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276CIVIL WAR HISTORY the southern conscience in "Honor and Secession." He portrays a southern ethic—based on family, community, race, and power relationships —to which he applies the term honor. White southerners, he contends , judged their worth by the degree ofrespect others gave them, and all white men enjoyed honor in contrast to blacks possessing no honor in slavery, when abolitionists and Republicans challenged southern ideas about slavery on the basis of their own quite different value system, they threatened southern honor and unleashed the forces that led to secession . In "From Piety to Fantasy: Proslavery's Troubled Evolution," Wyatt-Brown discusses the development of the South's intellectual defense of slavery from the Christian paternalism of the 1830s and 1840s through "a visionary quest for the perfect slave society" in the 1850s. He is not clear, however, whether he regards the latter as an unrealistic fantasy or as a reflection of actual attempts to rationalize the slave system and race relations that began in the decade prior to the Civil War. Although Wyatt-Brown has revised these essays for this collection, some do not conform as well as others to the theme of contrasting moral systems. The essay are, nevertheless, all nicely written and the work of a historian who has subjected major issues of sectional identity in the antebellum period to considerable sophisticated reflection. Stanley Harrold South Carolina State College The Metaphysical Confederacy: James Henley Thornwell and the Synthesis of Southern Values. ByJames Oscar Farmer, Jr. (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1986. Pp. vii, 295. $28.95.) James Farmer's The Metaphysical Confederacy is one of the most important studies of antebellum southern religious history to appear in the last five years. First, the author provides a brief, useful biography of the Reverend James Henley Thornwell, the leading divine of nineteenthcentury South Carolina. Second, he presents a careful analysis of Southern Presbyterian theology and political thought and, finally, offers a dramatic and convincing assessment of crucial church involvement in the secession crisis. With regard to Thornwell's personal history, Farmer does not follow customary biographical practice. Disconcertingly he leaves Thornwell aside for stretches of the book in order to pursue other points of intellectual interest. Yet the discursiveness is by no means unrewarded: by the end of the book we have learned more religious history and interpretation than a straightforward approach would have permitted. Thornwell the "Calhoun" of the Presbyterian faith, was a beneficiary of the old agrarian clientage system of South Carolina. Two local lords of the manor, as it were, helped to encourage and educate this son of an ob- book reviews277 scure and early deceased plantation overseer. Conscientious and highly gifted, the youth rewarded his patrons' faith in him by winning scholastic honors at South Carolina College and seminary, marrying into the aristocracy, and assuming a steady succession of valued posts as pastor, college and seminary professor, journal editor, and also as president of South Carolina College. When he was only fifty, death from dysentery early in the Civil War cut him from still grander accomplishment. Matters of career take up little space. Instead, Farmer profitably concentrates on three chief intellectual and spiritual concerns: the adoption of Scottish common sense philosophy to buttress Calvinist orthodoxy and challenge such heresies as Arminian sentimentalism, Jeffersonian deism, and Roman Catholicism; the accommodation of science to biblical religion; and the defense of slavery. Though an able polemicist, Thornwell could often be mean-spirited and impulsive, especially against popery. Skillfully Farmer unravels the tangled skein of preDarwinian religious thought regarding science. Thornwell's position was learned but unoriginal; likeJohn Bachman, the Lutheran pastor and naturalist of Charleston, he argued that no man of science would ever find evidence in the heavens or on earth to challenge faith in God the Creator. Farmer's extended discussion of Christian slavery complies with the now popular historiographical view that, with reference to slaveholding , satisfaction, not guilt, held sway in the planter's inmost heart. Like many other Presbyterian divines, Thornwell conceded that slavery nourished an array of evils. But bondage, like poverty and other irremediable misfortunes, had to be endured, he warned, as God's original curse upon humankind. The church's duty...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 276-278
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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