ther this essay nor any intelligent personrnthat I know in the South desires a literalrnrestoration of the old Southern life, evenrnif that were possible; dead days are gone,rnand if by some chance they should return,rnwe should find them intolerable.”rn•I’ll Take My Stand is “utopian.” Anrnentire thesis was written on this misconception,rndespite the fact that the volumernis the very opposite of a Utopia: It dealsrnwith the world of real problems and realrncomplexities, a world the Agrariansrnnonetheless thought worth preserving.rnIndeed, the enemies of the Agrarians,rnthe apostles of the “New South,” were thernUtopians. They believed in the futurernrather than the present, in a desert transformedrnby industrialization into an economicrnand cultural oasis. Their worldrnexisted only in potentia—and, therefore,rndid not exist at all.rnThe Agrarians engaged in speculationrnabout the future as well. Instead of thernbrave new world of the New Southrnprophets, they predicted urban blight. AsrnJohn Ransom put it in the “Statement ofrnPrinciples” that preceded the essays:rn”The amenities of life also suffer underrnthe curse of a strictly-business or industrialrncivilization. They consist in such practicesrnas manners, conversation, hospitality,rnsympathy, family life, romanticrnlove — in the social exchanges that revealrnand develop sensibility in human affairs.”rnTo determine who was “utopian” andrnwho was realistic in their predictions, visitrnany major city and examine the manners,rnconversation, hospitality, sympathy,rnfamily life, and social exchanges practicedrnthere.rn•I’ll Take My Stand is neoconfederate,rnsecessionist, and therefore, treasonous.rnRansom specifically rejects such a view:rn”No one now proposes for the South, orrnfor any other community in this country,rnan independent political destiny. Thatrnidea is thought to have been finished inrn1865.”rnOn the other hand, just because the regionrnis subject to the authority of thernUnited States government does notrnmean that it must become indistinguishablernfrom other regions. As Ransom putsrnit: “But how far shall the South surrenderrnits moral, social, and economic autonomyrnto the victorious principle of Union?rnThat question remains open.” It stillrndoes.rn•I’ll Take My Stand promotes the idearnof a Southern aristocracy. The Agrariansrn—with the exception, perhaps, ofrnStark Young—did not believe that anrnaristocracy existed in the South —Old orrnNew. Steeped in European history, theyrnknew what the word meant. Indeed, inrnthe first essay, Ransom explains the region’srnsocial hierarchy in far less flatteringrnterms than one would expect from arnSouthern apologist:rnThe old Southern way of life was ofrncourse not so fine as some of therntraditionalists like to believe. It didrnnot offer serious competitionrnagainst the glory that was Greecernand the grandeur that was Rome.rnIt hardly began to match the finishrnof the English or any other importantrnEuropean civilization . . . Itrnmay as well be admitted thatrnSouthern society was n o t . . . an institutionrnof very showy elegance, forrnthe so-called aristocrats were mostlyrnhome-made and countrified. Aristocracyrnis not the word which definesrnthis organization so well asrnsquirearchy .. . And even thernsquires, and other classes too, didrnnot define themselves very strictly.rnSo much for the Agrarians’ belief inrnaristocracy. For them, the normativernSoutherner was variously described asrnthe “small farmer,” the “tiller of the soil,”rnthe “yeoman.” The economic unit wasrnnot the plantation but the family farm.rnCritics contend that I’ll Take MyrnStand is wrongheaded about economicsrn(probably) and history (arguably), but nornone can legitimately charge that the symposiumrnwas Utopian, neoconfederate, orrnanti-American, or that it is aristocratic inrnits sensibilities. So why has it been so energeticallyrncondemned for so long? Andrnwhy, until very recently, has every newrngeneration of left-leaning scholars gonernto war over its contents? The reasonsrnvary.rnSome of the most dedicated critics ofrnthe Agrarians were the very Southernersrnwho believed in Henry Grady’s promisernof a New South, a landscape billowingrnwith the smoke of progress. These criticsrnsaw I’ll Take My Stand as a tree fallenrnacross the road to paradise. In their view,rnthe Agrarians were Luddites who wantedrnto deny Southerners their opportunity tornkeep up with the Joneses in the North.rnThis mentality has prevailed in thernSouth, but Southern academics from liberalrninstitutions and departments nornlonger lead the attack against Fll Take MyrnStand. For all their reactionary assumptions,rnthe Agrarians’ predictions haverncome tine; and now, instead of attackingrnthe Agrarians, the left defends raw landrnagainst the invasion of developers andrnfactory owners. A few years ago, evenrnMother Jones ran a complimentary articlernon the Agrarians.rnNon-Southern critics of the symposiumrnhave a different ax to grind: Theyrnfind disturbing the very assumption thatrnthe South possesses any virtues. They rememberrnthat slavery and de jure segregationrnflourished in the region for a longrntime, while conveniently forgetting thatrnslavery and de facto segregation also flourishedrnin the North.rnThey find infuriating the assertion byrnsome Southern historians and social criticsrnthat the Civil War was not caused byrnslavery alone, but by numerous economicrnconflicts. They believe that Southernersrndeliberately complicate an issue thatrnis actually very simple—and do so to exculpaterna wicked and repressive society.rnFurthermore, they view this kind ofrnpietas as a form of intellectual secessionrnand, hence, an arrogant betrayal of thernAmerican ideal that they believe is expressedrnin the Declaration of Independencernand the Gettysburg Address. Theyrnare particularly enraged when Southernersrncriticize Abraham Lincoln—the nation’srnchief secular saint, whose face, afterrnall, is on the penny and the five-dollarrnbin.rnSince few 20th-century Southernersrnvoiced these heretical sentiments untilrnthe Agrarians brought the pot to a boil inrn1930, Vll Take My Stand becomes arnperennial target for those motivated by arnNorthern pietas, a reverence for the LostrnCauses of equality and freedom —twornold enemies who can no longer get alongrnnow that the nation has become industrializedrnand urban. These are the mainrnreasons why both Southerners and outsidersrnhave continued to attack the Agrariansrnand their intellectual heirs, such asrnM.E. Bradford and Clyde Wilson.rnOn the other hand, Southern apologistsrnhave their reasons for keeping thernquarrel alive: They are frustrated by a perverserntendency on the part of their criticsrnto oversimplify the events surroundingrnthe Civil War, while overcomplicatingrnthe history of all other American wars.rnThe best statement of this frustration isrnfound in Frank Owsley’s contribution tornVll Take My Stand, when he writes: “Tornsay that the irrepressible conflict was betweenrnslavery and freedom is either to failrnto grasp the nature and magnitude of thernconflict, or else to make use of a deliber-rn44/CHRONICLESrnrnrn