Aesthetic Frontiers: The Machiavellian Tradition and the Southern Imagination

Aesthetic Frontiers: The Machiavellian Tradition and the Southern Imagination

Aesthetic Frontiers: The Machiavellian Tradition and the Southern Imagination

Aesthetic Frontiers: The Machiavellian Tradition and the Southern Imagination

Excerpt

In the mid-1970s, J. G. A. Pocock created a stir among American historians by arguing that Anglo-American political culture derived from the ideas of Niccoló Machiavelli. Many scholars now ac- cept Pocock's thesis that the Founding Fathers espoused an agrarian variation on Machiavelli's view that power and value had become separated in his contemporary world and that some way must be found to balance them if liberty were to flourish and political chaos to be constrained. This variation was, of course, republicanism. Scholars have now begun to argue that its codification of the inherent political conflict between the ambition for dominance and the desire for liberty was fundamental to the tragically violent divisions between Northerners and Southerners which culminated in the Civil War.

Recently, David W. Noble has extended this line of research to show that the Progressive historians Frederick Jackson Turner and Charles Beard wrote within the same republican paradigm, which the English theorist James Harrington developed in the 1600s. Harrington theorized that it was possible to use freehold property as a counterweight to economic and political centralization, preserving liberty against tyranny and political virtue against corruption in an expanding empire. Neither Turner nor Beard, however, was successful in reformulating a Harringtonian solution to the disintegration of republican political and economic values in America once the agrarian frontier closed at the end of the nineteenth century. The major role of the counter-Progressive or Consensus school of American historians, which developed during the Cold War . . .

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