'Grease and Slide Back into the Union': Patriotic Essentialism, the Civil War, and Postbellum Reunification


[In speeches, Robert Barnwell Rhett and Abraham lincoln espouse the] views of a Union leader and an outspoken and extreme proponent of the Confederate cause. Both cite the memory and philosophy of the founding fathers, both use rhetoric from the Revolution, and both refer to the doctrines of the government they created. Two politicians, fundamentally opposed and at war, evoked the same brand of American patriotism to justify their beliefs. This was by no means a unique occurrence; men on both sides of the conflict, from foot soldiers to Presidents, believed that their cause was the true defence of American ideals and that their opponents’ viewpoint would only corrupt their country’s ideology. Even when the South formed its own nation, it did so not to separate itself from the ideals of the United States, but to return to them, feeling they had been lost in the North. The Confederate Constitution, with few exceptions (most notably the legitimisation of slavery) reflected verbatim the original (Rable 1994, 44). As Anne Sarah Rubin states, ‘new Confederates created a national culture in a large part by drawing on the usable American past’ (Rubin 2005, 11). The first paradox is: two sides, bitterly opposed fought a violent war, but with matching adoration for the same country and the same confidence in their righteousness.


American civil war

How to Cite

Thomas, A., (2009) “'Grease and Slide Back into the Union': Patriotic Essentialism, the Civil War, and Postbellum Reunification”, Opticon1826 6.







Adam Thomas (UCL)





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