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In the Great Maelstrom
Conservatives in Post-Civil War South Carolina

Charles J. Holden

Examines how traditional thinkers both adjusted and clung to their beliefs long after the war

Few would question the assertion that South Carolina remained a conservative state long after the Civil War; one only needs to stroll over the grounds of the state capitol to be reminded of this long-running tradition in the state's history. But few have bothered to ask how, in the years following utter defeat during the Civil War, South Carolina remained a philosophically conservative state. How did self-proclaimed South Carolina conservatives maintain their beliefs in elite rule, the importance of a living tradition, and white supremacy through the loss of slavery, the rise of industry, populism, progressivism, and on through the New Deal? A study of South Carolina intellectual history from the end of the Civil War in 1865 to the 1945 advent of the Atomic Age, In the Great Maelstrom explores this ideology.

The collapse of the Confederacy and the abolition of slavery forced South Carolina thinkers to ask what they could still believe in. In reconstructing their world views to fit the times, they employed the principles of white supremacy, the politics of elitism, and historicism. Charles J. Holden traces the evolution of these themes through the writings of four South Carolina conservatives—historian Frederick Porcher, social scientist Theodore D. Jervey, politician and historian Edward McCrady, Jr., and journalist William Watts Ball. These men based their philosophies on the founding of the American colonies and the effects of history on the lives and fortunes of white South Carolinians. By placing these individuals firmly in their historical context, and closely examining their thoughts, words, and actions, the reader gets an in-depth look into the life of the conservative mind during these tumultuous decades. In the Great Maelstrom demonstrates how the state's conservatives adjusted their views at critical times, while clinging to other core values through the long decades.

Charles J. Holden received a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, and is an assistant professor of history at St. Mary's College of Maryland. Holden lives in Lexington Park, Maryland.

"Charles Holden has performed a real service in rescuing from historical oblivion post-Civil War South Carolina conservative intellectuals, who held fast to the anti-democratic strain that influenced the state during the antebellum era. Holden shows that his group's elitism affected South Carolina's course from Reconstruction through the mid-twentieth century." —William J. Cooper, Jr., Louisiana State University



book jacket for In the Great Maelstrom


6 x 9
176 pages
ISBN 978-1-57003-476-3
cloth, $39.95s


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