Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department


Committee Chair/Advisor

Anderson, Paul C

Committee Member

Andrew , Rod

Committee Member

Smith , Christa A


The focus of this work is the 'ancient rivalry' between Massachusetts and South Carolina, as it played out in the antebellum era. Although little attention has been devoted exclusively to the study of this rivalry, it exercised a considerable degree of influence over the nation on its path to civil war. Most notably, this rivalry directly impacted the emergence of an American national identity between 1830 and 1860. The self-perpetuating rivalry between South Carolina and Massachusetts helped define the parameters of American identity, and ensured the eventual exclusion of South Carolina from such an identity. Filtered through three specific episodes, this work will show how a unique South Carolina psychology and identity emerged in response to the state's exclusion from American identity. This psychology gave South Carolinians the individual and collective social capacity to play an unparalleled role in the American Civil War. This role was characterized by their ability to inaugurate the secession movement and do so unanimously; their ability to embrace secession and celebrate its realization; their ability to offer a greater degree of support to the Confederate cause than their neighbors--including lower exemption and desertion percentages, higher enlistment and casualty percentages, and a more cooperative relationship with the Confederate government.
The first chapter will present the Great Debate between South Carolina's Robert Young Hayne and Massachusetts's Daniel Webster. This chapter will show how Webster, over the course of the debate, established the historical legitimacy of a perpetual union and the historical illegitimacy of state interposition. In doing so, he excluded South Carolina nullification from his conception of American identity, and initiated the process by which all South Carolinians would eventually be excluded. In addition, the debate between Hayne and Webster helped engender a number of perceived foibles that would become associated with South Carolina over the next few decades, alienating the state from the rest of the nation.
The second chapter will depict the controversy between Massachusetts's Lorenzo Sabine and South Carolina's William Gilmore Simms. This chapter will relay how Sabine excluded the majority of white South Carolinians from the nation's unifying historical experience, thereby establishing a separate, aberrant South Carolina historical narrative. Because of the relationship between historical experience and collective identity, this episode ensured the emergence of a distinct South Carolina identity.
The final chapter will explore Charles Sumner's critique of South Carolina and Preston Brooks's subsequent retaliation. Sumner's treatment of South Carolina was an extension of the remarks made by Webster and Sabine. Decrying the entire history of South Carolina, Sumner provided for the unconditional exclusion of South Carolinians. With this exclusion, South Carolina witnessed the evaporation of unionism within the state. Barred from American nationality, South Carolinians turned to their state for a source of identity.



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