A Representative Man

"A well-written life is almost as rare as a well-spent one."
—Thomas Carlyle

Even in these dreariest of days in academia, when American history has largely become a plaything for canting ideologues, the Old South continues to attract outstanding talent. Fine books and articles continue to appear, as Clyde Wilson's Carolina Cavalier attests, notwithstanding the pressure from a kind of Gresham's Law. The times call for adherence to the correct ideological line, which at its increasingly popular extreme regards the Old South as a rehearsal for Nazi Germany and demands for the eradication of all traces of the conservative voices that have loomed so large in Southern history. And in our leading professional associations, their journals, and college classrooms the correct line prevails.

The continued interest in the Old South proceeds from the worst and best of reasons. The worst includes the step-by-step domination of departments of history in our Southern as well as northern universities by those for whom the Southern Tradition, as Richard Weaver aptly called it, and all its works represent an evil past to be exorcised by all means, fair and foul. It is no longer enough to reject slavery, segregation, and racism. Virtually every positive feature of the mainstream Southern experience must be rejected as well in order to avoid charges of indulging in...

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