In my latest novel ‘Rebel Liar,’ which is set in the American Civil War, one of the characters describes the Confederacy as being a ‘replica of an English country estate, with its fine homes, beautiful gardens and fine parks.’
‘But in a kinder climate, and on a much larger scale.’
Why would prosperous Southerners wish to replicate an English country estate?
Because they were mostly descended from English settlers, is the obvious answer.
If they were descended from, let’s say Roman settlers, the South would be dotted with Roman villas.
That present-day visit to a lovingly preserved Southern plantation home would be a visit to a lovingly preserved Roman villa, instead.
Perhaps it would also include a ‘meet and greet’ by someone – maybe a Roman centurion, who was wearing a toga and who also had a few hot tips for the winner of the next chariot race.
Seriously, perhaps the word ‘replica’ suggests that it was not a very convincing replica, that it was just those early settlers’ notion of what an English country estate should look like.
But that was not my intention.
It’s easy to sneer, and it’s particularly easy to sneer at the South, because of its connotations of slavery.
Let’s look at this argument.
If you visit the Tower of London, in England, you don’t think too much about the prisoners, who were effectively political prisoners, who were held in the dungeons for many years, without a trial.
Similarly, if you visit present day North Korea you don’t think too much about the human suffering which exists there.
So perhaps we shouldn’t think too much about slavery, when we look at these beautiful Southern plantation homes.
In fact, as I’ve described in my novel, which includes a few scenes from a non-slave-owning plantation, not all plantations were slave plantations.