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362civil war history interesting information in his phrases, Webb destroys the myth that Kentuckians revealedhidden pro-Confederate sympathies in refusing to bow to reconstruction legislation or to ratify the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Rather, Kentucky acted owing to racial prejudices, to a desire to restore the South as a trading partner, and to protect abused civil rights by "challenging the illicit actions of a usurping Congress" (p. 18) . There is a fine line here regarding freedom for black and white alike, and Webb successfully handles it, showing the issue often to have been a keen Bluegrass sense of justice rather than any pro-Confederate leanings. These books suffer from lack of indexes, but I recommend them most highly to all students, libraries, and readers with an interest in American history from the 1820's through the 1870's. Frank F. Mathias University of Dayton After Secession: Jefferson Davis and the Failure of Confederate Nationalism. By Paul D. Escott. (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State Press, 1977. Pp. xiv, 295. $17.50.) The thesis of this book maintains that Jefferson Davis endeavored "to build a spirit of Confederate nationalism," to "build unity and determination among the people . . . but he failed to elicit the kind of support he needed." Therefore the people became dissatisfied, demoralized, and sometimes disloyal, causing "an internal collapse which preceded and promoted military defeat." Professor Escott attributes this crucial development to "the failure of the Davis administration to respond to the problems of the common people" (pp. ix, x). He never makes clear justwhathe means by "nationalism,"buthis working definition appears to be support for the Confederate government, and the executive branch in particular. The author begins with an examination of Jefferson Davis's antebellum career ("Preparation for the Presidency") and the state of Southern public opinion in 1860-1861. Then follows an extended account of the Confederacy's internal troubles, especially the various forms of discontent that stemmed from such things as conscription, impressment, hardship, profiteering, states' rights, and tax policies. There is nothing really new here, but Escott tries to extract fresh meaning from a familiar story by analyzing Davis's alleged failure to deal with those troubles so as to retain the people's support for the cause. He accuses the President of being ignorant of or insensitive to the plight of the yeomanry, of neglecting the mass of Southern whites while favoring measures that were partial to the rich. Instead of adopting policies tiiat would have "eased privation and ended injustice,"he clung to a counter-productive strategy of "singleminded concentration on BOOK REVIEW363 army strength," thereby undermining popular backing, discouraging enlistments, and paving die way for military defeat (p. 151). Escott's thesis is weakened by its reliance on several unproven assumptions. He assumes that it was within the power of one man to mitigate the Confederacy's internal deficiencies so as to avoid military defeat, evidently forgetting that Davis was not even able to feed and clothe the army adequately, let alone the civilian population. He also assumes that civilian disaffection was the main cause of military defeat, whereas the overwhelming weight of evidence, it seems to me, shows that failure in battle was, with all its consequences, by far the most important reason for declining morale. Finally, Escott assumes that the Confederacy lacked the allegiance of the majority of whites to such a degree as to justify his conclusion that Confederate nationalism failed. The fact is that three-fourths ofwhite male Confederates ofmilitary age served in the army, and more than half of those who served suffered wounds or death. If devotion to the cause is Escott's yardstick for nationalism, and if this remarkable display of patriotism and sacrifice is considered to have been insufficient, one wonders what would satisfy him. There is no doubt that Escott wants to be fair to Davis, and he has some very complimentary things to say about him. There are, in fact, inconsistencies in his presentation suggesting that he does not subscribe wholeheartedly to his own thesis, given his own presentation of the appalling difficulties with which David grappled so courageously. The book is written in a clear and straightforward style, and it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 362-363
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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