Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War

Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War

by Charles B. Dew
     
 

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In late 1860 and early 1861, state-appointed commissioners traveled the length and breadth of the slave South carrying a fervent message in pursuit of a clear goal: to persuade the political leadership and the citizenry of the uncommitted slave states to join in the effort to destroy the Union and forge a new Southern nation.

Directly refuting the

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Overview

In late 1860 and early 1861, state-appointed commissioners traveled the length and breadth of the slave South carrying a fervent message in pursuit of a clear goal: to persuade the political leadership and the citizenry of the uncommitted slave states to join in the effort to destroy the Union and forge a new Southern nation.

Directly refuting the neo-Confederate contention that slavery was neither the reason for secession nor the catalyst for the resulting onset of hostilities in 1861, Charles B. Dew finds in the commissioners' brutally candid rhetoric a stark white supremacist ideology that proves the contrary. The commissioners included in their speeches a constitutional justification for secession, to be sure, and they pointed to a number of political "outrages" committed by the North in the decades prior to Lincoln's election. But the core of their argument—the reason the right of secession had to be invoked and invoked immediately—did not turn on matters of constitutional interpretation or political principle. Over and over again, the commissioners returned to the same point: that Lincoln's election signaled an unequivocal commitment on the part of the North to destroy slavery and that emancipation would plunge the South into a racial nightmare.

Dew's discovery and study of the highly illuminating public letters and speeches of these apostles of disunion—often relatively obscure men sent out to convert the unconverted to the secessionist cause—have led him to suggest that the arguments the commissioners presented provide us with the best evidence we have of the motives behind the secession of the lower South in 1860–61.

Addressing topics still hotly debated among historians and the public at large more than a century after the Civil War, Dew challenges many current perceptions of the causes of the conflict. He offers a compelling and clearly substantiated argument that slavery and race were absolutely critical factors in the outbreak of war—indeed, that they were at the heart of our great national crisis.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
This incisive history should dispel the pernicious notion that the Confederacy fought the Civil War to advance the constitutional principle of states' rights and only coincidentally to preserve slavery.

The New York Review of Books
Dew has produced an eye-opening study....So much for states' rights as the engine of secession.

— James McPherson

The New York Review of Books - James McPherson
Dew has produced an eye-opening study....So much for states' rights as the engine of secession.

Mark E. Neely
Charles B. Dew offers a penetrating and incisive evaluation of secessionist ideology, with a clear eye to the priority of race over issues of constitutional rights. The principal source on which the book is built certainly appears neglected to me, and the source is worthy of exploitation: we have an opportunity here to see what Southerners said to each other and not what they said primarily to the North or to the world.

Booknews
As tensions between the northern and the southern United States rose in late 1860 and early 1861, five of the southern states appointed commissioners to other slave states in order to encourage secession. Dew (social sciences, Williams College) explores the arguments of these men to their peers as a window into the real motivations of the secession of the South. He debunks persistent arguments, first advanced by the former vice president of the Confederacy, that the Civil War was fought over "great principles" of states rights versus federal centralism. Instead he finds that these men had white supremacy and slavery at the very dark heart of their arguments and their motivations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813921044
Publisher:
University of Virginia Press
Publication date:
03/18/2002
Series:
A Nation Divided: Studies in the Civil War Era Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
106,814
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

"Charles B. Dew offers a penetrating and incisive evaluation of secessionist ideology, with a clear eye to the priority of race over issues of constitutional rights. The principal source on which the book is built certainly appears neglected to me, and the source is worthy of exploitation: we have an opportunity here to see what Southerners said to each other and not what they said primarily to the North or to the world." -- Mark E. Neely, Jr., author of The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties and Southern Rights: Political Prisoners and the Myth of Confederate Constitutionalism

Mark E. Neely
Charles B. Dew offers a penetrating and incisive evaluation of secessionist ideology, with a clear eye to the priority of race over issues of constitutional rights. The principal source on which the book is built certainly appears neglected to me, and the source is worthy of exploitation: we have an opportunity here to see what Southerners said to each other and not what they said primarily to the North or to the world.

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Meet the Author

Charles B. Dew, W. Van Alan Clark Third Century Professor in the Social Sciences at Williams College, is the author of Bond of Iron: Master and Slave at Buffalo Forge and Ironmaker to the Confederacy: Joseph R. Anderson and the Tredegar Iron Works.

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