Bradley G. Bond
Juxtaposed to the corpus of works written about antebellum and Reconstructionera Southern politics, the number of Southern Civil War political studies is curiously small. Likewise, the volume and sophistication of literature about Southern state and local politics during the Civil War era pale in comparison to those of works about Northern states. Historians of states that remained loyal to the Union have embraced the latest methodologies and placed their studies within the context of broad historiographic concerns, while political historians of the South during the Civil War remain mired in discussions of familiar themes: the competition between advocates of federalism and states' rights, individual and collective acts of dissent, and the expansion of state authority.
When Frank Lawrence Owsley described the Confederacy as having been hamstrung by the philosophy of states' rights, which he believed undergirded its formation, he introduced into the historiography of the Civil War a perennial theme. Owsley State Rights in the Confederacy ( 1925) provided historians their first working model of the irony of Southern history. Owsley portrays the fledgling nation as incapable of reconciling its idealized notion of the authority of states with the competing concept of a permanent and strong federal government. In an essay published in the edited volume Why the North Won the Civil War ( 1960), David Donald expands on Owsley's argument that states' rights philosophy crippled the South politically and asserts that the Confederacy died of the related factor--democracy.