Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Orville Vernon Burton
The Lost Cause is an ideology that falsely portrays the antebellum South as an idyllic, agrarian society, the Confederacy’s cause as a just defense of states’ rights, and slavery as a benevolent institution. Historians of the U.S. South rightly attribute much of the Lost Cause’s creation to the South's prewar elite, particularly women from the planter class who led Confederate memorialization efforts. As the Lost Cause celebrates an antebellum slave society and Confederacy controlled by elites, it is clear the ideology also celebrated the South's prewar elite. However, previous studies of the Lost Cause fail to seriously question what benefit the Lost Cause brought the planter class, nor have scholars seriously examined how the ideology developed in states that experienced significant economic change after the Civil War.
By examining the planters of Leon County, Florida, and one of the class’s descendants who later contributed to the Lost Cause in Florida, this thesis studies the structural reality of Middle Florida’s antebellum elite to understand what role postbellum Confederate memorialization played for that class. Chapter One calculates the persistence rate of Leon County's planter class using land and slaveholding figures from tax and census data to determine that the planters persisted at about the same rate after the Civil War as they did in the antebellum era. Chapter Two analyzes elites’ attempt to reassert social hegemony through the Florida Constitution of 1865 and the “Black Codes,” a campaign that failed when Congressional Reconstruction began. Chapter Three reviews the background and pro-Confederate narratives of Susan Bradford Eppes to explain how Confederate memorialization meant to reclaim the elites' social authority in a Florida economy that quickly evolved past cotton by the turn of the century.
Bowen, Alexander J., ""The Spirit of the Old South Can Never Die": Postbellum Middle Florida and the Elite Struggle for Social Hegemony, 1850-1942" (2022). All Theses. 3805.