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Most histories of the American Civil War are very heavily skewed towards the Northern point of view, particularly in terms of the behind-the-scenes political machinations and general governance of the war. That makes this book all the more interesting since a lot of the information about the politics and debates and discussions within the South about secession was completely new to me, and it was refreshing to see the alternative point-of-view from the usual Lincoln/Washington/North/abolition standpoint.

One thing Davis is very clear on is his position on the reasons behind the war. It seems to be fashionable these days to downplay the role of slavery in the secession movement; to insist that whilst it may have been the catalyst, it wasn't the cause; to argue that slavery was simply the most visible of the arguments, but that the real reason was States' Rights. Davis really delves into a lot of the resolutions and conventions and paperwork and makes it clear that slavery was front and centre, so much so that it was hardwired into the new Confederate Constitution and not even the President or the individual States had the authority to abolish it, even if they wished to.

This book also brings to the forefront just how much of a contradiction the Confederacy really was. He argues that the slavery/planting oligarchy was the driving force behind seccession and that the entire Confederacy was designed by these very same people to benefit them above all others; it was designed as a democracy that limited the power of the vast majority of the population in favour of a small minority. The war also meant that in its conduct of the war the national government proceeded to trample over many of the rights and privileges that had only just been enshrined in the Constitution, the same rights and privileges that impelled many of the States to leave the Union in the first place!

It's a very well-written book, readable and engaging, and absolutely fascinating to read. I'd never before realised just how contradictory the Confederacy was and how doomed it really was from the start.
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