De Bow’s Review: The Antebellum Vision of a New South
John F. Kvach, assistant professor of History University of Alabama, Huntsville.
Who is James Dunwoody Brownson De Bow? Challenging our prominent students of the Civil War few recall the name and those that do branded him as one of the lesser Fire-aters, a term reserved for the most prolific and influential protagonist for Session, but there is far more to De bow than merely a mouthpiece calling for Rebellion. Where most Northern historians describe the Old South as stale with tradition, static in mind, unwilling to change, Dr. Kvach, through analysis of all the publications of the De Bow’s Review, illustrates a slightly different picture of agriculture and manufacturing and his analysis of the Review subscribers; their acknowledgment and acceptance of De Bow’s theories add credibility to the character that pushed to modernize the South before tragedy. De Bow was first and foremost a journalist and editor of his own magazine and influenced the affluent in both the North and the South, particularly, in the last two decades preceding war, and with regret but optimism returned to similar economic based themes after the war until his death. He seldom spoke to arouse the passion for Session but to challenge Southern leaders to accept agricultural diversity and expand the manufacturing capability of the region. Dr. Kvach describes De Bow’ character while defining the economic conditions and philosophy of the Old South which ultimately ended in a tragic war that, aside from passion, the South was little equipped to win. De Bow’s pen was noticed in the North and revered by most leaders in the South and the overwhelming passion of the era may have influenced his pen to support his paying customers and his own economic interest as he joined the chorus for Session, thus earning the brand of Fire-eater. You can decide.
This is a must read if you’re interested in understanding the decades of political and economic turmoil contributing to the American Civil War.