Andrew Hamilton at Counter-Currents Publishing has an interesting article which looks at the Southern Confederacy as a revolutionary movement. This is somewhat of an unusual perspective, as Hamilton notes. Because the Confederates were not Marxists they tend to be overlooked by academics and therefore are often not brought up when the subject of historical revolutionary movements are discussed.
Hamilton gives readers the basics of what Southern society rested upon, focusing on decentralisation/States’ rights, agrarianism, slavery, aristocracy/inequality, specific habits of mind and individualism. The last two might be the most interesting to SNN readers since they have been discussed here less often than the former concepts. The writer mentions ‘evangelical Protestantism, romanticism, chivalry, codes of honor, manners, reverence for womanhood, oratory, and dueling’ as being some of these ‘habits of mind.’ The individualist angle is not discussed in detail but Hamilton mentions that Southerners often found themselves in rural isolation and had to be self-reliant. They distrusted big government, as well. This led to what I have labeled ‘cultural libertarianism,’ especially in the lower and lower-middle classes (and this ‘cultural libertarianism’ should be understood as distinct from the ideological libertarianism of today).
Hamilton then goes on to discuss the informal group of Southern secessionist advocates called Fire-Easters, somehow leaving out the earliest and most consistent of them – Robert Barnwell Rhett. He notes how, through their tireless work over three decades, ‘Southern nationalists came to dominate the press, pulpit, and classroom.’
The final part of Hamilton’s article discusses how the ‘revolution’ was taken over by moderates just as it succeeded. The Southern ruling class was decidedly conservative, as was the agrarian South in general. Convincing its members to support secession was difficult enough. Secessionists then had to prevent conservatives from ‘reconstructing’ (the term that was then used) the Union by compromising with the Lincoln Administration and sacrificing Southern interests. After having prevailed in these efforts and convinced most Southerners to support independence, the Fire-Eaters were rewarded by being marginalised and having the government of the independent South controlled by moderates and conservatives, many of whom had been opposed to secession. In this way, the Confederacy was unlike many other revolutionary movements. The communists in Russia, Fascists in Italy, Nationalists in Spain and Marxists in Cuba all seized the reigns of power once their movement prevailed. Not so in the South. In this respect, the Confederacy could be seen as much less revolutionary than these other movements. Hamilton also notes the irony of the conservative rulers of the Confederate States mobilising their entire society for the total war with the United States which was immediately thrust upon it. The conservatives, then, completely revolutionised the South, including instituting a draft and engaging in rampant money-printing as well as other financial schemes in an effort to keep the South afloat.