In This Review

How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America
How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America
By Heather Cox Richardson
264 pp, Oxford University Press, 2020
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Richardson draws a straight line from the radical inequality of the pre–Civil War South to its resurrection a century later in the modern conservative movement in the West. There, “Confederate ideology took on a new life.” An oligarchic economy emerged in the region, centered on mining, oil extraction, and railroads, which, like the cotton economy of the South, depended on lots of capital and masses of unskilled workers. In the late nineteenth century, the protections of the 14th Amendment (adopted in 1868) did not apply to Native Americans and were also interpreted in the West to exclude Chinese and other immigrants, leading to what effectively amounted to what Richardson terms “the shadow of legal slavery.” Forgetting the federal government’s role in giving land to homesteaders and investing in irrigation, so-called movement conservatives in the West embraced the myth that all a true American needed from the government was to be left alone. As reflected in Barry Goldwater’s Stetson and Ronald Reagan’s broad-brimmed hat, the free-roaming cowboy became the movement’s emblem.