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Nation within a Nation

The American South and the Federal Government

Glenn Feldman

Publication Year: 2014

From the Constitutional Convention to the Civil War to the civil rights movement, the South has exerted an outsized influence on American government and history, while being distinctly anti-government. It continues to do so today with Tea Party politics. Southern states have profited immensely from federal projects, tax expenditures, and public spending, yet the region’s relationship with the central government and the courts can, at the best of times, be described as contentious. Nation within a Nation features cutting-edge work by lead scholars in the fields of history, political science, and human geography, who examine the causes—real and perceived—for the South’s perpetual state of rebellion, which remains one of its most defining characteristics.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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Glenn Feldman

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pp. 1-16

No other region has been more important than the South in determining the course of U.S. politics and history. This was so in 1776, and 1865, and is still true today, although in vastly different ways.
The South’s relationship to the federal government has been intriguing and unique, and it vitally informs the region’s continued import to American politics, society, and culture...

I. Past to Present

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1. First to Secede, Last to Accede: South Carolina’s Resistance to the Republic, 1780–Present

Thomas F. Schaller

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pp. 19-64

From the founding period to the Civil War, from the Progressive Era through the civil rights revolution, the South has distinguished itself as America’s most conservative region. Southerners have repeatedly fought against the major social and political transformations of American history, sometimes violently so...

II. Race, War, and Culture

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2. Tom Watson and Resistance to Federal War Policies in Georgia during World War I

Zachary C. Smith

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pp. 67-101

Hundreds of people packed the McDuffie County courthouse in Thomson, Georgia, on February 12, 1916, to hear the most influential and controversial figure in Georgia politics. The speaker, the former Populist Party leader Thomas E. “Tom” Watson (1856–1922), was soliciting the crowd’s support in the face of federal obscenity charges that stemmed from the hate-filled rants in his newspaper and magazine concerning the case of Leo Frank...

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3. “Negroes, the New Deal, and … Karl Marx”: Southern Antistatism in Depression and War

Jason Morgan Ward

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pp. 102-121

In early 1936, Georgia governor Eugene Talmadge invited the South’s most vocal Roosevelt critics to Georgia for a National Grass Roots Convention. Talmadge hoped the gathering, sponsored by his shadowy Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution, would springboard his bid for a presidential nomination...

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4. Dixiecrats, Dissenting Delegates, and the Dying Democratic Party: Mississippi’s Right Turn from Roosevelt to Johnson

Rebecca Miller Davis

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pp. 122-148

When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he famously concluded that he had lost the South to the Republican Party for a generation. This statement proved prophetic, as no presidential Democratic candidate has won the majority of white southern votes since 1964.1 LBJ’s landslide victory that year was a decisive moment for southern political culture and identity, as it signaled the southern “right turn.”...

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5. Right Turn? The Republican Party and African American Politics in Post-1965 Mississippi

Chris Danielson

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pp. 149-178

The state of Mississippi, regarded as the most recalcitrant of the southern states in the civil rights era, might have been expected after the civil rights laws of the 1960s to have immediately seen the surge of an all-white Republican Party that advocated federal restraint and cared little for black voters...

III. A Nation within a Nation?

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6. Texas Philosophy, Nashville Agrarianism, Reagan Republicanism, and the Neo-Confederacy: The Influence of M. E. Bradford

Fred Arthur Bailey

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pp. 181-204

“In a Southern context the fight over the past is (and always has been) primarily a dispute concerning choices for the past and the future,” proclaimed the Texas literary figure and political philosopher Melvin E. Bradford in 1987. Personally resistant to the profound social changes that swept over the American South after World War II, he emerged as an influential scholar whose interpretations of American history would at century’s end help inspire a neo-Confederate resurgence...

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7. The Evil Empire Within: Southern Nationalism and the Washington Problem

David R. Jansson

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pp. 205-226

The South has truly had a conflicted relationship with the national government in Washington for most of its history, and this applies not only to white southerners but also to black southerners and the region’s Native Americans. The latter experienced time and again betrayal and oppression, as one treaty after another with the federal government was unilaterally broken by Washington...

IV. Economic Development and Reform

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8. Getting Farmers—and Tourists—“Out of the Mud”: Alabama’s Nineteenth-Century Experience with Public Projects and Its Response to the Federal Road Aid Acts of 1916 and 1921

Martin T. Olliff

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pp. 229-260

Alabama has a well-deserved reputation as a consistent opponent of the federal government, especially when it “intrudes” on the prerogatives of the state’s powerful elite and their populist allies. From the secessionist rhetoric of “fire-eaters” like William Lowndes Yancy to the “late unpleasantness” of Civil War, from political Redemption during Reconstruction to the Dixiecrat movement of 1948 and beyond, from Governors John Patterson’s and George Wallace’s resistance to racial desegregation to Governor Fob James’s quixotic insistence that the Fourteenth Amendment does not apply to states, Alabamians have presented themselves as a caricature of anti-federal mossbackism...

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9. “From Nothin’ to Somethin’”: The Tennessee Valley Authority and Federal-Local Cooperation in the Sun Belt South, 1940–1960

Matthew L. Downs

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pp. 261-286

In late 1949, Barrett Shelton, the editor of Decatur, Alabama’s daily newspaper, spoke to the United Nations Scientific Conference on the Conservation and Utilization of Resources. To representatives of the Tennessee Valley Authority, on whose behalf Shelton addressed the assembled delegates, Shelton’s community represented an economic development success story, an account of how close cooperation with the federal government, and particularly the TVA, transformed Decatur, in Shelton’s words, “from nothin’ to somethin’” in their fifteen-year partnership...

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10. Lighting the “Dark and Evil World”: Judge J. Smith Henley, Arkansas, and the Federal Judiciary’s Reform of the Southern Prison

Gregory L. Richard

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pp. 287-300

Southern prisons after Reconstruction quickly became one of the most dangerous and mysterious places in the nation. Very few southerners could comprehend what took place within the prison walls, and even fewer cared. Penitentiaries served their purpose, for prisoners needed to be segregated from law-abiding society and punished for their crimes. It represented the perfect “see no evil, hear no evil” scenario...

V. Tax Fury and the Tea Party

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11. The Tea Party in the South: Populism Revisited?

Allan B. McBride

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pp. 303-324

In 1785 Thomas Jefferson wrote of the differences between southerners and northerners in a letter written to the Marquis de Chastellux. Jefferson characterizes northerners as “cool; sober; laborious; independent; jealous of their own liberties and just to those of others,” among other qualities. Of southerners he wrote that they were “fiery; voluptuary; indolent; unsteady; zealous for their own liberties, but trampling on those of others” plus a few other traits.1...

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12. Deal or No Deal: Taxes, Government Spending, and Alabamians Having Their Cake and Eating It Too

Natalie Motise Davis

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pp. 325-342

Whether a legacy of early debates between Federalists and anti-Federalists, the Civil War, a backlash against Reconstruction, or a rejection of the civil rights movement, the South has always been a defender of states’ rights and a critic of an expansionist federal government. George Wallace epitomized this pushback...

List of Contributors

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pp. 343-344


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pp. 345-354

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048840
E-ISBN-10: 0813048842
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813049878

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 16 tables, 3 graphs
Publication Year: 2014