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Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy (1994)

by William C. Davis

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Recounts the formation of the Confederacy, looks at the political forces that shaped it, and discusses the impact of slavery.

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This book is about three months in the life of a small Alabama town when the Confederacy was born. I kept thinking it would make a moderately less violent television series ala Deadwood. Lots of compelling personalities with itchy trigger fingers.

I liked this author's book Three Roads to the Alamo, about William Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett. This is a far denser read. Even with my interest in the subject I found myself lagging at times.

The Confederates liked to think they were statesmen on par with the Founding Fathers, but in fact they were more akin to the bootblacks that shined Ben Franklin's shoes. It's almost funny when it begins to dawn on a few of them that they can never fix what's wrong with government when the real problem is what's wrong with themselves.

I have two complaints with the book. The first is about Davis's use of "Little Aleck" to describe the confederate vice-president and moderate Alexander Stephens. The similarity to the name of the Clockwork Orange protagonist is disconcerting enough, but it also diminishes a man who overcame cruel physical deformity. Stephens was one of the few people (besides Jefferson Davis) who saw clearly the danger they'd placed themselves in.

My second complaint is that Davis often uses Mary Chesnut's judgment about a character without seeming to consider that occasionally she may have been wrong. I'm not saying she was, just that I would have liked corroborating evidence.

That said, the book sets the scene very well and is a good introduction to a society at its peak, right before it drove its Cadillac off the cliff.
  wcpweaver | Sep 24, 2009 |
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For Alice and Charles Shewmake, who introduced me to the Montgomery of today and and showed me that it is every bit as interesting as the one of yore.
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Recounts the formation of the Confederacy, looks at the political forces that shaped it, and discusses the impact of slavery.

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