Although much has been written about the ways in which Confederate politics affected the course of the Civil War, George Rable is the first historian to investigate Confederate political culture in its own right. Focusing on the assumptions, values, and beliefs that formed the foundation of Confederate political ideology, Rable reveals how Southerners attempted to purify the political process and avoid what they saw as the evils of parties and partisanship. According to Rable, secession marked the beginning of a revolution against politics in which the Confederacy's founding fathers saw themselves as the true heirs of the American Revolution. Nevertheless, factionalism developed as the war dragged on, with Confederate nationalists emphasizing political unity and support for President Jefferson Davis's administration and libertarian dissenters warning of the dangers of a centralized Confederate government. Both sides claimed to be the legitimate defenders of a genuine Southern republicanism and of Confederate nationalism, and the conflict between them carried over from the strictly political sphere to matters of military strategy, civil religion, and education. Consulting a wide range of sources, including newspapers, sermons, contemporary textbooks, political correspondence, and military documents, Rable constructs an analytical narrative of Confederate political culture, arguing that it did more to strengthen the Confederacy than weaken it. He concludes that despite the war's outcome, the anti-political legacy of the Confederate republic had a profound impact on the future of Southern politics.
George C. Rable holds the Charles G. Summersell Chair in Southern History at the University of Alabama. He is author of God's Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War, and Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism, and The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics.