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The Civilization of the Old South

The Civilization of the Old South: Writings of Clement Eaton

Edited with an introduction by ALBERT D. KIRWAN
Copyright Date: 1968
Pages: 328
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130js6s
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  • Book Info
    The Civilization of the Old South
    Book Description:

    Exhibiting a clear, straightforward style, his many works are marked by a comprehensiveness and a catholicity of view. There is hardly an element of southern thought or society, hardly a major movement of any kind or an event of any significance that has escaped his penetrating thought and discerning analysis.

    This volume of Eaton's selected writings forms a rich and provocative mosaic of southern life from the years of Thomas Jefferson to the close of the Civil War. These selections, perceptively edited by Albert D. Kinvan, 'show the wide range of Eaton's interests, including the impact of slavery, the influence of religion, and the art of politics, and they demonstrate the depth of his insight into the civilization of the Old South.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6264-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. vii-xviii)
    Albert D. Kirwan

    After twenty years of distinguished service at the University of Kentucky, Clement Eaton will pass a milestone in a scholarly career devoted to the study of the American South. At the end of the 1967-68 academic year he will reach the age of retirement. The University of Kentucky is marking the occasion by publishing a volume of selections from his writings. This book is the product of that venture. It will serve as a demonstration of the affectionate regard of his colleagues for “a true gentleman of the Old South” as well as their esteem for an eminent scholar who...

  4. CHAPTER ONE THE GREAT GENERATION
    (pp. 1-24)

    Heroic and noble qualities are likely to lie dormant in men until a great occasion arises. It is this historic occasion that shakes them out of preoccupation with their private concerns and forces them to think and act in the interest of the nation. Ordinary individuals are like the plant that has been thwarted in its growth by being shaded but blossoms luxuriantly when strong sunlight pours upon it. The generation that fought in the Revolution, founded the Federal Constitution and the early republic, and then passed away with the death of Jefferson in 1826 was a remarkable generation. Yet...

  5. CHAPTER TWO KENTUCKY PLANTER
    (pp. 25-39)

    Clay’s participation in duels tended to identify him with the Southern gentry, but even more was he attached to the Southern way of life by the acquisition of a large plantation. Ashland was the realization of a Virginia poor boy’s dream, an English estate in the New World, with a two-hundred-acre woodland park that Lord Morpeth, who visited Ashland, said was the nearest approach to an English park of any he had seen in this country. Here Clay lived, with interruptions of sojourns in Washington, for over forty-five years, and here he enjoyed dispensing the hospitality of a Southern gentleman....

  6. CHAPTER THREE THE ART OF POLITICS IN THE WEST
    (pp. 40-56)

    Henry Clay was a Bluegrass politician, the representative of a relatively conservative Western community. The “Ashland District” which sent him to Congress consisted of the counties of Fayette, Jessamine, and Woodford, the area of the best agricultural land and of the greatest concentration of slaves in the state. It was essential for the success of his presidential ambitions that he should retain the complete loyalty not only of the Bluegrass but of the entire state. Consequently, he watched the annual August elections with the keenest of interest, for they were one of the barometers of his hopes for political promotion....

  7. CHAPTER FOUR THE SOUTHERN YEOMAN: THE HUMORISTS’ VIEW
    (pp. 57-76)

    The mass of Southern people did not share Clay’s view of the wisdom of preserving freedom of speech and of the press. In any society the mass of the people are intolerant of ideas repugnant to them; nor are they creative thinkers but take their ideas mainly from the preachers, teachers, editors, and politicians. This does not mean, however, that in the Old South the great majority of slaveless farmers had no weight in determining the direction of the Southern mind. Indeed, after the 1820’s the politicians usually moved in the direction of what they thought was the popular will....

  8. CHAPTER FIVE THE CREOLE CIVILIZATION
    (pp. 77-106)

    One has only to read the diaries of two young Creoles of fashion, Lestant Prudhomme and Placide Bossier, to realize that the world of the Creoles in Louisiana was quite different from that of the Anglo-Americans. It was not simply because the Creoles spoke French and were Catholics, but the two groups were separated by different traditions and by a different sense of values. Although some Anglo-Americans, such as the Whig Senator Alexander Porter, Edward Livingston the great merchant, Maunsel White, and Judah P. Benjamin, married Creole women, the Creoles and the Anglo-Americans lived to themselves. The Prudhomme and Bossier...

