A Revolution Against Politics
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 A thoughtful and engaging study of political ethics and infighting in the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Unlike those who have tended to view Confederate politics as merely a sideshow to the Civil War, Rable (History/Anderson Univ.; Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism, not reviewed) examines the South's politics and government for its own sake. In so doing he attempts to divorce his study from a discussion of the war--though he readily admits that the events on the battlefield influenced politics even as politics affected military campaigns. As the volume's subtitle points out, secession by the Southern states was a kind of revolution against politics. Beyond creating a clone of the US Constitution that ensured white supremacy, Southerners, argues Rable, attempted to produce a purified American republicanism free from the perceived deleterious effects of factionalism, party politics, professional politicians, lobbying, and political logrolling. Such men sought to create a haven for individual liberty (albeit only for whites) and to construct a commonwealth of social harmony and political consensus. Almost all of Southern politics during the war can be seen as part of the struggle to attain these lofty ideals. Rable argues that, far from being a source of weakness, these civic goals and virtues were a major source of cohesion and strength. Unfortunately for a nation that came into being as a result of a distrust of federal power, the prosecution of the war required a strong central government. The effects of these strains persist in Southern politics to the present day. When most readers are still surprised that the South held elections at all during its brief independent life, this book is a refreshing and provocative story that should appeal to Civil War buffs and casual readers interested in American politics.

Pub Date: July 29th, 1994
ISBN: 0-8078-2144-6
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1994


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