Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Don H Doyle


When nineteenth-century southern nationalists seceded from the Union and created a southern nation, they sought to justify their actions by situating the Confederacy as one of many aspiring nations seeking membership in the family of nations in the middle of the nineteenth century. To support their argument that the Confederacy constituted a legitimate and independent nation, southern nationalists claimed nineteenth century European nationalist movements as precedents for their own attempt at nation-building, using the southern nation's supposed similarity to, or, at times, differences from, these European aspiring nations to legitimize the Confederacy. Such claims built on a long antebellum precedent in which southern opinion-makers analyzed events abroad through the lens of their own national values, developing an international perspective on issues of nationhood. As they debated the revolutions of 1848, southern commentators used this discourse on nationalism abroad to distinguish between the national values that were and were not acceptable to conservative slave-holders, clarifying an altered southern definition and vision of liberal nationalism. When southerners turned to creating an independent southern nation, secessionists utilized this international understanding of nationalism to claim that because the aspiring southern nation followed the model of new and aspiring nations in Europe, particularly Italy, it deserved independence. Such an argument, while popular domestically, failed to resonate with Europeans and northerners who understood the contrast between slavery and liberal nationalism, forcing Confederates to re-evaluate their claims about the international place of southern nationalism. In response, some Confederates intensified their comparisons, further manipulating the ideals and symbols of nationalism to continue positioning the Confederacy within the broader trends of nineteenth century nationalism. More conservative Confederates rejected comparisons between southern nationalism and more liberal European nationalisms, claiming that the Confederacy actually purified nationalism through slavery. From the earliest stirrings of southern nationalism to the defeat of the Confederacy, southern analysis of European nationalisms played a critical role in shaping southern thought about nationhood.


© 2014, Ann L Tucker

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