Documents the many complex nuances that make the relationship between the South and the federal government such a compelling story. Writing against the historiographical grain, collectively these essays support the idea of southern distinctiveness, a distinctiveness born out of persistent resentment to all things emanating from Washington."--Kari Frederickson, coeditor of Making Waves: Female Activists in Twentieth-Century Florida

From the Constitutional Convention to the Civil War to the civil rights movement, the South has exerted an outsized influence on American government and history while being distinctly anti-government. While southern states have profited immensely from federal projects, tax expenditures, and public spending, the region's relationship with the central government and the courts can, at the best of times, be described as contentious.

Nation within a Nation
features cutting-edge work by lead scholars in the fields of history, political science, and human geography who examine the causes--real and perceived--of the South's perpetual state of rebellion, which remains one of its most defining characteristics.


Glenn Feldman

No other region has been more important than the South in determining the course of U.S. politics and history. This was so in 1776, and 1865, and is still true today, although in vastly different ways.

The South’s relationship to the federal government has been intriguing and unique, and it vitally informs the region’s continued import to American politics, society, and culture. No other state played a larger role than Virginia in the founding of the United States and the early Republic. Figures of the Virginia Dynasty such as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Edmund Randolph, Richard Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry loom over the founding and early years of the American experiment. Other giants—southern as well—played outsized roles in these early decades and throughout the antebellum period: Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk of Tennessee, Henry Clay of Kentucky, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, and John Marshall, John Randolph, and John Tyler of Virginia to name but a few. Indeed, southerners have actually lent their names to two of the most important early eras in American history: the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian periods.

The long-accepted notion of southern distinctiveness has, of late, come under assault from a generation of younger scholars who mostly grew up in the “post–civil rights” and “post-racial” South, its metropolitan exurbs, or in environs outside Dixie. When weighing their arguments against the well-established and, yes, empirical concept of southern distinctiveness, the careful reader should keep in mind at least the following: No other region has waged armed rebellion against the federal government. No other region has been militarily defeated and occupied by the Armed Forces of the United States. and no other region has profited more—or more consistently over time—from federal projects, programs, tax expenditures, and . . .

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