Sword has written a very good book that should serve as a source of instruction for all Americans because the virtues he attributes to the Confederate heart are the same ones that formed the basis of American exceptionalism – something that has existed, for the most part, only in the South and the West since the war. Taking de Tocqueville as our starting point we start with the assumption that liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith, and that the Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other – at least that was true when he wrote Democracy in America between 1835 and 1840.
Nothing seems at first sight less important than the outward form of human actions, yet there is nothing upon which men set more store: they grow used to everything except to living in a society which has not their own manners and no where in the United States was form and manner more greatly appreciated than in the South – not as a pretension but as the basis for right actions and right thinking. The more correct your conduct – and we use correct here in the sense that it is in accordance with the requirements of faith, morality and liberty – the higher your position within the social hierarchy of the South and it is the dissimilarities and inequalities among men which give rise to the notion of honor; as such differences become less, it grows feeble; and when they disappear, it will vanish too.
The north, through the New England luminaries who owed so much to the French, were abandoning the intellectual requirements of faith, morality and liberty while at the same time the population was swelling with foreign bodies and ideas and the political discourse was being leveled down to Lincoln – as great as a man can be without morality. His was the burden not of freeing the slaves but of enslaving the free which he accomplished through the simple expedient of knowing that, all those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it, which he perpetuated by ballooning the national debt out of control and institutionalizing it. Again looking to de Tocqueville, the American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.
Sword writes about Southern Invincibility as though it were a thing of the past and while it certainly counts as an endangered species it has not been obliterated and we can only hope that these virtues will come to the fore again. de Tocqueville lamented that although there are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle but we conclude optimistically with his belief that the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.
Southern pride – the notion that the South’s character distinguishes it from the rest of the country – had a profound impact on how and why Confederates fought the Civil War, and continued to mold their psyche after they had been defeated. In Southern Invincibility, award-winning historian Wiley Sword traces the roots of the South’s belief in its own superiority and examines the ways in which that conviction contributed to the war effort, even when it became clear that the South would not win. Informed by thorough research, Southern Invincibility is the historical investigation of a psychology that continues to define the South.