While most historical studies merely scratch the surface of antebellum state rights and treat the doctrine as just one of many differences between the North and South, this book focuses exclusively on state rights from colonial to Civil War times. It looks particularly at Virginia, examining how the concept of state rights became the backbone of the Old Dominion's understanding of the Union for at least seven decades.
Part One looks at Virginia's ideological attitudes toward state rights, revealing how and why state rights Antifederalists recoiled from the expansive tendencies of central government power during the Constitutional debate and the Virginia ratification convention. Part Two examines the methodologies employed to maintain the currency of state rights in the face of nationalist threats to a southern interpretation of liberty by examining documents and essays by luminaries such as James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Spencer Roane, Abel Upshur, and Littleton Tazewell.
Charles Pinnegar — Charles Pinnegar is an author and retired teacher. He lives in Ontario, Canada.
Pinnegar, Charles. Virginia and state rights, 1750-1861: the genesis and promotion of a doctrine. McFarland, 2009. 278p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780786443949 pbk. Reviewed in 2010jun CHOICE.
Pinnegar (Brand of Infamy: A Biography of John Buchanan Floyd, 2002) traces the evolution of state rights doctrine in antebellum Virginia, asserting that Virginians developed a state rights philosophy that evolved in the face of nationalist threats to their understanding of the Constitution. This well-researched work details the specific state rights beliefs of many leading Virginians from the mid-18th century to the eve of the Civil War. But the book contains some serious flaws. The author believes that historians see antebellum state rights doctrine as monolithic, fully formed, and southern, a point that many historians have been careful to debunk. Pinnegar presents many of his examples in a vacuum, with limited context provided for either Virginia or national scenes. Other historical references should be more carefully discussed (and examined for accuracy). For example, the author cites the importance of the Jay-Gardoqui Treaty on late-18th-century state rights thought, but never satisfactorily explains what Virginians found so offensive about the treaty. Despite these problems, this remains a useful examination of Virginians' contributions to state rights thought.
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and above. -- J. C. Arndt, James Madison University