Tag Archive for ‘The South’
Are you puzzled and irritated by the viciousness and falsity of most of what is being published these days about the South and Southern history? The beginning of all wisdom on this subject is to know that in American public discourse and so-called scholarship there is usually no effort to understand the South, like any other human phenomenon, as it is. Rather the South is raw material in a morality play about American, that is, about Northern righteousness.
Throughout most of American history region has been a better predictor of political position than party. That aspect of our reality has been neglected and suppressed in recent times as the rest of the country has conspired or acquiesced in transforming the South into a replica of Ohio.
In one of Henry James’s less unreadable novels, The Bostonians, the hero is Basil Ransom, an impoverished ex-Confederate from Mississippi who is trying to make his way professionally in the urban North. The author wants us to see the tough, realistic, earthy Ransom as a healthy contrast to the decayed idealism of the wealthy, reformist, insular, enervated society of Boston. To the horror of the Bostonians, Ransom declares that he does not believe in Progress—because he has never seen any.
Nathaniel Macon, whose 250th birthday is December 16, 2008, is an important Founding Father almost unknown these days. Comparing Macon with the politicians of today gives us a benchmark as to how dreadfully far America has degenerated from the principles on which it was founded.
In his time Macon was widely admired by Americans as the perfect model of a republican statesman. By republican I mean republican with a small r. I definitely do not mean the Republican Party, which, from its very beginning, when it stole the name from better people, right up to this minute, has stood for the exact opposite of what Nathaniel Macon meant by republican government.