I had hoped to have more to report after Spring Break, but at least I feel like I have a good idea of where my project is going, which is its own success! The major accomplishment of the last week has been in choosing my northern city to analyze. That decision enabled me to start doing my primary research in earnest, so I’ve located quite a few sermons and newspaper articles particular to Philadelphia, as well as found manuscript collections to look at when I do archive visits! I did accomplish some secondary readings, but I’ve gotten to the point in my reading list that most everything left is very long and generally important enough that I need to read closely, so the process is slow going.
Barring any unforeseen dilemmas (I’m meeting with Dr. Quigley on Thursday to discuss my progress), I will be doing a comparative study of Charleston and Philadelphia during the Secession Crisis. One of the major reasons for choosing Philadelphia is in its size and prominence. Both of these things mean: sources. Philadelphia was a publishing hub of sorts and possessed a healthy religious life with a multitude of churches and denominations represented. I had already considered using Philadelphia, but had originally shied away from it due to how much larger it was compared to my Southern city of choice, as well as the Quaker influence toward antislavery. Over break, however, I stumbled across a really interesting article that helped convince me that Philadelphia was a good choice. (I will describe that article below.)
For the most part, Philadelphia skewed conservative- probably due in part to Quaker influence, as well as in elite ties to the South (see the article below!). However, while many religious leaders encouraged peaceful relations, enough diversity existed in the city to present other views as well. Their are several great archives in Philadelphia (especially concerning Presbyterians) that I expect to help me flesh out the feelings of people not as readily represented in sermons and newsprint. Overall, I’m hopeful that this city will provide a productive ground for comparative study!
Kilbride, Daniel. “The Cosmopolitan South: Privileged Southerners, Philadelphia, and the Fashionable Tour in the Antebellum Era.” Journal of Urban History 26 (2000), 563-590.
Kilbride argues that ties existed between the elite of the South with Philadelphia’s privileged class in the Antebellum Era. These ties resulted in what Kilbride terms a “national social elite” (563) and could be seen in the frequent travel of the Southern upper classes to cities like Philadelphia, which boasted an upper crust culture. Kilbride remarks that the southern planter elite often felt isolated from their regional cultures which they understood to be “vulgar, excessively democratic, and provincial,” and rather preferred to travel to experience a “national upper-class community that transcended regional boundaries” (564). Through travel, elite Southerners formed connections with their northern peers and reinforced their own conceptions of upper class behavior and morality (564). The great thing about this article is in the connection that it provides between Charleston and Philadelphia in particular. I think it’s fascinating to think about how connections were present between people in these cities! Most helpful was Kilbride’s use of travel narratives to demonstrate these connections between people. I’ll definitely be looking into those as a potential source!
Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1890s. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
Wyatt-Brown argues that honor was “the ethic which white Southerners believed supported the other two pillars of their society: white supremacy and Christian faith” (xi). I paid most close attention to Wyatt-Brown’s chapters concerning religion specifically in the years leading up the Civil War. He makes the interesting point that Southern clergymen had to, in a sense, court public opinion in order to maintain their influence (166). In other words (and I think that this could be considered the case in the North as well), the preacher had to express ideas from the pulpit that kept generally in line with the opinions of the congregation. That seems to imply that sermons can be used as a means of measuring public opinion (to a certain extent), although perhaps sermons are not fully representative of the preacher’s personal feelings at all times. It would be really interesting if I could locate the personal papers of a few clergymen to gauge how sermons interacted with their own understandings as well as that of the public.
Marty, Martin E. Righteous Empire: The Protestant Experience in America. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1970.
I was not expecting to care for this source- not only is it older than many of the sources I’m using, as well as a general history of Protestantism in America, but it also doesn’t cite it’s data! (No footnotes, no bibliography… one of the oddest things I’ve come across so far!) But it is wonderfully written. Writing for a public audience along with the scholarly community, Marty uses section headings and relatively short chapters to tell a really interesting story. I read the first half of the book, which deals with Protestants from roughly the First Great Awakening (around the 1730s and 1740s) to 1877 and the end of Reconstruction. This book wasn’t as helpful for identifying a specific argument, but it gives great background on the formation of Protestantism in America, both in the North and South. He makes the especially compelling point around Southern religion being much more orthodox and individualistic than in the North (64). This difference seems to account, in part, for why Southern clergymen were much more united than their peers in the North in the years leading up to the Civil War. He also notes that clergy had to be popular in order to maintain their positions of authority (72).