Editor’s Note: I highly recommend taking the time to read through antebellum and Confederate journals like De Bow’s Review, the Southern Literary Messenger and the Southern Quarterly Review to get a real feel for the Confederate mindset. Keep in mind that anything written by a Yankee historian is going to be colored by his or her own regional perspective.
William Falconer’s The True Question: A Contest for the Supremacy of Race, as Between the Saxon Puritan of the North, and the Norman of the South appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond in July 1861:
“The Southern people, though superior to all other races on this continent, are yet themselves but men, and subject to all the general laws of humanity – it, therefore, appears necessary that human agencies should be used in effecting great changes, howsoever proper. We have long been in the enjoyment of the privileges of an almost unqualified liberty, both personal and political, that we would scarcely have consented to their abridgment for any cause. But a curtailment of that liberty, and a more modified form of government, appeared to be necessary to the position which the advances of time demanded us to assume. In short, a stronger government appeared to be necessary – not a monarchy, but a sort of Patrician Republic.”
The Confederacy had assumed “a more modified form of government.” The advance of time in the early 19th century had discredited 18th century Americanism and brought new ideas largely from Germany to the fore. The new ideal form of government is a “Patrician Republic.”
“At the time of forming our late government, a popular form seemed good and wise, for a variety of reasons. Most prominent among these was the fact of our having a very large territory and but a small population; it was, therefore, proper to invite emigration, by bestowing popular privileges.”
The popular privileges of the American government established by the Founders were responsive to the historical circumstances of another time. The South had matured over the next two generations. Now, it was unnecessary to continue with immigration and the goal was to rollback liberal democracy and tighten up the social fabric.
“A Democracy was, therefore, the result. But such considerations have not only long since failed, but for many years have operated as a defeat of the many good objects then had in view. In the next place, a democratic polity was necessary as being the only one that could be established. There were two very different peoples engaged in the same cause of rebellion to the mother country, but each so small as to render their relative status unimportant in the economy of general society. There was, therefore, a physical compulsion for union, to move on with the first, great purpose, and no corresponding good to proceed from an assertion of superiority; and even had there been, neither party had the power to assert or maintain it.”
The Union was a product of historical circumstances: it was practical for military purposes for the Northern and Southern colonies to band together to win their independence and it was also practical to maintain the Union in light of the geopolitical circumstances of that time period, namely, vulnerability to aggression by hostile European powers. This uncongenial alliance, however, no longer makes sense. By the 1860s, it was felt that a Southern Republic was capable of standing on its own two feet.
“The hour of that hybrid thing, a democratic republic, for the government of two different races, has passed away forever, and we must now direct our attention to those ethnological facts, from out of which the next government is to flow.”
The Union was a hybrid government that attempted to unite disparate cultures. Now that the Union with the Yankees had been severed, it was time to jettison the alien Yankee influences and create a Patrician Republic more congenial to the Norman Cavalier race. Like the emerging nation-states of Western Europe (Germany, Italy, Ireland, etc.), the Confederacy was to be based on “ethnological facts.”
“The peculiar form of government, under which we have for many years been living – call it by what name we may, whether a democracy or a republic – has been well calculated to demoralize, to some extent, the native, high character, of the South, and to vitiate its progress in statesmanship. There has been too much individual freedom, license rather, conferred upon the masses, through the agency of which fact, the lighter and less worthy material of society has floated to the surface. Men of actual merit, who are generally less adapted to popular approbation, have been compelled to come with their opinions and claims before the same volatile tribunal, with the worthless and flippant demagogue; and they, too, as far as was possible for them to do so, have been compelled to resort to the same vitiated means of success.”
In the South, it had already been well established as of 1861 that liberal democracy has an observable degenerating effect upon the quality of Southern statesmanship and the character of the Southern people. The Confederacy was determined to correct this problem. The goal was to produce more Thomas Jeffersons and John C. Calhouns and fewer politicians in the mold of Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn.
“This has been a corrupting fact, equally in regard to the intellect of the country, the people of the country, the institutions and laws of the country, and the permanency of the government.”
By 1861, it was felt the destructive logic of Northern liberal democracy had corrupted society from top to bottom in countless ways.
“Our late form of popular government was doubtless, at the time of its adoption, essential to our progress as a people. In time, however, that very progress developed its organic errors and its longer inadaptation to our wants and welfare. It had conferred such privileges upon the masses, as to cause it to be difficult, now that it is gone, to effect suitable changes – under a continued presence of peace.”
Fortunately, liberal democracy had been defeated by the establishment of the Confederacy. The old system of government was seen as no longer suitable to our wants and welfare and having collapsed as a result of its own organic errors, it was being replaced by a Patrician Republic.
“In the new system which is to be organized after all the slave states shall come together, and the present tempest somewhat subsided, all sources of public corruption are to be cut off, as far as is possible; and prominently among the subjects for consideration will be those of universal suffrage and the naturalization laws. In either of which lie concealed great sources of trouble to our national peace, dignity, and strength.”
The two major sources of public corruption which brought about the collapse of the Union are identified as (1) the doctrine of universal suffrage and (2) the naturalization laws through which unassimilable alien races had been liberally absorbed into the political sphere. This was perceived to be a major problem long before the Great Wave of Jewish immigration which went overwhelmingly to the North from eastern Europe.
Ultimately, the Confederacy succumbed to hostile invasion by Lincoln’s armies and slave insurrection and these antebellum journals which were fleshing out its ideals died with it. The Southern counterrevolution against liberal democracy was crushed and the degenerate trends accelerated.
Note: For more on the Norman of the South, check out Southern History Series: Southern Civilization; or, The Norman in America.
“Opposite under the banner of the king, stood the Cavalier – the builder, the social architect, the institutionalist, the conservator – the advocate of rational liberty and the supporter of authority, as against the licentiousness and morbid impulse of unregulated passion and unenlightened sentiment. No idealist, enthusiast or speculative system-builder, upheaving ancient landmarks and overthrowing venerable monuments; but a realist, a practical and enlightened utilitarian, bowing to the authority of experience and acknowledging the supremacy of ideas, forms and institutions that had received the hallowing sanction of time . An institutor by genius and a ruler by race, his pride was at once the sword of his most eminent virtues and greatest weaknesses, while honor was the touchstone of his character. Chivalrous in sentiment and magnanimous in deed, glory was his ambition, and loyalty the inspirer of his every thought, impulse and action. Elevated in his ideas and tolerant in his views, his selfishness was vicarious and his very faults wore the semblance of virtue. Unyielding in his principles, but compromising in his opinions, his conduct was governed more by sentiment than reflection, and more by association than either. Courtly in his manners and splendid in his tastes, a knightly generosity he practiced even toward his foes, and never lost his faculties in volumptuousness. Without being an abject advocate of passive obedience or a supporter of arbitrary power, he yet took ground against the revolutionary party, not as an enemy to liberal institutions or a well-regulated liberty: but, discovering in the doctrines and principles of the revolution a greater danger to the social and political system than from the alleged existing abuses, he preferred yielding his loyalty rather to institutions than abstractions, and felt it a duty to attempt to quench the lights of the incendiary philosophy, whose torch had been applied to the noblest monuments of civil wisdom yet erected by the genius of man …”