Romance and Realism in Southern Politics

By T. Harry Williams | Go to book overview

had their go at the problem. As we might perhaps expect, they have seen the land itself as a powerful factor. The physical environment was such that it sustained life without too much expenditure of energy. Not having to conquer his environment, the Southerner was free to exploit its pleasures. "Soil, scenery, all the color and animation of the external world tempted a convivial race to an endless festival of the seasons," wrote Ellen Glasgow. "In the midst of a changing world all immaterial aspects were condensed for the Southern planter into an incomparable heartiness and relish for life. What distinguished the Southerner . . . from his severer neighbors to the north was his ineradicable belief that pleasure is worth more than toil, that it is even worth more than profit."

The most recent attempts by historians to explain what is distinctive about the South have got away from the older formulas of race, economics, or ruralism. Now the purpose is to show in what ways the South has not shared in or has stood apart from the common American tradition. Thus Professor Vann Woodward, who has done so much to illumine our understanding of the region, points out that the South has not participated in three of the great national legends and that its experience in these areas is quite un-American. In a land of plenty the South was from the Civil War and until recent times a region of poverty. In a nation whose history has been an unbroken success story the South has known "frustration, failure, and defeat." Their heritage affords Southerners no basis for the American conviction that there is nothing beyond the power of humans to accomplish. In a society bemused with innocence and optimism the South has lived with evils--slavery and the aftermath of emancipation--and it does not believe that every evil has an easy cure. "In that most optimistic of centuries in the most optimistic part of the world, the South remained

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Romance and Realism in Southern Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xi
  • Lecture One - The Distinctive South 1
  • Lecture Two - The Politics of Reconstruction 17
  • Lecture Three - The Politics of Populism And Progressivism 44
  • Lecture Four - The Politics of the Longs 65
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