......honor transcends military, political, or rational purposes, and that whole nations have over the course of centuries preferred extinction to dishonor. As a more perceptive historian, Pierre Bourdieu, has observed of the Berber tribesmen of Algeria, “He who has lost his honor no longer exists.” Robert E. Lee confessedly lost his part of the war for Southern independence; he never, lost his honor. The same may be said of hosts of other Southern soldiers, and of the South itself.
This essay was originally published in the First Quarter 1992 issue of Southern Partisan.
A Review of: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History (UNC Press, 1991) by Alan T. Nolan
When Frank Owsley sought from among the vast number of interpretations of the cause of the war of 1861 for the principal cause, he defined it as “egocentric sectionalism.” Not slavery, not economics, not confusion about the meaning of the Constitution or the proper relationship of the states to each other and the Federal government, but pernicious pride.
In examining the language of the most vocal Northern crusaders and the most extreme of the Southern defenders in the decades prior to the war, Owsley found a “coarse and obscene” assault by abolitionists on the very integrity of Southern society and institutions. The self-styled Southern fire-eaters responded, of course, but even their “language of insult…was…urbane and restrained” in comparison to “that’ of the Abolitionists. ” Thus, he concluded, “in language of abuse and and insult was jettisoned the comity of sections. And…peace between sections as between nations is placed in jeopardy when one section fails to respect the self-respect of the people of another section.”
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