Freedom of Thought in the Old South

Freedom of Thought in the Old South

Freedom of Thought in the Old South

Freedom of Thought in the Old South

Excerpt

Freedom of thought and speech in the prewar South is, as Professor Arthur M. Schlesinger observed during an address at Durham, North Carolina, on April 5, 1939, both a timely and a timeless subject. No event in the modern world is more ominous than the destruction of government by discussion and the repression of independent thought in large areas of Europe by dictatorships. Such ruthless disregard of the rights of minorities of both Fascist and Communist governments serves to retmind us that the preservation of free speech and of tolerance is a perennial problem, an ideal to be worked for, never completely attained in any society, and always in danger of being lost in every age. This study of the cultural history of the pSouth between 1790 and 1860, in which freedom of thought and speech is the central theme, is offered as a case history in the record of human liberty and intolerance.

"From Jefferson to Calhoun" might well be added as the subtitle of this study. Between the death of Jefferson on July 4, 1826, and the last prophetic speech of Calhoun, March 4, 1850,a, great change took place in the Southern States. The liberal ideas of the eighteenth century were in large part discarded, as the queues, the tight breeches, and silk stockings were outmoded. The eighteenth-century cosmopolitanism of the Tidewater gave way to an intensely local point of view. In Place of the appeal to reason the suppression of radical criticism was substituted. The sentiment favorable to the emancipation of the slaves held by the most enlightened leaders was not felt by the representative men of a succeeding generation. The skepticism and religious tolerance of the early Republic were erased by waves of evangelism. To explain the causes for this reversal -- the breakdown of the splendid traditions of the eighteenth-century aristocracy -- forms the central problem in the social and intellectual history of the South.

The author has derived his definition of freedom of thought . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.