Saturday, March 2, 2019

Just Finished Reading - De Bow's Review

If one spends enough time reading antebellum Southern history, De Bow's Review will likely make its appearance at some point. The most studious of Southern history enthusiasts realize that this New Orleans-published monthly journal served as a significant voice for slave state boosterism. However, few know much about the man who founded this journal. 

In De Bow's Review: The Antebellum Vision of a New South, author John F. Kvach gives readers a fuller pictures of both De Bow's Review the journal and James Dunwoody Brownson (J. D. B.) De Bow, its founder. De Bow, born in 1820 in Charleston, and orphaned at a young age, loved learning. He read voraciously, and after saving enough money he studied at the College of Charleston, where he graduated as valedictorian.

He soon thereafter moved to New Orleans and started De Bow's Review. Mounting debts caused the journal's quick suspension, but re-infused with friends' funds and their encouragement, he started publication again in 1848. De Bow networked across the slave states promoting his vision of a South where rural plantations and urban industrial areas worked hand-in-hand to advance overall economic betterment of the slave states. He also encouraged the establishment of Southern libraries and centers of learning untainted by potential Northern negative influences. Much of his message was delivered as free as possible from political influence, promoting ideals of both Democrats and Whigs.

However, as the sectional crisis ramped up during the 1850s, De Bow and his publication became more caustic in its denunciation of the North, defensive of slavery as a beneficial labor system, and sectional separation as the ultimate solution for the South's future. De Bow's Review was a casualty of the Civil War. He stopped publication in late 1862, and only published one odd issue in 1864. During the war, De Bow became a purchasing agent of cotton for the Confederacy and continually traveled around the shrinking nation trying to boost home front morale and encourage commerce. After the war De Bow served as president of an upstart railroad company but died of peritonitis while visiting his sick brother in New Jersey in 1867. De Bow's body was sent south but where he ultimately rests in peace is not known. As Kvach states, "It was an ignominious end to a long, high-profile public life." Kvach though also claims that, "De Bow's ultimate legacy to the South proved to be his ability to construct and gather ideas that resonated with southern readers interested in improving their region." 

An additional bonus to the book is an appendix that lists almost 1500 individual subscribers to DeBow's Review that Kvach located through his thorough research. Included among the readers of De Bow's Review were a number of "who's who" of the antebellum South. Among the subscribers were: Edmund Ruffin (VA), Robert E. Lee (VA), Wade Hampton (SC), William Gilmore Simms (SC), Jefferson Davis (MS), Judah Benjamin (LA), Alexander Stephens (GA), Albert Pike (AR), William L. Yancey (AL). 

This book is a welcome addition to the field of Southern antebellum history. Its beneficial scholarship will be appreciated by students for many years to come. I highly recommend it.

No comments:

Post a Comment