THE IDEA OF A SOUTHERN NATION: Southern Nationalists and Southern Nationalism, 1830-1860 by

THE IDEA OF A SOUTHERN NATION: Southern Nationalists and Southern Nationalism, 1830-1860

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It was the basic constitutional problem of the respective powers of the states and the central government that led, it is generally agreed, to the rise of Southern Nationalism and contributed, with the issue of slavery, to the secession of the southern states. McCardell (History, Middlebury College) begins his account with the debates in South Carolina over a proposed increase in federal import tariffs, which the State's agriculturalists saw as an effort by northern industrialists to use the federal government in their interests. Gradually, the resentment over northern economic superiority mushroomed into an awareness of sectional interests, and this, in turn, grew into a belief that only nationhood could rid the south of northern dominance. While McCardell properly emphasizes the total nature of southern resentment, nonetheless the issue of slavery, and the southern identification of it as a vested interest, comes more and more to the fore here as the overriding issue of contention. This was in large measure, as he notes, a result of southern insistence on the necessity of slavery if the south was to attain economic self-sufficiency and, thereby, independence from northern power. The Constitutional issue--as well as the slavery issue--was settled by the Civil War; but it is too often forgotten that in the first respect the south did have a case, and McCardell could have strengthened that case by backing up and going more thoroughly into the arguments of the Anti-Federalists during the ratification period. As it is, his account has the merit of delineating the different strands that made up southern thinking on nationhood, from the cautious, procedural John C. Calhoun to the fiery William Yancey. By and large, the party politicians trailed behind popular opinion, and McCardell emphasizes the conservative character of the eventual Confederate government and the deep regret that accompanied secession. A solid and accessible regional history.

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 1979
Publisher: Norton