The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

revisions. Southern history remains a vital area of American history, at least in
part, because of these continuing, often rancorous debates.
Through these essays, the progress of Southern historiography emerges in an
accessible and often entertaining manner. The authors generally succeed in out-
lining the lives, experiences, and seminal ideas of their subjects. The most valu-
able element in these biographies lies in the examination of the intersection of
private lives and professional identities in shaping the trajectory of southern his-
tory. Historians build on the work of those who came before, even in rejection.
Mentors train and shape students who will later replace or expand their theo-
ries. However, these essays recognize that personal histories also have dramatic
impact, perhaps more than in other areas of American history, on the writing of
southern history. It is this recognition that makes the book a valuable tool to il-
lustrate the development of a history and a historiography.
Universzty of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio PATRICIA GOWER
Apostles of Dzsunion: Secession Commzsszoners and the Causes of the Czvil War. By
Charles B. Dew. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. Pp. vii+124.
Acknowledgments, introduction, conclusion, appendix, index. ISBN o-
8139-2036-1. $22.95, cloth. ISBN o-8139-21o4-X. $12.95, paper.)
Although scholars long ago reached consensus about the centrality of slavery
to the coming of the Civil War, it has not been accepted with anything close to
unanimity in the public at large. In this slim yet powerful volume, Charles Dew
seeks to allow contemporary southerners themselves, by their own words, to
place the peculiar institution at the center of the secession crisis. For the author
this corrective is made necessary by the "deep division and profound ambiva-
lence in contemporary American culture over the origins of the Civil War" (p.
4). As evidence, he points to such recent developments as the furor over flying
the Confederate battle flag at the South Carolina State Capitol. Dew admits that
as a southerner he has found it hard to reconcile his boyhood vision of the war
as a gallant cause with the rhetoric he analyzes in the book.
And what rhetoric it is. Dew's subjects are the commissioners who, begin-
ning in December 1860, were sent by South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama,
Georgia, and Louisiana to other slaveholding states to encourage secession
from the Union. Usually selected for their skill as public speakers, many of
these men were sent to their birth states to call for secession as native sons.
Dew examines the commissioners' addresses to secession conventions and
state legislatures and their letters written for public consumption. These doc-
uments betray a remarkable agreement about the issues that confronted the
South in late 186o and early 1861. According to the commissioners, the re-
gion faced a stark and ineluctable decision: sever ties with the Union or wit-
ness the "destruction of the institution of slavery" (p. 23) and, worse to many,
what Stephen Hale, Alabama emissary to Kentucky, described as the condem-
nation of the South's "wives and daughters to pollution and violation to grati-
fy the lust of half-civilized Africans" (p. 54). This sort of graphic language was

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed July 12, 2014.