De Bow's Review

De Bow's Review: The Antebellum Vision of a New South

John F. Kvach
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    De Bow's Review
    Book Description:

    In the decades preceding the Civil War, the South struggled against widespread negative characterizations of its economy and society as it worked to match the North's infrastructure and level of development. Recognizing the need for regional reform, James Dunwoody Brownson (J. D. B.) De Bow began to publish a monthly journal -- De Bow's Review -- to guide Southerners toward a stronger, more diversified future. His periodical soon became a primary reference for planters and entrepreneurs in the Old South, promoting urban development and industrialization and advocating investment in schools, libraries, and other cultural resources. Later, however, De Bow began to use his journal to manipulate his readers' political views. Through inflammatory articles, he defended proslavery ideology, encouraged Southern nationalism, and promoted anti-Union sentiment, eventually becoming one of the South's most notorious fire-eaters.

    In De Bow's Review: The Antebellum Vision of a New South, author John Kvach explores how the editor's antebellum economic and social policies influenced Southern readers and created the framework for a postwar New South movement. By recreating subscription lists and examining the lives and livelihoods of 1,500 Review readers, Kvach demonstrates how De Bow's Review influenced a generation and a half of Southerners. This approach allows modern readers to understand the historical context of De Bow's editorial legacy. Ultimately, De Bow and his antebellum subscribers altered the future of their region by creating the vision of a New South long before the Civil War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4422-1
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: An Old Foundation for a New South
    (pp. 1-10)

    James Dunwoody Brownson (J. D. B.) De Bow lived a paradoxical life. Born into a middle-class merchant family along the Atlantic coast of South Carolina in 1820, he used his monthly journal, commonly known as De Bow’s Review, to become the chief spokesman for wealthy planters and entrepreneurs in the Old Southwest. Despite living in an agricultural region dominated by plantations and farms, he used his editorial influence to promote urban development and industrialization as key elements for southern economic growth. Although his peers often wrote in sweeping rhetorical flourishes, De Bow relied on statistical analysis and factual writing to...

  4. 1 Learning to Be Southern and American
    (pp. 11-32)

    By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Charleston, South Carolina, stood ready to claim its position alongside New York, Boston, and Philadelphia as one of the great American cities. Since the earliest settlers had founded the small port village on a marshy peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers in 1670, subsequent generations of Charlestonians had invested capital and labor in their city’s economic, social, and cultural development. Wealthy planters and merchants considered the city an important South Atlantic commercial hub in the lucrative triangular trade that developed among North America, Europe, and Africa. Although rice, indigo, and later cotton...

  5. 2 Leaving an Old South, Entering a New South
    (pp. 33-54)

    On his way to Memphis, De Bow stopped in New Orleans for a brief visit to familiarize himself with his new home. He explored the city and became better acquainted with the nation’s second busiest port behind only New York City. Thousands of ships crowded the docks and levies, creating a forest of masts and clouds of steam and smoke. De Bow noted that, in the month he visited New Orleans, 81 ships, 22 barks, 33 brigs, 39 schooners, and 220 steamboats arrived or departed from the city. Hundreds of uncounted flatboats from states and territories along the Mississippi River...

  6. 3 A Busy and Fractured Mind of the South
    (pp. 55-74)

    News of De Bow’s failure circulated among affluent southerners who read or contributed to the Review. Maunsel White pledged financial support to his friend, and readers from around the South sent subscriptions in to De Bow. R. F. W. Allston of South Carolina delivered eight new paid orders, intending to give them to friends. Miles McGehee of Bolivar, Mississippi, bought ten subscriptions and hoped to resell them to neighbors. James H. Hammond, a former governor of South Carolina, sent money and a public letter that chastised southerners for their literary neglect of such a worthy cause. The Charleston Mercury learned:...

  7. 4 Embracing Southern Anger and Southern Nationalism
    (pp. 75-98)

    De Bow’s life had changed dramatically since he revived the Review in July 1849. His increased involvement in the sectional debate over slavery promised to keep him busy as an editor, speaker, and promoter. He had rescued the Review from failure, overseen the completion of the 1850 census, and moved from New Orleans to Washington, DC. His work became more widely and even nationally recognized and his reputation more valued by Americans on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. He had parlayed his knowledge of the South into new experiences and expected more professional success. Even his personal life, which...

  8. 5 Reading and Investing in De Bow’s Ideas
    (pp. 99-126)

    After fourteen years in business, De Bow had cultivated a healthy subscription list by offering practical articles to southern readers interested in commercial growth, urban development, industrialization, agricultural reform, and railroad construction. In more recent years he had also earned the respect of southern nationalists, states’ rights advocates, and secessionists who valued his willingness to support their cause. To his readers, regardless of their motivations for subscribing to the Review, the journal represented an important southern resource. To De Bow, however, it represented that and his primary means of supporting himself and his family. He did not have the luxury...

  9. 6 War Tests De Bow’s Theories and Patience
    (pp. 127-150)

    On December 20, 1860, the recording secretary of the Convention of the People of South Carolina marked 169 ayes for secession and nary a nay against disunion. Although there had been moderate opposition to immediate secession in the state, the lack of a single dissenting vote proved that the issue of slavery had narrowed regional interests and hardened personal viewpoints in South Carolina. De Bow felt great pride in his home state’s unity as he watched the proceedings in downtown Charleston. Forty years before, and a few blocks away from Institute Hall, where delegates gathered to sign the secession ordinance,...

  10. 7 The Reformulation of De Bow’s Old New South
    (pp. 151-176)

    Like many white southerners in the late spring of 1865, De Bow had to reconcile his feelings about the Confederate defeat with the prospect of rebuilding the South and rejoining the United States. Burned-out cities, wrecked railroads, untended fields, and disconnected commercial routes confronted millions of southerners, both black and white. Hundreds of thousands of southern men had been killed in battle or died of disease, leaving behind displaced widows to tend to their children and family farms or businesses. The reality of slave emancipation and federal occupation proved to be equally daunting for many white southerners. Thousands of ex-slaves...

  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 177-178)
  12. Appendix: The Identified Readership of De Bow’s Review
    (pp. 179-206)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 207-242)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-264)
  15. Index
    (pp. 265-270)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-272)