Monday, April 27, 2009

Post Partisan Warfare Deconstruction

Larry H. Henke, in A Study of Post Partisan Warfare Reconstruction, studies the factors that enabled South Carolina following the American Revolution, to achieve a civil society despite the guerrilla partisan combat that had torn it apart during the Revolution itself.

While helpful in providing us with lessons concerning what went right in South Carolina, Henke, by focusing on that state alone, fails to recognize many factors that nevertheless generallly were going wrong in the post-Revolutionary backcountry. While South Carolina managed to contain these problems, Western Pennsylvania did not. The result was armed uprising, the Whiskey Rebellion.

After detailing South Carolina's wartime disruption - far worse than Pennsylvania's, Henke cites the following factors as instrumental in it's regaining civil order:

  • George Washington, declining to become a despot, prevented the army from taking over the government. Washington generally rebuilt civic morale.
  • Patriot leaders conceded portions of their political power and shared their limited rebuilding funds for the common good.
  • Security was restored.
  • Law and order were restored.
  • Backcountry received representation.
  • Commercial opportunities were developed.

Henke concludes:

What South Carolina accomplished after the severe brutality of the war was astonishing, but the underlying message of the rebuilding was simple. South Carolina’s leaders aspired to no greater cause than the reestablishment of the land of opportunity via law and order, which they had striven to build before the hostilities with Britain.

In contrast,Thomas P. Slaughter, in The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution paints a very different picture of American life.

According to Slaughter, civic unrest plagued the post-war American frontier from the Carolinas up to Ethan Allen's Vermont. He cites the following factors:

  • No noble statemen, George Washington was a grasping absentee landlord who used ruthless business tactics to frontiersmen's disadvantage.
  • Federal authorities favored Eastern over Western interests. commerce.
  • Westerners, vulnerable to Indian attacks, felt insecure.
  • Courts,which were few and far between, favored Eastern propertied interests. Tax enforcement would be particularly intrusive.
  • Legislatures were so heavily weighted in favor of the East that backcountry representation was ineffective.
  • The government neglected efforts to develop the West by causing Spain to open the Mississippi River to Westerner's commerce.

Such were the factors that gave rise to the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania in 1794.

Contrasting Henke's South Carolina with Slaughter's Western Pennsylvania suggests that postwar America was more complex than Henke's article concludes.

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