The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics

The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics

The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics

The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics

Synopsis

Although much has been written about the ways in which Confederate politics affected the course of the Civil War, George Rable is the first historian to investigate Confederate political culture in its own right. Focusing on the assumptions, values, and beliefs that formed the foundation of Confederate political ideology, Rable reveals how Southerners attempted to purify the political process and avoid what they saw as the evils of parties and partisanship. According to Rable, secession marked the beginning of a revolution against politics in which the Confederacy's founding fathers saw themselves as the true heirs of the American Revolution. Nevertheless, factionalism developed as the war dragged on, with Confederate nationalists emphasizing political unity and support for President Jefferson Davis's administration and libertarian dissenters warning of the dangers of a centralized Confederate government. Both sides claimed to be the legitimate defenders of a genuine Southern republicanism and ofConfederate nationalism, and the conflict between them carried over from the strictly political sphere to matters of military strategy, civil religion, and education. Consulting a wide range of sources, including newspapers, sermons, contemporary textbooks, political correspondence, and military documents, Rable constructs an analytical narrative of Confederate political culture, arguing that it did more to strengthen the Confederacy than weaken it. He concludes that despite the war's outcome, the anti-political legacy of the Confederate republic had a profound impact on the future of Southern politics.

Excerpt

Confederate politics has hardly been a neglected topic in Civil War history. Biographies and monographs have probed the operations of the Confederate government, analyzed the conflicts between Jefferson Davis and his critics, dissected the issue of states' rights, and examined the workings of the Confederate Congress. More recently, as part of a broader effort to reassess the causes for Confederate defeat, scholars have interpreted political conflicts as sources of ambiguity and weakness in Southern nationalism. Yet there has been no comprehensive work on Confederate politics itself because historians have generally neglected the interplay of ideology and practical politics during the war and have not thoroughly evaluated the complex interaction of state and "national" politics in the Confederacy.

This book will explore Confederate political culture in its own right rather than as a reflection of the problematic character of Southern nationalism or as a possible factor in Confederate defeat. the emphasis is on both the assumptions, values, and beliefs that laid the foundation for a Confederate political culture and on the immediate questions and problems that bedeviled Southern leaders. From the secession crisis through the end of the war, competing visions of the Southern nation's political future, and especially the emergence of rival political cultures, forced Confederates constantly to reconsider their most fundamental political assumptions even as they wrestled with more immediate economic and military crises. What is termed here a "revolution against politics" did not entirely succeed in transforming political behavior. a major theme that runs through the chapters that follow is the constant tug between political . . .

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