Sunday, December 10, 2017

Booknotes: From Oligarchy to Republicanism

New Arrival:
From Oligarchy to Republicanism: The Great Task of Reconstruction
by Forrest A. Nabors (Univ of Missouri Pr, 2017).

Reconstruction studies have reemerged in a big way over the past few years, with major works from Douglas Egerton, Mark Summers, Richard White, and others. Numerous additional books examine the topic in part or in full, and from a great variety of perspectives. The newest contribution to the literature is Forrest Nabors's From Oligarchy to Republicanism: The Great Task of Reconstruction. In it, Nabors "shows that the ultimate goal of the Republican Party, the war, and Reconstruction was the same. This goal was to preserve and advance republicanism as the American founders understood it, against its natural, existential enemy: oligarchy. The principle of natural equality justified American republicanism and required abolition and equal citizenship. Likewise, slavery and discrimination on the basis of color stand on the competing moral foundation of oligarchy, the principle of natural inequality, which requires ranks."

Of course, one of the major Republican objections to slave state political systems was their inclusion of slave populations when determining representation. "This contributed to the non-slaveholders’ loss of political liberty in the slave states and provided a direct means by which the slaveholders acquired and maintained their rule over non-slaveholders."

More from the description: "This book presents a shared analysis of the slave South, synthesized from the writings and speeches of the Republicans who served in the Thirty-Eighth, Thirty-Ninth or Fortieth Congress from 1863-1869. The account draws from their writings and speeches dated before, during, and after their service in Congress. Nabors shows how the Republican majority, charged with the responsibility of reconstructing the South, understood the South.

Republicans in Congress were generally united around the fundamental problem and goal of Reconstruction. They regarded their work in the same way as they regarded the work of the American founders. Both they and the founders were engaged in regime change, from monarchy in the one case, and from oligarchy in the other, to republicanism. The insurrectionary states’ governments had to be reconstructed at their foundations, from oligarchic to republican. The sharp differences within Congress pertained to how to achieve that higher goal.

1 comment:

  1. Andrew,
    Thanks for the write-up, which accurately captures the thrust of my book. The question I would present to you and to readers of this blog is: How does recognition that the South had deviated towards oligarchy change our general sense of our nation? Or in other words, could it be true that for 150 years we have misunderstood ourselves so profoundly? I am aware how far-reaching the thesis is if it is correct, yet believe it is. I should add that the thesis is not original. I have merely revived the Republican position. All that you see in the book was once well known in our land.
    Forrest A. Nabors, University of Alaska Anchorage


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