Academic journal article The Historian

Defending the Old South: The Myth of the Lost Cause and Political Immorality in Florida, 1865-1968

Academic journal article The Historian

Defending the Old South: The Myth of the Lost Cause and Political Immorality in Florida, 1865-1968

Article excerpt

THE STATE OF Florida has long been an enigma, harboring various contradictory values and beliefs within its borders. Today, South Florida is home to numerous retirees, "snowbirds," and Latin-American immigrants and refugees, while the northern region of the state, often referred to as the "Other Florida" by South Floridians or the "Real Florida" by its inhabitants, has more in common with neighboring Georgia and Alabama. This split can be traced back to the decades following the Civil War, when it became apparent that the diverging politics in these two areas set the state on a collision course. As South Florida grew, much of North Florida remained entrenched in tradition, lagging behind the southern region in its modernization. Any time the values and traditions of North Florida were challenged, it resisted fiercely using a variety of tactics, ranging from the introduction of a new constitution to the use of violence. After the Civil War, these defenders of the "Old South" were suspicious of outsiders, resistant to change, and willing to do anything and everything in their power to maintain their precarious hold over the reins of government within the state. To this end they rallied behind the "Myth of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy."

After the end of Reconstruction, through the fostering of the "Myth of the Lost Cause" as well as through the 1885 Constitution, the conservatives maintained their grip over the state by assuring that power in Florida remained in the hands of a legislature that would be dominated by North Florida for the foreseeable future. This essay seeks to connect what other scholars have viewed as separate or isolated events or periods of Florida's history. Florida's twentieth-century political battles and the emergence of groups such as the conservative political clan, the Pork Chop Gang, cannot be fully understood without a look at Florida's post-bellum history, the 1885 Constitution and the state's adherence to the "Lost Cause." In the decades following the end of the Civil War, the proponents of the "Lost Cause" were determined to do everything in their power to defend the "Old South" value system, and the Pork Chop Gang and other conservatives continued to defend this system close to a century later. (1) All of these elements complemented each other and helped the conservatives maintain the order and stability they felt necessary to protect their culture and worldview as the demographics of the state underwent radical change.

After the Civil War, Florida, like the rest of the South, fostered the aforementioned "Myth of the Lost Cause," a phrase which dates back to Edward Pollard's 1866 work, The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates, and received validation and support in subsequent articles by former Confederate General Jubal Early written for the Southern Historical Society in the 1870s. (2) Gaines Foster defines the "Lost Cause" movement as "the postwar writings and activities that perpetuated the memory of the Confederacy" through organizations such as the Southern Historical Society, United Confederate Veterans (UCV), United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), and others. (3) Foster maintains that Southerners shaped their perception of defeat through ceremonial activities and other rituals honoring the gallant efforts of Confederate veterans, dead and surviving. (4) Senator E.W. Carmack of Tennessee further explained the concept of the "Lost Cause" when he noted:

   The Confederate Soldiers were our kinfolk and our heroes. We
   testify to the country our enduring fidelity to their memory. We
   commemorate their valor and devotion. There were some things that
   were not surrendered at Appomattox. We did not surrender our rights
   and history, nor was it one of the conditions of surrender that
   unfriendly lips should be suffered to tell the story of that war or
   that unfriendly hands should write the epitaphs of the
   Confederate dead. … 
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

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.