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Shifting GroundsNationalism and the American South, 1848–1865$
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Paul Quigley

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199735488

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199735488.001.0001

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The Pinch

The Pinch

American Nationalism in Crisis

(p.87) 3 The Pinch
Shifting Grounds

Quigley Paul

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces the road to secession. Most white southerners came to support secession not because of a positive embrace of southern nationalism, but rather because their attachment to the Union could not withstand the pressures generated by northern opposition to slavery. Most white southerners were conditional unionists: they wished to remain in the United States, but only if slavery and the rights of the South were protected within it. By the winter of 1860—61 the conditional unionism of the majority had dissolved. This dissolution was caused most directly by the political conflict over the expansion of slavery, but was also driven by perceptions that an American national community that had been imagined in affective terms was being destroyed by northern betrayals. Up to and beyond secession, many white southerners continued to feel strong loyalty to the United States.

Keywords:   secession, nationalism, union, conditional unionism, slavery, white southerners

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