Breaux Fellow: Michael F. Conlin

By Jennifer Reiss Hannah
Public Relations Assistant

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Michael F. Conlin Conlin spent a month at The Filson Historical Society as a C. Ballard Breaux Visiting Fellow researching this topic, in which he applies the current academic interest in nationalism to the unresolved problem of the coming of the Civil War. Previous studies have stated that Northern nationalism was clearly distinguished from the Southern variety. Scholars have neglected western nationalism in the antebellum era, as well. Conlin’s examination of American nationalism, or what he calls “patriotic culture” – monuments of American patriots and statesmen; celebrations of national holidays, like the 4th of July; eulogies of presidents, ex-presidents, and statesmen; and commemorations of historic events – reveals remarkable agreement between Americans in the North and the South (and the West) as to what civic virtues they valued and who displayed these values. In fact, his research suggests that a large percentage of Americans shared a common national culture, thus suggesting that the Civil War was not as much a cultural clash between mutually antagonistic societies as many scholars now contend but rather a failure of American politicians to find a political compromise to the sectional dispute over slavery.

Conlin is focusing his study on the four major cities in each of the three sections, which led him to The Filson Historical Society, as he classifies Louisville, in addition to Cincinnati and St. Louis, as part of the antebellum West. During his month at The Filson, Conlin consulted the Bullitt Family collection and was impressed by the family’s correspondence with both the deep South and the North. In addition to the Bullitt collection he examined other individuals’ and family papers, including the Henry Clay Papers and the Cassius M. Clay Papers. Conlin praised The Filson’s collection as “outstanding.” According to his findings, many Louisvillians were “moderates,” thus embodying a spirit of compromise between both northern and southern regions.

Filson fellowships and internships encourage the scholarly use of our nationally significant collections by providing support for travel and lodging. Fellowships are designed to encourage research in all aspects of the history of Kentucky and the regions of the Ohio Valley and the Upper South. Internships provide practical experience in collections management and research for graduate students. Application deadlines for all fellowships and internships are February 15th and October 15th each year. Applications are reviewed twice a year. For more information about fellowships & internships, visit The Filson’s Fellow website. 

Volume 5, Number 1

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