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BOOK REVIEWS177 arrogant and confident in his judgments, was really a kind of genius driven by a variety of anxieties and insecurities, and was essentially defensive where Southern interests were concerned. To be sure, Calhoun was not a particularly introspective individual, and his writings do not easily lend themselves to psychoanalysis; yet this approach does make Calhoun more human, comprehensible, and even approachable, and one wishes that Niven had more fully and systematically developed his important insight. Perhaps the book's biggest limitation is that Niven does not do very much to place Calhoun in the context of broader developments. He does not try to explain the source of Calhoun's ideas, his complex relationship to Federalism, the nature of the Old South, or what groups or interests Calhoun represented. In fact, Niven does not even make use of or engage the work of the many scholars who have tried to grapple with these problems. Still, the book should prove particularly useful to lay readers, undergraduate students, and teachers looking for an easy and reliable introduction to one of the early nineteenth century's most important political figures. Richard E. Ellis State University of New York at Buffalo Mountain Masters, Slavery, and the Sectional Crisis in North Carolina. By John C. Inscoe. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989. Pp. xvi, 348. $29.95.) In the preface of this well-researched and smoothly written volume, the author, who is an assistant professor at the University of Georgia, makes an interesting and disarming confession. He began the project with ideas shaped by secondary studies but, he explains, after digging into a wide variety of rich primary sources he took a 180-degree change-of-course. That is, he originally thought that western Tar Heels were relatively uninvolved in the sectional struggles that led to the Civil War and had low stakes in the war's outcome. He ended up believing, however, and demonstrates in this study, that his subjects fully recognized their stakes in the sectional crisis from the beginning and "reacted to the perceived threats to the South with fully as much interest, concern, and commitment as did any other group of southerners" (xiv). Focusing on North Carolina's fifteen westernmost counties, Inscoe argues that their people, far from being deprived and isolated as suggested in so many later accounts, enjoyed a society on the eve of the Civil War that was vigorous and complex. Slavery played a small but quite basic part in that society. "The negative conditions that later set the Appalachians apart as a region passed over by time and progress," Inscoe asserts, "reflected not a perpetuation of conditions long inherent in 178erra war history mountain life, but rather a regression based on a variety of factors both during and after the war" (6). The economic and political elite of western North Carolina, far removed from the regions where one great staple crop dominated, engaged in a widely diversified agriculture and showed strong capitalist propensities in various entrepreneurial activities. Improved acreage of western Carolina farms in 1860 averaged sixty-eight acres per farm, though it varied considerably from one county to another. Towns and villages played a central role in providing the commercial connections that helped shape "the mountaineers' identities as southerners with a vested interest in slavery's survival" (25). The average percentage of slaves in the population of the fifteen counties was 10.2, and the economic activities of the ten largest slaveholders in each of five sample counties in 1860 fell into these categories: professional, 32 percent; mercantile or commercial, 68 percent; real estate and/or mining, 24 percent; hotel or other tourist business, 12 percent; and agriculture alone, only 3 percent (62). In an especially intriguing chapter on "Mountain Slaves," Inscoe argues that circumstances, particularly demographic ones, were "conducive to a more satisfying [i.e., less harsh] situation for both slaves and masters than those elsewhere in the South" (88). Since slaves were such a small minority of the area's population, they seemed to pose less of a threat to society in general; moreover, many slaves had flexible workloads or were hired out routinely, and therefore were not as restricted in their activities...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 177-179
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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