The South since 1865

The South since 1865

The South since 1865

The South since 1865

Excerpt

No region in the United States has ever undergone more drastic and dramatic changes than did the South during the first hundred years after the beginning of the Civil War. Even more remarkable was that these modifications and new departures brought the South in line with the prevailing national culture to a greater degree than ever before in its history. Yet this phenomenon has gone largely unchronicled as a distinct movement in American history.

Virtually every American is conscious of the Civil War, a struggle which in the last analysis resulted from the inability of national institutions to reconcile the conflicts between North and South. The final Southern decision to strike for independence rather than to submit to Northern demands was bolstered by a belief that the North was insisting upon the surrender of habits, customs, and institutions held dear by Southerners. The new Northern liberalism demanded majority rule through representative government, while the South, on the other hand, felt it must have protection for its unique local interests. To Southerners, this could only be done in a federated union of equals, and therefore they insisted on a confederation to protect minority rights. The South fought for an old liberalism; it wanted equality in the Union and to be left alone with its rights guaranteed. The North felt that some of these rights had to be denied for the good of the whole. Thus the old partnership was rent because of these incompatible viewpoints.

At the end of the Civil War there were, in essence, two nations occupying a formerly united area -- one the conqueror, the other the vanquished. What would be the attitudes of the victor and, equally important, of the militarily defeated? Most certainly, one price of reunion would be surrender of some of the treasured Southern customs and institutions. But the South had believed in these enough to go to war, and whether physical defeat alone was enough to convince Southerners that their original loyalties had been misplaced was far from certain. The dilemma thrust upon the nation by the Civil War was . . .

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