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The Self-Inflicted Wound

The Self-Inflicted Wound: Southern Politics in the Nineteenth Century

Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    The Self-Inflicted Wound
    Book Description:

    The essentially tragic political fate of the American South in the nineteenth century resulted from what Robert F. Durden calls a "self-inflicted wound" -- the gradual surrender of the white majority to the pride, fears, and hates of racism. In this gracefully written and closely reasoned study, Durden traces the course of southern political life from the predominantly optimistic, nationalistic Jeffersonian era to the sullenly sectional, chronically defensive decades following the Civil War.

    Politics, as the clearest reflection of the southern electorate's collective hopes and fears, illustrates the South's transition from buoyant nationalism to aggrieved sectionalism. Like the rest of the new nation, the South entered the nineteenth century as proud heirs of the American Revolution and its ideology of liberty, property, and equal rights. But for southerners, from the 1820s on, that liberty came increasingly to mean the freedom to own slave property and to take that property into the nation's new western territories.

    As the possibility of a ban on slavery in the territories rose to the center of national attention during and after the Mexican War, the South's views on the "peculiar institution" became increasingly defensive and intransigent. The presidential victory in 1860 of an all-northern party pledged to the exclusion of slavery from the territories made the Civil War inevitable. In its aftermath, white southerners sought and ultimately found, in the hegemony of the Democratic party, other ways to maintain their national position and their dominance over the black minority. But the South would long suffer the aftereffects of its "self-inflicted wound."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6145-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Charles P. Roland
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. CHAPTER ONE The Jeffersonian Ascendancy 1800–1828
    (pp. 1-25)

    To say that most articulate southerners were ardently nationalistic during, and for quite a while after, Thomas Jefferson’s presidency is not to imply that they were not also conscious of certain sectional interests more or less peculiar to the South. Like other Americans, with New Englanders being perhaps the most conspicuous example, southerners first became conscious of their sectional interests as their nationalism was born during the American Revolution.

    The necessity of intercolonial and then interstate cooperation in the long struggle for independence first schooled Americans in the rich diversity of the nation and the constant difficulty of harmonizing differences....

  6. CHAPTER TWO The South and the Second Party System 1828–1846
    (pp. 26-51)

    Although Andrew Jackson had been denied the presidency in 1824, the campaign of that year demonstrated his great popularity with the rank-and-file voters in various parts of the country, especially in the South. In the seven southern states where presidential electors were popularly chosen, the vote for Jackson in 1824 equalled the combined vote for his three opponents; and he received over half (55 out of 108) of the South’s electoral votes. Georgia and Louisiana soon joined the ranks of those states where the voters rather than the legislature chose presidential electors, and only South Carolina clung to the old...

  7. CHAPTER THREE From Sectional Crisis to the Eve of Disunion 1846–1860
    (pp. 52-84)

    Contrary to charges made by northern antislavery leaders at the time and echoed by various historians since, “the South” did not clamor for war with Mexico. Southerners were not of a single mind about the war or the acquisition of new territory. Calhoun, along with many—probably most—other southerners, had strongly supported the annexation of Texas, but Calhoun and numerous others in the South opposed war with Mexico for a variety of reasons. John A. Campbell of Alabama, one of Calhoun’s correspondents and later a justice of the United States Supreme Court, argued that in the long run the...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Secession and War 1860–1865
    (pp. 85-106)

    Southerners BY 1860 had achieved remarkable unity in defense of slavery and were profoundly fearful of what a Republican administration might do, no matter how gradually or subtly, to weaken or perhaps ultimately to destroy what they regarded as both the cornerstone of southern civilization and the guarantor of white liberty and equality. Many politically conscious southerners, indeed, probably a majority, had also come to venerate what they considered to be two basic constitutional principles: first, that a sovereign state possessed the right to secede from the Union and second, that the federal government could not lawfully use force or...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Reconstruction and Redemption 1865–1890
    (pp. 107-132)

    At the end of the Civil War the Confederates were a thoroughly beaten people. No die-hard guerrillas took to the Appalachians or to other refuges in an effort to continue resistance to the militarily triumphant forces of the Union. But passively accepting the military outcome of the war did not mean that white southerners suddenly repented of their past actions, for most did not. Slavery was dead, but in short order whites demonstrated their determination to maintain the subordination of the freed blacks, that is, to reestablish the supremacy of the white race by means other than the outright enslavement...

  10. Bibliographical Note
    (pp. 133-141)
  11. Index
    (pp. 142-150)