Date of Award

8-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

History

Major Professor

Robert J. Norrell

Committee Members

Stephen V. Ash, Daniel Feller, Bethany Dumas

Abstract

Between 1846 and 1867, J. D. B. De Bow, the editor of De Bow’s Review, promoted agricultural reform, urbanization, industrialization, and commercial development in the nineteenth-century South. His monthly journal appealed to thousands of antebellum southerners with similar interests in a modern market economy. De Bow’s vision and his readers’ support of economic diversification predated the rhetoric of postbellum boosters who promised a New South after the Civil War. He created an economic plan that resonated among urban, middle-class merchants and professionals; wealthy planters; and prominent industrialists. They supported De Bow because he understood the necessity of economic diversification. Yet, despite these modern capitalistic leanings, a majority of Review subscribers were unapologetic slaveholders and ardent supporters of the social and economic trappings provided by slavery and cotton. These Old South innovators, like their New South counterparts, shared a similar message of hope for the future. De Bow created a similar sense of forward economic momentum that appealed to profit-minded readers with capitalistic and entrepreneurial tendencies. For the first time in southern history, he successfully consolidated modern economic goals into a cohesive plan. His reverence for past traditions helped legitimize his feelings about the future transformation of the South. Progress and modernity were to be embraced, and De Bow campaigned for regional support for his plan. He had anticipated the future, and by 1860 the economic transformation of the South had begun. Although slavery and sectionalism overwhelmed the original intent of the Review, De Bow recovered his editorial balance after the Civil War and rededicated himself to regional economic improvement. He asked readers to forget about past mistakes and help reintegrate the South back into the national economy. His comprehensive postwar plan for recovery came from years of prewar experimentation. Although De Bow died before the next generation of boosters began their public campaign for a New South, he had made the first and most significant contribution to their vision. He foresaw the need for a well-rounded, diversified economy. De Bow’s anticipation of a modern economy helped create hope for a New South long before the demise of the Old South.

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