REVIEWSrnThe Pit—And thernPendulumrnby Clyde WilsonrnThe Papers of Jefferson Davis,rnVolume 7: 1861rnEdited by Linda Lasswell Crist andrnMary Seaton DixrnBaton Rouge and London: LouisianarnState University Press;rn557 pp., $50.00rnOur Founding Fathers understoodrnthat they had inaugurated a republicanrnfederal union unique in its balancernand distribution of powers. Unlikerntheir descendants, who sclf-indvilgentlvrncongratulate themseKes on their democracy,rnthe Fathers also understood thatrnthe preservation of such a regime was arndaunting and demanding task, requiringrnvirtue (in the masculine Romanrnsense) on the part of the citizenry as wellrnas national good fortune. How to preventrnrulers from usurping the rights ofrnthe people in the long run—as rulers inevitablvrntend to do—and, on the otherrnhand, prevent majority rule (in its properrnrole as the deliberate sense of the people)rnfrom devolving into tyranny?rnFrom the beginning, the foundingrngeneration identified dangers to the republicanrnfederal union under two antagonisticrnrubrics worked out in thernquarrels between the friends of Mr. Jeffersonrnand the friends of General I lamilton.rnThe latter belic’ed the greatestrndanger to be “disunion,” that without arnvigorous central power, self-governmentrnwould perish from its own anarchic tendencies.rnThe Jeffersonian party felt thatrnlibert’ could be destroyed just as sure]rnby another danger, “consolidation”: thernabsorption of the sovereignty of the inhabitantsrnof the various states by any orrnall branches of a “general government”rnintent on grasping powers bevond its legitimaternand limited few.rnJefferson cleady regarded disunion asrnthe lesser evil. Disunion would dispersernbut not necessarily subvert governmentrnof the people, especialh’ since no onerngeneration could irrevocably bind posterity.rnIt mattered little if the l.’nionrnbroke into independent states or intorntwo or more confederacies: self-go’ernmentrnwould survive and thrive. But torninvest the central government with thernpowers and divinity that had once beenrnattributed to monarchs (i.e., “consolidation”)rnwould certainly destroy selfgovernment.rnNo people has ever forgotten, misunderstood,rnand misrepresented their historyrnas have Americans, who recentlyrncelebrated the bicentennial of their Constitutionrnwithout even mentioning thernideas of republicanism and federalism,rnthough these were once considered tornbe the essential and unique features ofrnthe American regime. This is, to make arnlong story short, because in the middlernof the 19th century the ideal of—andrnthe instinct for—republican liberty wasrnreplaced bv the doctrine of the state as arndivine instrument of progress, both economicrnand moral. Each succeeding generationrnhas enhanced the progress ofrnconsolidation through the pursuit of bestowedrnand managed prosperity and ofrnthe most socially destructive goal, egalitarianism.rnImpatient of constitutionalrnprinciples that present obstacles to thisrnpursuit, the American regime calls itselfrna “democracv’ because it reflects “majorityrnrule.” Very seldom, though, docsrnmajority rule express the deliberate sensernof the people. More often than not it isrna fluctuating coalition of self-interestrngroups (“factions” to the Founders) or anrnaccidental “majority” like the 43 percentrnof the half of eligible citizens who votedrnthat elected Clinton and the 39 percentrnthat elected Lincoln.rnOne of the few certain laws one learnsrnfrom the study of history is this: the pendulumrnalways swings back, in some fashionrnor other. Throughout the civilizedrnwodd people are, after more than a centuryrnof the seemingly inevitable progressrnof “consolidation,” seeking once morernto constitute their own self-goerningrncomirrunities and to take back their faternfrom the swollen, greedy, incompetent,rnand irresponsible bureaucracies that governrntliem. So it may be time for a freshrnlook at the great conflict that lies at therncenter of our history, the last great anticonsolidationistrnrising that is still, inrnterms of the quantities of blood shedrnand the revolutionary objectives consummated,rnthe largest event in our life asrna people. To crush self-government inrnthe Southern states required the life ofrnevery tenth northern, and every fourthrnSouthern, white man.rnFor the current generation it is difficult,rnin fact nearly impossible, to imaginerna conflict over principle. The Civil War,rnit assumes, could not have been aboutrnprinciple; it must have been about co;7-rnditions: i.e., the status of the African-rnAmerican (a misreading reenforeed byrnthe tendency to equate victory andrnvirtue, even retrospectively). Yet whilernthe war certainly crushed disunion, thernstatus of the African-American remainsrneven today a largely unsolved problemrnin the north as well as in the South. Itrnis a neat historical serendipity that thernfine documentary edition of the papersrnof President Jefferson Davis has justrnreached the seeessionary year of 1861.rnThe very skilled and knowledgeable editorsrnhave included Davis’s most importantrnstate papers, a judicious selectionrnout of an overwhelming corpus of documentsrnthat illuminate the creation ofrnthe Confederate government in thernmidst of life-and-death struggle.rnThe glamour of the Confederate militaryrnleaders is fixed in the understandingrnof the world; as long as men continue tornadmire courage, chivalry, dash, and honor,rnonly the hopelessly churlish can fail tornbe moved. The civil leaders of the Southrnhave fared much less well. Yet Davis isrnoire of the most interesting men inrnAmerican history, a tragic hero of epicrndiirrensions. If the moguls of Hollywoodrndoeudrama had any taste and any sensernof history they could find in Davis a storyrnworthy of the pen of Shakespeare. JeffersonrnDavis and Varina, his wife, hadrnone of the truly great romances of Americanrnhistory. I exaggerate not in thernleast: she was beautiful, passionate, highlyrnintelligent, courageous, and loyal almostrnbevond crediting—truly one of thernhandful of the most reirrarkable and admirablernwomen in all of American history.rnLincoln was lucky to leave the scenernwhen he did, a martyr without the stainrnthat Reconstruction would inevitablyrnhave brought to his reputation. Davis, byrncomparison, was traduced by a governmentrnthat kept him shackled in prisonrnfor two years, while denying him therntrial he craved. He could not be broughtrn30/CHRONICLESrnrnrn