Declarations of Dependence: The Long Reconstruction of by Gregory P. Downs

By Gregory P. Downs

During this hugely unique examine, Gregory Downs argues that the main American of wars, the Civil conflict, created a likely un-American renowned politics, rooted no longer in independence yet in voluntary claims of dependence. via an exam of the pleas and petitions of standard North Carolinians, Declarations of Dependence contends that the Civil battle redirected, no longer destroyed, claims of dependence via exposing North Carolinians to the expansive yet unsystematic strength of Union and accomplice governments, and by way of loosening the felony ties that sure them to husbands, fathers, and masters.Faced with anarchy in the course of the lengthy reconstruction of presidency authority, humans grew to become fervently to the govt for cover and sustenance, pleading in wonderful, intimate methods for cognizance. This personalistic, or what Downs calls patronal, politics allowed for appeals from subordinate teams like freed blacks and terrible whites, and in addition certain humans emotionally to newly increasing postwar states. Downs's argument rewrites the heritage of the connection among american citizens and their governments, exhibiting the deep roots of dependence, the complicated impression of the Civil battle upon renowned politics, and the robust position of Progressivism and segregation in submerging a politics of dependence that--in new form--rose back within the New Deal and persists this present day.

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One of the war’s unexpected outcomes was Southern governments’ response to these needs. After September 1862, when Zebulon Baird Vance was elected governor, the North Carolina state government not only listened but responded by fashioning a small welfare state to quiet those cries. Instead of silencing the people, however, Vance’s initiatives only encouraged their sense of what he could do for them. As the need for food and protection grew over the course of the war, more and more Carolinians projected their wishes and hopes upon the distant man who might possibly fulfill them.

Early on, these appeals arrived on the desk of Henry Toole Clark, who had ascended to the governor’s office in July 1861, following the death of the governor who had presided over secession. The appeals baffled Clark for the simple reason that the gubernatorial powers they described did not match the actual powers of the office. From the beginning of statehood, occasional Carolinians asked governors to interpose on their behalf, but a governor’s power was tightly circumscribed; except in the realm of pardons, the most he could usually do was refer the writer to a legislator who might consider introducing a private law to ameliorate the case.

To appeal to him, Hodges fashioned a Vance who would be receptive to her pleas. ‘‘I know you have a kind feeling heart and if in your power will do all you can for me,’’ she wrote, although there is no reason to believe she knew much about Vance at all. ’’ Hodges quoted from Hebrews 4:16, where the ‘‘throne of grace’’ was the place where ‘‘we may obtain mercy . . ’’≤≥ Confederate defeats, ‘‘homesickness, fatigue, hard fare,’’ and the withdrawal of promised furloughs, along with the need for men at the spring planting, shattered morale among soldiers in 1863.

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