Rivet the chains upon ourselves?

Robert Barnwell Rhett (1800-1876), the Father of Southern Nationalism, described the bleak situation in the South following the United States’ conquest in 1865 in his memoir, recently edited by Dr. William C. Davis of Virginia Tech. Rhett noted that “Subjugation is not Union: mere connexion [sic] is not Union.” He added that “The South has fallen, but, with her has fallen popular Free Government on the Continent of America.” The South Carolinian pointed out that a Northern-based “money oligarchy” had gained control of the Federal Government and had “annihilated” the States as sovereign communities and “destroyed” the “Federative feature in the Constitution.” He described the USA post-1865 as “the consolidated sectional despotism of a majority in Congress” guided by “Northern greed, ambition, and hate.”

In dealing with the US occupation of Dixie, Rhett counselled:

The United States had the power to enforce their measures themselves. Let them do so, and we could not now resist; but to call upon us, to rivet the chains on ourselves, which they should think proper to impose, was a degredation no free people should endure. It was far better that they should rule us directly by the sword, than that we should attempt to rule ourselves under their authority. By the latter course, we sanctioned their despotism, and debased ourselves.

Our safer course was to do nothing; and let them do as they pleased. Obey and suffer, and bide our time. It was by no means certain, however, that a course of fairness and conciliation on the part of the Government of the United States, was best for the South. It might restore the error, so long our curse, that we could live with “these people.” If an independence of them was ncessary to the liberty, peace and prosperity of the South, then the more clearly they disclosed their true characteristics, by a harrassing despotism, the better for the South. The one thing needful for the future of the South, was the union of the White Race of the South. With this, our future was sure, – independence, and a glorious career amongst the nations of the earth, under the great principles of the Confederate States’ Constitution.

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