  9. CHAPTER SIX POLITICS AND HUMAN SLAVERY
    (pp. 107-134)

    In 1839 James Silk Buckingham, an English traveler, recorded a typical Southern scene which he saw near Fredericksburg, Virginia. He met a slave gang being driven by Negro traders from the upper to the lower South. The men were chained together in pairs to prevent their escape while the women walked with their children in the melancholy procession carrying their possessions in large bundles. The slave dealers rode on horseback, armed with long whips.¹

    This scene was symbolic of the revival of slavery, which resulted from the invention of the cotton gin and the rise of the Cotton Kingdom. The...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN CALHOUN AND STATE RIGHTS
    (pp. 135-155)

    The growth of sectionalism in the nation from 1820 to 1861 is the dominant political theme of the period. Increasingly the South began to realize the implications of its minority status in the nation and to rely on State rights as a means of protection. The South as “a conscious minority” could follow several paths of development, one which led to Southern nationalism, another to find allies in the North within the national parties, and a third to seek defense for its way of life by constitutional amendments. All these methods were advocated by different groups below the Mason and...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE IN POLITICS
    (pp. 156-180)

    Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of a visit to America during the Jacksonian period: “I know of no country in which there is so little true independence of mind and freedom of discussion as in America.”¹ The tyranny of majority opinion in the United States, he noted, contrasted with the free political institutions of the Americans. One of these institutions which increased the awesome power of the majority was the doctrine of the right of state legislatures to instruct their Senators and Representatives in Congress how to vote. Were such instructions binding on them, or were they free to cast their...

  12. CHAPTER NINE THE RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
    (pp. 181-207)

    The ante bellum period was probably the most religious age in the entire history of the South. Its spirit was exhibited in various ways—the camp meeting, “protracted meetings,” the family altar at which the members daily knelt to offer prayer, the frequent readings of the Bible, the dramatic conversions and baptisms, and the letters of the time filled with a simple faith. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., has noted that the American mind has displayed the remarkable phenomenon of an alternating freezing and thawing of thought resulting in periods of orthodoxy and of liberalism. The ante bellum period in the...

  13. CHAPTER TEN THE INTELLECTUAL BLOCKADE
    (pp. 208-226)

    In the winter of 1828 young Henry Rogers, the son of a professor of William and Mary College, listened entranced to a lecture by Frances Wright in the Belvedere Theater, Baltimore. This tall, stately woman, “with her short hair unbound and in ringlets on a head which would have graced Minerva,” was engaged in a dramatic attack on the priestcraft and the theology that shackled the human mind.¹ By her eloquence, her prodigious learning, and her bold spirit of inquiry, she made a profound impression on the young scientist fresh from Virginia, and he sought an interview with her. This...

  14. CHAPTER ELEVEN THE CONSERVATIVE REVOLT
    (pp. 227-254)

    On December 22, 1859, a special train arrived at Richmond bringing more than two hundred medical students from Philadelphia. It was the hegira of Southern students from the North following the excitement of John Brown’s raid. The faculty and students of the Richmond Medical College, the town council, and the Southern Rights Association exultantly welcomed them. All formed in procession and marched, behind the armory band, past the beautiful capitol designed by Jefferson to the governor’s mansion. Here Governor Henry A. Wise, standing on his porch, delivered a tirade of incandescent Southern oratory. One of the students gracefully responded. Then...

  15. CHAPTER TWELVE THE LOSS OF THE WILL TO FIGHT
    (pp. 255-281)

    Discerning men in the South realized that the sun of the Confederacy which had reached high noon at Chancellorsville had begun to sink in midsummer of 1863. Lee and his soldiers had been regarded in the Confederacy as invincible until the defeat at Gettysburg. Kean commented in his diary, July 26, 1863, that “Gettysburg has shaken my faith in Lee as a general,” and that the loss of men and material in that battle was less disastrous than the loss of prestige of the army. On November 5 he noted that the Southern people were getting tired of the war,...

  16. CHAPTER THIRTEEN THE DYNAMICS OF THE SOUTHERN MIND
    (pp. 282-307)

    The mores of a people have been considered so tenacious, at least from the days of William Graham Sumner, that they supposedly change at a glacial pace. But David Riesman has shown inThe Lonely Crowdthat this is not always true. The impact of the recent accelerated growth of population on the United States has changed the American character, particularly in the large cities. This generation has also witnessed within a few climactic years a remarkable overturning of the folkways of large parts of the South in respect to the Negro. Sumner’s thesis therefore applies more authentically to an...