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Historian Plugs Conservatism

Genovese Says Southern Tradition Has Much to Offer

By Mark W. Brown and Karen E. Thomas

The Southern conservative tradition has much to offer present day Americans, an eminent historian told an Emerson Hall audience of approximately 50 yesterday.

Eugene B. Genovese, a professor at the University Center in Georgia and one of the foremost historians of North American slavery, said that the Southern conservative tradition--with the exception of slavery--has as much to offer in solving "our present cultural depravity" as any other body of thought.

Opposition to financial corporations, opposition to radical individualism, support of broad property ownership and adherence to Christian morals are all important aspects of historic Southern conservatism, according to Genovese.

Southern conservatives believed in natural law, Genovese said. This natural law is mysterious and should not be interfered with, he said, adding that these laws defined a class order that was "inevitable and proper."

He said this stratification of society was one argument used by some Southerners to defend slavery.

But since the abolition of slavery, true conservatism has faded, he said. "Genuine conservatism in the South has been at bay since 1865, Genovese said, adding, "The abolition of slavery opened the gates to liberalism."

Genovese said that it was this modern liberalism that has led to the problems in today's society.

"If the left continues to seek socialist solutions, they are on the way to irrelevancy," Genovese said. "On various points of the political spectrum, there are people that have views to offer. This is a time when there is no coherent, worked-out position."

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