Edmund Ruffin, Southerner: A Study in Secession

Edmund Ruffin, Southerner: A Study in Secession

Edmund Ruffin, Southerner: A Study in Secession

Edmund Ruffin, Southerner: A Study in Secession

Excerpt

The writer of this volume has no illusions regarding the place of Edmund Ruffin in American history. The man has, perhaps, been slighted by the political historian and too briefly noted by those interested in things economic. Yet it is more as a type than as an individual that he deserves detailed study. The Old South that rose to completion in what are called ante-bellum days held no figure that better expressed her more pronounced temper and ways than did this Virginian. He was unique, of course, even among his own kind. All Southern gentlemen were. Yet as the greatest agriculturist in a rural civilization; one of the first and most intense Southern nationalists; and the man who fired the first gun at Sumter and ended his own life in grief when the civilization that had produced him perished on the field of battle, his story becomes to a striking degree that of the rise and fall of the Old South. It is from this viewpoint that this work has been undertaken.

Historians have been too much inclined to gain their understanding of great crises from the study of prominent politicians, who, after all, seldom control the forces that precipitate final action. In studying the Old South they have too often overlooked the fact that it was Yancey and Rhett and Ruffin who had their way in 1860-61 and that Davis and Stephens took charge only when the damage had been done. The radicals, or, as they have been called, "the fire-eaters," played a part in creating the idea of Southern nationalism and in producing the struggle to establish an independent . . .

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