De Bow's Review
The Antebellum Vision of a New South
Publication Year: 2013
In the decades preceding the Civil War, the South struggled against widespread negative characterizations of its economy and society as it worked to match the North's infrastructure and level of development. Recognizing the need for regional reform, James Dunwoody Brownson (J. D. B.) De Bow began to publish a monthly journal -- De Bow's Review -- to guide Southerners toward a stronger, more diversified future. His periodical soon became a primary reference for planters and entrepreneurs in the Old South, promoting urban development and industrialization and advocating investment in schools, libraries, and other cultural resources. Later, however, De Bow began to use his journal to manipulate his readers' political views. Through inflammatory articles, he defended proslavery ideology, encouraged Southern nationalism, and promoted anti-Union sentiment, eventually becoming one of the South's most notorious fire-eaters.
In De Bow's Review: The Antebellum Vision of a New South, author John Kvach explores how the editor's antebellum economic and social policies influenced Southern readers and created the framework for a postwar New South movement. By recreating subscription lists and examining the lives and livelihoods of 1,500 Review readers, Kvach demonstrates how De Bow's Review influenced a generation and a half of Southerners. This approach allows modern readers to understand the historical context of De Bow's editorial legacy. Ultimately, De Bow and his antebellum subscribers altered the future of their region by creating the vision of a New South long before the Civil War.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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Introduction: An Old Foundation for a New South
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James Dunwoody Brownson (J. D. B.) De Bow lived a paradoxical life. Born into a middle-class merchant family along the Atlantic coast of South Caro-lina in 1820, he used his monthly journal, commonly known as De Bow?s Re-view, to become the chief spokesman for wealthy planters and entrepreneurs in the Old Southwest. Despite living in an agricultural region dominated ...
1. Learning to Be Southern and American
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By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Charleston, South Carolina, stood ready to claim its position alongside New York, Boston, and Philadelphia as one of the great American cities. Since the earliest settlers had founded the small port village on a marshy peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers in 1670, subsequent generations of Charlestonians had invested capital ...
2. Leaving an Old South, Entering a New South
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On his way to Memphis, De Bow stopped in New Orleans for a brief visit to familiarize himself with his new home. He explored the city and became better acquainted with the nation?s second busiest port behind only New York City. Thousands of ships crowded the docks and levies, creating a forest of masts and clouds of steam and smoke. De Bow noted that, in the month ...
3. A Busy and Fractured Mind of the South
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News of De Bow?s failure circulated among affluent southerners who read or contributed to the Review. Maunsel White pledged financial support to his friend, and readers from around the South sent subscriptions in to De Bow. R. F. W. Allston of South Carolina delivered eight new paid orders, intending to give them to friends. Miles McGehee of Bolivar, Mississippi, ...
4. Embracing Southern Anger and Southern Nationalism
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De Bow?s life had changed dramatically since he revived the Review in July 1849. His increased involvement in the sectional debate over slavery prom-ised to keep him busy as an editor, speaker, and promoter. He had rescued the Review from failure, overseen the completion of the 1850 census, and moved from New Orleans to Washington, DC. His work became more widely and ...
5. Reading and Investing in De Bow's Ideas
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After fourteen years in business, De Bow had cultivated a healthy subscrip-tion list by offering practical articles to southern readers interested in com-mercial growth, urban development, industrialization, agricultural reform, and railroad construction. In more recent years he had also earned the respect of southern nationalists, states? rights advocates, and secessionists ...
6. War Tests De Bow's Theories and Patience
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On December 20, 1860, the recording secretary of the Convention of the People of South Carolina marked 169 ayes for secession and nary a nay against disunion. Although there had been moderate opposition to imme-diate secession in the state, the lack of a single dissenting vote proved that the issue of slavery had narrowed regional interests and hardened personal ...
7. The Reformulation of De Bow's Old New South
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Like many white southerners in the late spring of 1865, De Bow had to reconcile his feelings about the Confederate defeat with the prospect of rebuilding the South and rejoining the United States. Burned-out cities, wrecked railroads, untended fields, and disconnected commercial routes confronted millions of southerners, both black and white. Hundreds of ...
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When I conceived of the idea that J. D. B. De Bow would make a good topic for my dissertation I did not realize that he would become an almost con-stant companion in my life for the next eight years. Although my friends and family might have tired of him long ago, I have enjoyed my time with De Bow and his readers. Yet I did not get to this point without the aid and ...
Appendix: The Identified Readership of De Bow's Review
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: New Directions in Southern History