In some ways, the Civil War was the analogue of the Terror for Americans: It was the bloodthirsty incestuous violence that allowed the nation to move onward to a full embrace of democracy, joining itself to Europe as the world began to tip toward democratic ideas and ideals.
Stephen Kantrowitz's biography of Benjamin Tillman demonstrates how he can be seen as a symbol for an entire cohort of Southerners of his generation, people (mostly but not exclusively men) who could neither understand nor tolerate the new order that had formally instituted itself after Emancipation. They could not understand a world in which black men were suddenly their legal equals. Tillman, and others like him, lived in a world that told them that blacks had to be treated like equals even though many white Southerners did not see their black compatriots as even being fully human.
This set up...
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