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Declarations of Dependence

Declarations of Dependence: The Long Reconstruction of Popular Politics in the South, 1861-1908

Gregory P. Downs
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    Declarations of Dependence
    Book Description:

    In this highly original study, Gregory Downs argues that the most American of wars, the Civil War, created a seemingly un-American popular politics, rooted not in independence but in voluntary claims of dependence. Through an examination of the pleas and petitions of ordinary North Carolinians,Declarations of Dependencecontends that the Civil War redirected, not destroyed, claims of dependence by exposing North Carolinians to the expansive but unsystematic power of Union and Confederate governments, and by loosening the legal ties that bound them to husbands, fathers, and masters.Faced with anarchy during the long reconstruction of government authority, people turned fervently to the government for protection and sustenance, pleading in fantastic, intimate ways for attention. This personalistic, or what Downs calls patronal, politics allowed for appeals from subordinate groups like freed blacks and poor whites, and also bound people emotionally to newly expanding postwar states. Downs's argument rewrites the history of the relationship between Americans and their governments, showing the deep roots of dependence, the complex impact of the Civil War upon popular politics, and the powerful role of Progressivism and segregation in submerging a politics of dependence that--in new form--rose again in the New Deal and persists today.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0340-7
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Introduction: Friends Unseen: The Ballad of Political Dependency
    (pp. 1-14)

    THE CIVIL WAR transformed the relationship between the American people and their government. As war shifted the boundaries between the political and the personal, women and men pressed previously private, intimate needs onto states they embodied into patrons they could beg for favors. In the process, democracy and wartime exigency turned dependence from a personal condition into a political style. In strange and seemingly un-American ways, the war sparked a revolution not just in what the American state could do but in what people believed it could do. In the decades following the attack on Fort Sumter, people spoke of...

  4. 1 Hungry for Protection: The Confederate Roots of Dependence
    (pp. 15-42)

    IN JUNE 1861, five days after he enlisted, a Confederate private named Harrison H. Hanes knew “nothing a bout the war only there are many men here” at his drill camp in Garysburg, North Carolina. Writing to his friend Nancy Williams, Hanes asserted, “[I] still feel that I will get to see you before long,” if not through a furlough then “the probability is that I can any how after the 4 of July for it is thought congress will setle the mater but if they fail to [do] this it will be don by the bulet cirtin unless the...

  5. 2 Slaves and the Great Deliverer: Freedom and Friendship behind Union Lines
    (pp. 43-74)

    IN APRIL 1865, not long after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, a “dispatch boat, with drooping flag shrouded in mourning” carried the news of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to the massive Union colony of ex-slaves on Roanoke Island in North Carolina’s Albemarle Sound. The message “brings us down to the valley of humiliation,” a missionary on the island wrote. “Old and young were alike bowed down . . . moaning and weeping near my school house.” When the teacher reminded the ex-slaves that God would not “desert you in the wilderness,” one of them answered gloomily, “I knows it honey, but’...

  6. 3 Vulnerable at the Circumference: Demobilization and the Limitations of the Freedmen’s Bureau
    (pp. 75-100)

    IN JUNE 1865, the face of government changed in North Carolina as Freedmen’s Bureau agents opened offices across the state. Working with the Union’s state military commander, the provisional governor, and the remaining Union soldiers, these officials were the front line of a piecemeal, tentative, and poorly planned occupation of the South. Like many others, North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau director Eliphalet Whittlesey encountered scenes of “much confusion” upon his June 1865 arrival in Raleigh as displaced whites and blacks clustered around bureau offices for food, and everyone watched for portents of the social order that would replace slavery. “The sudden...

  7. 4 The Great Day of Acounter: Democracy and the Problem of Power in Republican Reconstruction
    (pp. 101-130)

    THE GOVERNOR Hugo Hillebrandt and many freedpeople looked to in 1868 was the same William Holden who had been turned out of office only three years earlier. Starting in 1866, Holden adeptly read the transformations in Washington, ingratiated himself with Radical Republicans, and positioned himself atop the expanded democracy envisioned in congressional Reconstruction. By 1868, Holden rode back into the governor’s office on heavy turnout by freedmen newly enfranchised by the state constitution and the insistence of Washington Radicals. Now incorporated into formal politics, these freedpeople pleaded to keep Holden’s attention on the dire problems of security and survival. Building...

  8. 5 The Persistence of Prayer: Dependency after Redemption
    (pp. 131-162)

    IN 1876, Zebulon Baird Vance rose again. Running to “redeem” the state from Radical Reconstruction, Vance led one branch of a regionwide assault against Republican rule. Between 1874 and 1876, Democrats drove Republicans from state houses, took control of Congress, and nearly expelled Republicans from the White House. By 1877, propelled by the Hayes-Tilden electoral crisis, the demands of federal bondholders, and the perceived need for troops against natives out West and against strikers in the East, one phase of national Reconstruction ended with the withdrawal of the last permanent federal troops from the South. Soon, Democrats in North Carolina...

  9. 6 Crazes, Fetishes, and Enthusiasms: The Silver Mania and the Making of a New Politics
    (pp. 163-184)

    IN 1896, two years after Zebulon Vance died, the son of his old rival Tom Settle paged through a series of distressing field reports about the “silver craze” sweeping through his congressional district. In a campaign about the gold standard, a fantastic, incorrect rumor about a government-sponsored gift of money disrupted the younger Settle’s already tenuous reelection prospects in piedmont North Carolina. As a solid supporter of his Republican Party’s gold position,¹ Settle increasingly found himself trapped by an upsurge of popular sentiment that combined Reconstruction’s patronal hopes with a newly broad view of government’s reach and scope. Rather than...

  10. 7 A Compressive Age: White Supremacy and the Growth of the Modern State
    (pp. 185-212)

    TWO YEARS AFTER Tom Settle’s defeat, young Democrats toppled Republicans and Populists in an infamous white supremacy campaign. As they captured the state legislature in 1898, then confirmed disenfranchisement in a 1900 referendum, they created not just Jim Crow but a new image of the relationship between state and subject in North Carolina. Leaving behind postwar patronalism, they reached both forward and backward to replace the government of needy persons with the management of an undifferentiated, abstracted people. Their leader, and the state’s new governor, Charles B. Aycock, recast the now-familiar inauguration-day comparison of statecraft and sunshine. Instead of Holden’s...

  11. Coda Desperate Times Call for Distant Friends: Franklin Roosevelt as the Last Good King?
    (pp. 213-220)

    ALMOST FOUR DECADES after the white supremacy campaign, a federal interviewer called on an aged ex-slave from Jones County, North Carolina, at her residence in Saint Louis, Missouri. Despite the oddity of a government listening to people it had long excluded, Susan Davis Rhodes was not surprised by the visit. Rhodes’s own experiences with the burgeoning New Deal state taught her a great deal about the reach of the new government. She and her daughter were on relief, and a nephew worked for the Works Progress Administration. But there was another reason she expected the encounter, one that had roots...

  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 221-226)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 227-276)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 277-336)
  15. Index
    (pp. 337-346)