Political Culture and Secession in Mississippi: Masculinity, Honor, and the Antiparty Tradition, 1830-1860 by Christopher J. Olsen

Political Culture and Secession in Mississippi: Masculinity, Honor, and the Antiparty Tradition…

byChristopher J. Olsen

Hardcover | September 15, 2000

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This groundbreaking study of the politics of secession combines traditional political history with current work in anthropology and gender and ritual studies. Christopher J. Olsen has drawn on local election returns, rural newspapers, manuscripts, and numerous county records to sketch a newpicture of the intricate and colorful world of local politics. In particular, he demonstrates how the move toward secession in Mississippi was deeply influenced by the demands of masculinity within the state's antiparty political culture. Face-to-face relationships and personal reputations, organized around neighborhood networks of friends and extended kin, were at the heart of antebellum Mississippi politics. The intimate, public nature of this tradition allowed voters to assess each candidate's individual status and fitness forpublic leadership. Key virtues were independence and physical courage, as well as reliability and loyalty to the community, and the political culture offered numerous chances to demonstrate all of these (sometimes contradictory) qualities. Like dueling and other male rituals, voting and running foroffice helped set the boundaries of class and power. They also helped mediate the conflicts between nineteenth-century American egalitarianism, democracy, and geographic mobility, and the South's exaggerated patriarchal hierarchy, sustained by honor and slavery. The political system, however, functioned effectively only as long as it remained a personal exercise between individuals, divorced from the anonymity of institutional parties. This antiparty tradition eliminated the distinction between men as individuals and as public representatives, which causedthem to assess and interpret all political events and rhetoric in a personal manner. The election of 1860 and success of the Republicans' antisouthern, free soil program, therefore, presented an "insulting" challenge to personal, family, and community honor. As Olsen shows in detail, the sectionalcontroversy engaged men where they measured themselves, in public, with and against their peers, and linked their understanding of masculinity with formal politics, through which the voters actually brought about secession. Political Culture and Secession in Mississippi provides a rich new perspective on the events leading up to the Civil War and will prove an invaluable tool for understanding the central crisis in American politics.

About The Author

Christopher J. Olsen is Assistant Professor of History at Indiana State University.
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Title:Political Culture and Secession in Mississippi: Masculinity, Honor, and the Antiparty Tradition…Format:HardcoverPublished:September 15, 2000Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195131479

ISBN - 13:9780195131475

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Table of Contents

1. A Savage Place: The Mississippi Frontier, Masculinity, and Political Culture in the 1830s2. Early Autumn: An Episode from Mississippi's Political Culture: The Secession Crisis of 1849-513. Mortal Stakes: The Politics of Antipartyism4. Small Vices: Voters, Elections, and the Myth of Party Domination5. Playmates: Voting and Governing in the Neighborhood6. Ceremony: The Ritual Power of Politics7. Chance: Know Nothings and the Political Culture8. Valediction: The Political Culture of SecessionAppendixNotes

Editorial Reviews

"Olsen crafts the most thoroughly situated linkage of honor and secession yet to appear in print...the best case study to date of the cultural context that stifled sectional moderation and put the nation on the high road to civil war."--Journal of the Early Republic