Saturday, January 05, 2008

"The First Major Study in Fifty Years . . ."?

This book looks quite interesting, but I do wonder about the book description (I assume it's the publisher's) as quoted by Amazon:
When Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 prompted several Southern states to secede, the North was sharply divided over how to respond. In this groundbreaking book, the first major study in over fifty years of how the North handled the secession crisis, Russell McClintock follows the decision-making process from bitter partisan rancor to consensus.

From small towns to big cities and from state capitals to Washington, D.C., McClintock highlights individuals both powerful and obscure to demonstrate the ways ordinary citizens, party activists, state officials, and national leaders interacted to influence the Northern response to what was essentially a political crisis. He argues that although Northerners' reactions to Southern secession were understood and expressed through partisan newspapers and officials, the decision fell into the hands of an ever-smaller handful of people until finally it was Abraham Lincoln alone who would choose whether the future of the American republic was to be determined through peace or a sword.

Lincoln and the Decision for War illuminates the immediate origins of the Civil War, demonstrating that Northern thought evolved quite significantly as the crisis unfolded. It also provides an intimate understanding of the antebellum political system as well as Lincoln's political acuity in his early presidential career.

Can the highlighted clause possibly be correct?

Credit to Brian Dirck for pointing the book out.


  1. E - It can be correct, and in fact is. The only comprehensive study of the Northern response to secession prior to now was Kenneth Stampp's And the War Came, a wonderful and still-valuable book that was published in 1950. Since then there have been books that take a wide, national view of the secession crisis -- Bruce Catton's The Coming Fury and Maury Klein's Days of Defiance are the best of these -- but none that look in-depth at the Northern perspective from any deeper an angle than Northern congressmen and Lincoln. There have also been books that examine various specific facets of the Northern response, including Lincoln's role, but again, none that look at the North comprehensively. As the jacket description that you quote indicates, my book explores the Northern decision to forcefully oppose secession by looking at the interactions among Congress, Lincoln, the state legislatures, editors, and ordinary voters -- something no one has done in, as it says, over fifty years.

  2. Russell,

    Thanks for the unexpected response. The book is on my "saved" list, which means it will probably be in my next order. I just have a few other volumes to get through first . . .



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