Lately, Hunter Wallace has written at length about the meaning of liberty in the Tidewater, Carolina and the Backcountry and how this concept had “nothing to do with classical liberalism, modern liberalism or libertarianism.”
Developing upon this idea, John Smith Preston, the son of a Virginia general who married in the wealthy Hampton family in South Carolina, was selected by his adopted State to be a Secession Commissioner to the Old Dominion. Preston was an attorney and a planter and also a member of the secessionist Minute Men in Columbia, SC. He was considered a great speaker and his presentation before a huge crowd in Richmond helped convince Virginia to secede from the Union. Preston noted that “the conflict between slavery and non-slavery is a conflict for life and death” for Southerners and that abolitionism would lead to the “annihilation” of his people. Charles B. Dew, professor of Social Science at Williams College, writes in Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War:
The emotional climax of Preston’s address came toward the end. “Gentlemen of Virginia,” he called. The people of the South “are not canting fanatics, festering in the licentiousness of abolition and amalgamation; their liberty is not a painted strumpet, straggling through the streets; no does their truth need to baptize itself in pools of blood.” No, he cried, Southerners “are a calm, grave, deliberate and religious people, the holders of the most majestic civilization and the inheritors, by right, of the fairest estate of liberty.”
Preston continued from there to call upon Virginia to stand with the rest of the South in defense of its “sacred soil” and sovereign rights. But the above quote gets well at the concept of Southern liberty – a type of liberty which was not liberal and which had its roots in the ancient culture of Britain and developed among Southerners in their neo-classical New World civilization. Such liberty would likely be quite foreign to most Americans today.