A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy

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9780029077351: A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy

Recounts the formation of the Confederacy, looks at the political forces that shaped it, and discusses the impact of slavery.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

An authoritative account from Civil War historian Davis (Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour, 1991) of the would-be Founding Fathers of the Confederacy. In February 1861, delegates from six states in the Deep South met in Montgomery, Ala., to form their own nation. Despite constant invocations of the spirit of 1776, their movement, in their own view, aimed at reform rather than revolution. Davis (no relation to the Confederate president) traces how the delegates hammered out a constitution that protected slavery, selected Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens as provisional president and vice president, and erected the jerry-built governmental apparatus that would turn their dreams of secession into reality. They were a varied lot, from ``fire-eaters'' who expected a swift, comparatively bloodless separation from the Union, to reluctant secessionists who correctly feared a slaughter. By May 1861, when the capital was moved to Richmond, Va., the seeds of the new government's destruction had already been planted. Davis disputes the often-suggested epitaph for the Confederacy, ``Died of States Rights,'' but his own account demonstrates that the correct label might better read, ``Died of States Rights and Swollen Egos.'' However idealistic the delegates might have been initially, by the time they moved to Richmond they were already beginning to regard Jefferson Davis with suspicion, arrogance, and frustrated ambition. Believing that ``the finest statesmen the South had to offer composed that Provisional Congress,'' William Davis is more charitable than the group deserves, and his narrative moves slowly. But he makes fine use of hundreds of often previously unpublished letters, diaries, and memoirs, and he deftly captures the capital's climate as officeholders, office seekers, lobbyists, businessmen, and transients joined the mosquitoes in infesting Montgomery. Despite its flaws, a useful history of a relatively undercovered aspect of the Civil War. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist:

This excellent book is much like Catherine Drinker Bowen's classic Miracle at Philadelphia (1966), which in almost minute-by-minute fashion recounted the proceedings whereby representatives of the 13 newly independent states met to draw up the Constitution, under which our nation is still organized. Davis, a veteran writer on the Civil War period, whose previous book was the well-presented Jefferson Davis (1991), follows the discussions that, in a four-month period in 1861, created a constitution under which the seceded southern states formed a nation-state. The book's greatest asset--in addition to providing an engrossing chronicle of the nation building that went on in Montgomery, Alabama, over the course of those several weeks--is the clarification of the issues surrounding secession and why the endeavor in Montgomery, whose purpose was not to scrap the U.S. Constitution but simply to adapt it to the needs of the southern states, did not succeed in devising a sovereign nation that could last longer than a split second. Handled well here, too, is the way Davis brings back to life and breath the personalities involved, particularly Jefferson Davis, the provisionally appointed and then duly elected chief executive of the Confederacy. A special book for all U.S. history collections. Brad Hooper

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