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264CIVIL WAR HISTORY While McDonald masterfully reconstructs the slaves' economy, the implications of his argument are somewhat unsettling. Because the internal economy empowered slaves, McDonald impUes, it was subversive of the slave regime. Yet McDonald's own evidence shows that slaveholders not only tolerated but indeed encouraged and superintended slaves' economic activity. Moreover, no matter how extensive the slaves' economy, or how much independence die slaves derived from it, the fact remains that in neither Jamaica nor the American South was slavery ever seriously threatened from within. To be sure, slaves struggled heroically to create meaningful Uves while Uving under unspeakable oppression. Yet this struggle never amounted to a chaUenge to tiieir enslavement . Rather than imperiling the slave regime, the internal economy helped to sustain it, and instead of spawning an "autonomous" slave culture, the internal economy bespoke a more complex master-slave relationship than historians have previously aUowed for. Despite its interpretive bent, with which one may quibble, McDonald's study addresses so many important issues—such as the internal dynamics ofthe slave family and household, distinctions within the slave community to which the internal economy gave rise, and the dialectic of slave resistance and accommodation —that it warrants a close reading from scholars ofNew World slavery. John C. Rodrigue University ofMaryland Pulling the Temple Down: The Fire-Eaters and the Destruction of the Union. By David S. Heidler. (Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1994. Pp. x, 262. $22.95.) Pulling the Temple Down provides a chronologicaUy organized synthesis of Southern secessionism that puts the Old South's "fire-eaters"—its most fanatic disunionists—at center stage. Whereas John McCardell (Idea of a Southern Nation [1979]) approached the radicals thematically and Eric H. Walther (The Fire-Eaters [1992]) served up chapter-length biographies, Heidler accompanies the fire-eaters through time. Much like WiUiam L. Barney (The Road to Secession [1972]) and in contrast to Walther, Heidler portrays the fire-eaters as politically inept "outsiders" who stumbled repeatedly. According to Heidler, even WiUiam L. Yancey, who wielded more poUtical influence than most of them because of unique oratorical talents, blundered frequently, as when he displayed "remarkable stupidity" (124) by agitating for the revival of the African slave trade at the Montgomery Commercial Convention of 1858—driving a wedge between Lower South extremists and Upper South allies as well as destroying commercial conventions as a secessionist forum. Much Uke Walther, Heidler dispels stereotypes that the fire-eaters engaged in a tightly run conspiracy designed to create a new nation. Rather, he demonstrates that they constituted a set of usually disconnected individuals, lacking BOOK REVIEWS265 any defined vision of Soutiiem nationhood, who were focused on persuading tiieir own states to secede. To die very eve ofdie Civil War, die fire-eaters found it almost impossible to get things together. Robert Barnwell Rhett and Yancey, for instance, disagreed about whether tiieir states should attend die Democratic national convention of i860. Then, after arranging mat his state's delegation should withdraw from that meeting should its "Alabama Platform" be denied, Yancey, perhaps seduced by intimations of a vice presidential nomination, faltered at die critical moment. Heidler argues diat die fire-eaters' primary accomplishment was assailing Soutiiemears withrhetoric aboutsecessionas "legal recourse" (185) so often over a half century diat other Southerners adopted their message when events such as John Brown's raid undercut their Unionism. However , even here he minimizes the fire-eaters' achievement: no fire-eater "ever produced a significant innovation" (2) on die constitutional theories about secession designed by more centrist sectionaUsts such as John C. Calhoun. Heidler's true agents of secession, ironicaUy, are the mainstream politicians, North and South, who played into the fire-eaters' hands by committing avoidable tactical blunders. How could Sam Houston be so fooUsh as to tarnish his own viabiUty as aUnionist icon by flirting witii Know-Nothingism? How could Stephen Douglas supporter Charles E. Stuart of Michigan be so obtuse as to provoke Leroy P. Walker to stage die very walkout from the Charleston convention that Yancey had spumed after Douglas's managers had succeeded in getting most ofwhat they wanted incorporated into die platform? Should any of this sound reminiscent of a certain once-fashionable school...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 264-266
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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