The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South (review)
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BOOK REVIEWS275 the last years of his presidency he had learned that shorter is better and had evolved into the magnificent prose stylist of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural. (The self-educated Lincoln never did learn to spell "inaugeral" or "cotten" or several other words.) In reading the selections on the presidential years, one is struck by how much his literary style relied on the King James Bible for phrasing and cadence, by how much trivial business Lincoln handled himself, by his shrewd practical insights into military matters, by his inability to suffer fools gladly, and by his deep commitment to the restoration of the Union, whatever the cost. Making Lincoln available to a large general audience is a laudable aim, and if these two handsome volumes cannot do that, then nothing can. They join the approximately fifty other volumes in The Library of America, and Lincoln joins Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson as the only public figures in the series to date. They are superb examples of the bookmaker's craft, uniformly well-bound and well-printed on quality paper designed to last a lifetime. They are well worth the price. James L. Crouthamel Hobart and William Smith Colleges The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South. By Drew Gilpin Faust. (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1988. Pp. xiii, 110. $19.95.) In this slim, but tightly focused and densely argued, volume based on her Walter Lynwood Fleming Lectures, Drew Faust brings a welcome sophistication and subtlety to the discussion of Confederate nationalism. In seeking to understand "how Confederates defined themselves and their commitment to a common, corporate existence" (2), Faust stresses above all that nationalism should not be viewed as an objective reality that can be mobilized on demand, but rather as "a dynamic of ideas and social realities that can, under the proper circumstances, unite and legitimate a people in what they regard as reasoned public action" (6). The process of creating a national identity, she correctly insists, is inherently a political act, and the contested terrain of nation-building in the wartime Confederacy is the focal point of her analysis. In outlining the intellectual contours of that terrain, she astutely notes that in attempting to define themselves to the outside world, Southern whites were also engaged in a politically charged debate among themselves. By approaching Confederate nationalism as a process of political and ideological negotiation among Southern whites, Faust brings a sense of immediacy and contingency to a problem which historians traditionally have treated in the static terms of an either/or proposition. Precisely because Confederate nationalism was not a given, its successful for- 276CIVIL WAR HISTORY mulation as a widely shared public ideology was essential to the ultimate survival of the Confederacy. The self-conscious effort of Southern ideologues to forge an enduring consensus over the meaning of Confederate nationality constitutes the central organizational theme in Faust's study. In contrast to the political and institutional approach of Paul D. Escott in After Secession: Jefferson Davis and the Failure of Confederate Nationalism (1978), Faust deals almost exclusively with the ideological and cultural components of Confederate nationalism. Far more so than any other author, she shows how Confederate authorities tried to create a national identity through symbols, songs, sermons, and public indoctrination . Evangelicalism, classical republicanism, and the conservative nationalism of a mid-nineteenth-century Europe still reeling from the aftershocks of the revolutions of 1848 provided the fund of ideas and values from which ideologues, led by Southern ministers, sought to bring together all Southern whites in a common cause. The defense—indeed, the glorification—of slavery was at the center of that cause. Confederate spokesmen unabashedly proclaimed the independent South as God's redeemer nation, dedicated to fulfilling its providential mission of instructing and uplifting a heathen race of African slaves. Confederate nationalism soon collapsed under the weight of its internal contradictions. Much of it, as Faust shrewdly observes, was predicated on the need of the slaveholding elite "to make class interest synonymous with national interest" (16). Yet, the heavy sacrifices demanded from nonslaveholders in the costly war with the Union inevitably increased the bargaining...