Foundations of Southern Nationalism

Antebellum South

This is interesting and draws upon Drew Gilpin Faust’s older book A Sacred Circle: The Dilemma of the Intellectual in the Old South, 1840-1860:

“By the 1840s, some highly talented young intellectuals and writers had become determined to defend slavery while improving the level of Southern life and defining a distinctive Southern culture. Though outraged by abolitionist attacks, this “Sacred Circle,” as one group called itself, was less interested in a Northern audience than in unifying, spiritualizing, and revitalizing their society – much as Transcendentalists and moral reformers were trying to do for the North.”

Beginning in the 1830s and 1840s, the growing abolitonist crusade against the South began to inspire a conservative counterrevolution against liberalism among Southern intellectuals.

“From Aristotle, Edmund Burke, and European romantic reactions against the French Revolution and Enlightenment, these Southerners derived theories of the organic cohesiveness of society, the inevitability of inequalities, and the danger of applying abstract principles to human relationships – such as the slogan “all men are created equal.” While attracted by images of feudalism and the cult of chivalric honor, they were also committed, like most Southern clergy, to a belief in science, the wonders of technology, and historical progress.”

The most famous words ever uttered by Alexander Stephens in the Cornerstone speech were a product of the Southern intellectual counterrevolution.

Unlike the United States, Stephens argued that the Confederacy was based on the cornerstone that all men were not created equal, and that some races and social classes are naturally superior to others, and that negro slavery was natural and that the subordination of the negro to the superior race was eminently justified and worked to the advantage of both races.

“That said, figures like James Henry Hammond, the young governor of South Carolina, and George Frederick Holmes, a professor of history and literature at the University of Virginia, were deeply troubled by the threat of an individualistic, acquisitive society based on the capitalist wage system. According to the Sacred Circle, racial slavery was the labor system most conducive to the elevation of the intellect, since it protected some men from the allurements of greed amd gave leisure to a master class that could cultivate “mental improvement and refinement of manners.” This was essentially a reworking of Aristotle’s classical argument, but Aristotle was never able to identify “the natural slave,” and he admitted that men born to be free were sometimes wrongfully enslaved by sheer force.”

By the 1850s, the Southern counterrevolution was well on the way to regurgitating Americanism and repudiating the original mistake of founding America on the false doctrine of liberalism.

Note: I covered this in detail during Confederate History Month 2012 back in April. The Confederate war aim was the achievement of a “Norman-Cavalier” ethnostate, a classical republic instead of a liberal republic, based on slavery and white supremacy.

The Greeks and Romans never had any problem reconciling republicanism with slavery. Like antebellum Southerners, they believed that slavery was the economic foundation of their own liberty and equality.

Slavery is what made their own leisure and participation in the civic life of the polis possible.

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