Like a Roman: The virtuous Southerner

The neo-classical values of the traditional South are evident in the way Southerners compliment each other and think of virtuous leaders. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese write in The Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholder’s Worldview:

Southerners could pay a man no greater tribute than to characterize him as “Roman.” Thus, Thomas Jefferson called Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina, Speaker of the House of Representatives, “the last of the Romans,” and John Randolph of Roanoke called him “the wisest and best man” he knew. George Frederick Holmes, Hugh LegarĂ©, and Macon himself exalted Cicero as a model republican citizen. David Street of Tennessee pronounced [John C.] Calhoun comparable to Cicero, a statesman whose devotion to republican principles cost him his life but left for posterity a name that conjures up virtue and love of freedom. Alexander Stephens took Cicero’s dialogues as the model for his Constitutional View of the War Between the States.

The virtuous Southern leader is conspicuously absent from the ranks of Republican politicians in Dixie today. They have sold out their countrymen and worship at the alter of Big Business.

Also see: A Cicero for Dixie

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  1. Sir, you quotation of history is incessant and incessantly good. Nathaniel Macon is, indeed, one of the Tarheel state’s great figures, and was a personal inspiration to whom the late Jesse Helms oft made reference – the latter being referred to as ‘Senator No’ which was basically what Nathaniel Macon, 6 generations earlier, had been.

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  2. By the way, my wife and I were recently in Warrenton – a North Carolina town only an hour away from us. The Sings of Macon and his generation are still there – the town’s historical aspect being very well kept up in physical terms, though, not long after we had ridden into the town, I noted the peculiar aura for a historick Southern town. Soon I realized what it was! : Yankees!!!! Oh well – in fairness to them, they have loved this little town and put themselves into it whole hog. That said, they bring a certain fragrance that can be acerbick to my nose.

    Sir, if you ever get a chance, drop by there . As a student of Southern history – you will find too much for one day to ponder.

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  3. In the same Warrenton area is the monument to the spa where prematurely died one of Robert E. Lee’s daughters – from what we would likely call, nowadays, an auto-immune disorder, as well as the home of NC governor Thomas Bragg – and his sons, most notable among them the ill fated Braxton Bragg. Further this is where two other Famous other Confederate generals hailed from Robert and Matthew Ransom – the latter of the well-known Ransom’s Brigade’ of the Army of Northern Virginia. The Yankee newspaper man and politician, Horace Greeley, found a Southern wife, and married her in the then new Episcopal Church – still standing in mint shape.

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