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History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul… Lord Acton

The waning of the Old South civilization, 1860-1880’s    Athens, University of Georgia Press [1968] Clement Eaton Southern States Civilization Hardcover. Mercer University. Lamar memorial lectures, no. 10 xii, 195 p. 23 cm. A note on the sources : p. 173-186. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG   

Clement Eaton offers up a very sympathetic portrait of the South immediately after the Civil War. He is most interested in the culture of the Old South with its “hospitality, high sense of honor, chivalry, and elegant courtesy,” and how for many years these characteristics remained at the forefront of Southern identity. Showing the deprivations brought about by the war he does mention journalist Walter Hines Page and a tour he made of the South in 1881 and noted “the unprogressive nature of society, general shiftlessness, loafers at the village stores, dilapidated houses, old-fashioned methods of agriculture, and the lack of fresh ideas.” His lengthy remarks regarding Louisiana historian Charles Gayarre are quite informative and interesting and the book is an essential work of interest to anyone interested in the South and the Lost Cause.

Charles Etienne Arthur Gayarré was a historian chiefly remembered for his histories of Louisiana.

The grandson of New Orleans‘ first mayor Etienne de Boré, he was born at the Boré plantation in what was at the time a suburb of New Orleans, but has long been incorporated into the city as Audubon Park. A product of the College of New Orleans, Gayarré read law in Philadelphia but returned in 1829 to practice in New Orleans. He was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1830 as a Jacksonian Democrat, was appointed deputy attorney general in 1831, and presiding judge of the City Court of New Orleans in 1833. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1835, but ill-health purportedly prevented him from serving: yet the nature of this illness was not such as to prevent the future nonagenarian from making the arduous crossing to Europe and during his eight-year stay there, from crisscrossing the continent doing historical research.

On his return to Louisiana he was again elected to the state legislature in 1844; a position he abandoned after having being appointed Secretary of State in 1846: he served in this latter capacity for seven years. In 1853 he failed to be elected to the U. S. Congress, but remained active in Louisiana politics as an ally of Slidell in the “Regular Democratic” movement, and in 1856 was elected for a third term to the State House of Representatives.

During the Civil War, like most Louisianans, he sided with the Confederacy; in 1863 he proposed that the slaves be emancipated and armed, provided that France and England recognized the Confederacy. After the war, he was for a number of years reporter of the State Supreme Court, while devoting increasing time to his literary pursuits, partly out of necessity, since he’d lost most of his fortune in the war. He would become the father of Louisiana history, influencing and guiding several generations of writers.

One of the most profound influences on both Gayarré and Eaton was the English historian Acton. Described as “the magistrate of history,” Lord Acton was one of the great personalities of the nineteenth century and is universally considered to be one of the most learned Englishmen of his time. He made the history of liberty his life’s work; indeed, he considered political liberty the essential condition and guardian of religious liberty. While we think that he inverted the importance of the two ideas the fact that he recognized the importance of their mutual reliance is evident in all of his work – as well it might be since he came of age in an England where it was finally acceptable to be a Jew but not yet acceptable to be a Catholic [which he was]. His Letter to Robert E. Lee in 1866 explains both the philosophical viewpoint and some comments on the contemporary history that may have been guided by the European “from terror at the remote prospect of Farragut appearing in the channel and Sherman landing in Ireland” and is quoted below.

Without presuming to decide the purely legal question, on which it seems evident to me from Madison’s and Hamilton’s papers that the Fathers of the Constitution were not agreed, I saw in State Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy. The institutions of your Republic have not exercised on the old world the salutary and liberating influence which ought to have belonged to them, by reason of those defects and abuses of principle which the Confederate Constitution was expressly and wisely calculated to remedy. I believed that the example of that great Reform would have blessed all the races of mankind by establishing true freedom purged of the native dangers and disorders of Republics. Therefore I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.

General Beauregard confirmed to me a report which was in the papers, that you are preparing a narrative of your campaigns. I sincerely trust that it is true, and that the loss you were said to have sustained at the evacuation of Richmond has not deprived you of the requisite materials. European writers are trying to construct that terrible history with the information derived from one side only. I have before me an elaborate work by a Prussian officer named Sander. It is hardly possible that future publications can be more honorable to the reputation of your army and your own. His feelings are strongly Federal, his figures, especially in estimating your forces, are derived from Northern journals, and yet his book ends by becoming an enthusiastic panegyric on your military skill.  


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