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Fenians, Freedmen, and Southern Whites

Race and Nationality in the Era of Reconstruction

Mitchell Snay

Publication Year: 2010

After the American Civil War, several movements for ethnic separatism and political self-determination significantly shaped the course of Reconstruction. The Union Leagues mobilized African Americans to fight for their political rights and economic security while the Ku Klux Klan used intimidation and violence to maintain the political and economic hegemony of southern whites. Founded in 1858 as the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood, the Irish American Fenians sought to liberate Ireland from English rule. In Fenians, Freedmen, and Southern Whites, Mitchell Snay provides a compelling comparison of these seemingly disparate groups and illuminates the contours of nationalism during Reconstruction. By joining the Fenians with freedpeople and southern whites, Snay seeks to assert their central relevance to the dynamics of nationalism during Reconstruction and offers a highly original analysis of Reconstruction as an Age of Capital and an Age of Emancipation where categories of race, class, and gender--as well as nationalism--were fluid and contested.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Series: Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

Writing this book was not an easy task, so my expressions of gratitude to the institutions and individuals that helped me along the way are sincere and heartfelt.
The financial awards I received were not only invaluable sources for research travel and writing time but welcome affirmations of my project. For their support, I wish to thank the American Antiquarian Society...

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pp. 1-17

The Fenians, the American branch of an Irish revolutionary movement aimed at national independence and the establishment of an Irish republic, had become increasingly militant in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. One faction, led by Thomas W. Sweeny and William R. Roberts, believed that a blow for Irish independence could be struck...

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1. The Context of Republican Reconstruction

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pp. 18-49

Reconstruction was in essence a political process. State governments in the South were reorganized and African American males were given the right to vote. National Republicans sought to create and sustain a party organization in the South, efforts resisted at every turn by southern Democrats and Conservatives. Reconstruction politics was thus the...

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2. The Political Culture of Countersubversion

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pp. 50-80

The Union Leagues, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Fenians were fraternal, paramilitary organizations that bonded their members in a brotherhood through elaborate and secret rituals. The roots of the Fenians lay of course in Ireland. In the eighteenth century, the Whiteboys initiated an Irish tradition of rural violence against landlords and their agents...


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pp. PS1-PS4

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3. Nationality and Class: The Land Question

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pp. 81-113

Class relations provided one of the arenas in which Fenians, freedpeople, and southern whites fought for self-determination and a separate identity during Reconstruction. From W. E. B. Du Bois in the 1930s through Eric Foner in the 1980s, historians have shown that relations between...

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4. Ethnic and Racial Nationalism

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pp. 114-138

Race and ethnicity were another key framework in which southern whites, freedpeople, and Irish Americans sought a collective identity and struggled for political self-determination. The race question—the place of newly emancipated black men and women in American civic and social life- ...

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5. Civic Nationalism

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pp. 139-170

Francis Lieber was a likely spokesman for nineteenth-century American nationalism. As an immigrant, he brought to the United States the currents of European Romantic nationalism. As a young boy growing up in Germany, Lieber watched with tears as Napoleon’s troops invaded his beloved but humiliated homeland. He was later inspired to fight for Greek...

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pp. 171-176

After the Battle of Ridgeway, American Fenians continued to see an invasion of Canada as a means of attacking Britain. In 1870, John O’Neil led another expedition—with a smaller force of about two hundred men—across the border. This time the Canadian militia was prepared...


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pp. 177-208


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pp. 209-218

E-ISBN-13: 9780807135358
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807137161

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War