Rebellion, Revolution (or Something Entirely Different)?
Yesterday (as I am wont to do) I issued a call to those following my Twitter feed to provide Cosmic America with a question of the controversial variety. One that might stir some embers, so to speak.
I got a number of great responses, many of which dealt with cause, emancipation, even the state of the field. But my favorite came from none other than Pete Carmichael, the director of the Civil War Institute. “Was,” he asked, “the Civil War a revolution?”
Now this could have meant a couple of things. One, he could have been referring to the revolutionary character of the war itself – were the great issues being decided on the battlefields the makings of a revolution of sorts? Two, he might have meant the questionably revolutionary nature of secession. I have a sneaking suspicion he was referring to the former (perhaps I should have asked) but details notwithstanding, he got me thinking about the latter.
So I will open the floor for discussion. Was secession and the formation of the Confederate States an act of revolution? Without question, plenty of the fire-eating types rang some revolutionary bells during the secession crisis – invoking the oratory of the revolutionary generation and demanding a separation from a tyrannical government many thought was poised to deny white southerners their rights as Americans. On the other hand, cooler heads thought twice about the rhetoric of revolution. After all, in their formulation the southern states claimed the legitimate connection to the founders. The north had gone astray. In this light, the Confederacy was not at all revolutionary but merely carrying on the American tradition under a new government.
What do you think?