The Fate of Their Country: Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War

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9780809044399: The Fate of Their Country: Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War

How partisan politics lead to the Civil War

What brought about the Civil War? Leading historian Michael F. Holt convincingly offers a disturbingly contemporary answer: partisan politics. In this brilliant and succinct book, Holt distills a lifetime of scholarship to demonstrate that secession and war did not arise from two irreconcilable economies any more than from moral objections to slavery. Short-sighted politicians were to blame. Rarely looking beyond the next election, the two dominant political parties used the emotionally charged and largely chimerical issue of slavery's extension westward to pursue reelection and settle political scores, all the while inexorably dragging the nation towards disunion.

Despite the majority opinion (held in both the North and South) that slavery could never flourish in the areas that sparked the most contention from 1845 to 1861-the Mexican Cession, Oregon, and Kansas-politicians in Washington, especially members of Congress, realized the partisan value of the issue and acted on short-term political calculations with minimal regard for sectional comity. War was the result.

Including select speeches by Lincoln and others, The Fate of Their Country openly challenges us to rethink a seminal moment in America's history.

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About the Author:

Michael F. Holt teaches at the University of Virginia and is author of numerous books, including The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party and The Political Crisis of the 1850s, and the co-author of The Civil War and Reconstruction (3rd edition).

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Fate of their Country
1PANDORA'S BOXIn the winter of 1860-61, as one Deep South state after another seceded in a furious reaction to the November election of the Republican Abraham Lincoln as President, congressmen frantically sought to devise a compromise that would soothe southern tempers, lure seceded states back into the Union, and avert civil war. The compromisers aimed to reassure Southerners that the almost exclusively northern and now-victorious Republican Party represented no threat to slavery and what were called Southern Rights. So hoping, both the House and the Senate passed a proposed thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, with two-fifths of the Republicans in each chamber voting aye. This amendment would forever have prohibited the federal government from abolishing slavery. This action, so ironic in the context of what became the emancipating Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, hardly satisfied Southerners in 1861. Instead, they demanded that Republicans legalize the extension of slavery into all current and future western territories south of the parallel line thirty-six degrees thirty minutes. Congressional Republicans, pledged from the formation of theirparty in 1854 to bar slavery from all territories and urged by President-elect Lincoln to "hold firm, as with a chain of steel" against any compromise on slavery extension, refused to make that concession. Efforts at compromise collapsed. And the war came.Thus attempts to resolve the secession crisis foundered on the question of slavery's future expansion into southwestern territories, where it did not exist, rather than on its guaranteed perpetuity in the southern states, where it already did. This phenomenon speaks volumes about the causes of the American Civil War. Most historians of the war's causation now agree that the issue that most aggravated sectional conflict during the fifteen years prior to 1861 was slavery's extension beyond the existing slave states, not demands for its abolition within them. That fact raises a host of questions. How and why did the issue of slavery extension emerge? Why did Northerners and Southerners apparently invest so much importance in that issue even when many believed that slavery could not exist profitably in most of the western areas they argued over so furiously? And why did this question prove so intractable? Like a bad weed, the issue popped up again and again after repeated attempts to yank it out had apparently succeeded. Raising the question of slavery's extension into or exclusion from the West truly was opening a Pandora's box of evils, for it could never again be closed. Why?The slavery extension issue first emerged because of decisions by elected officeholders in the executive and especially the legislative branches of the national government in Washington, not because of a groundswell of public pressure for or against territorial and slavery expansion. The point is crucial. Sectional divisions widened in response to what politicians in Washington did; divergent sectional opinions about slavery and basic socialand economic distinctions between the free-labor North and the slave-labor South did not in and of themselves cause those decisions. At few other times in American history did policy makers' decisions have such a profound--and calamitous--effect on the nation as they did in the 1840s and 1850s. Those decisions by themselves, it must be stressed, did not cause the Civil War. As Lincoln later said, that bloody conflict was "a people's contest," not simply a politicians' war. Rather, the decisions were crucial because they did so much to deepen distrust and intensify animosity between the white populations of the North and the South.The slavery extension issue emerged in Congress in its most explosively divisive forms between 1846 and 1854. The issue, however, also arose on two earlier occasions in the nineteenth century with considerable impact on what happened later.In early 1819, southern congressmen bitterly opposed a northern attempt to prevent Missouri's admission as a slave state. The ensuing debate was exceedingly rancorous, and it contained almost all the elements that would characterize sectional controversy over slavery expansion until the Civil War. Northerners condemned slavery as immoral, as economically inefficient, as incompatible with free labor, and as an undemocratic source of southern political power in the national government. They called Southerners already overrepresented in the House of Representatives and electoral college, thanks to the Constitution's three-fifths clause. If Missouri were admitted as a slave state, southern senators would gain a two-seat edge over Northerners. Southerners, in turn, furiously resented Northerners' critique of their "peculiar institution." More important, they worried that if Northerners in Congress could force Missourians to emancipate their slaves as the price of statehood, Northerners would use that precedent to seek the abolition of slaveryin other slave states. That action would violate each state's sacrosanct right to determine its own domestic institutions.The congressional debate over Missouri, while rancorous, was also relatively brief compared with later quarrels over the Mexican Cession and Kansas. In March 1820, Congress passed the Missouri Compromise, even though most Northerners opposed it. By this settlement, Congress admitted Maine as a free state to offset Missouri's admission as a slave state, thus preserving the sectional equilibrium in the Senate. More important, Congress "forever prohibited" slavery in the unorganized area of the Louisiana Purchase territory north of the parallel thirty-six degrees thirty minutes. In the Senate, where all three provisions were bundled together in a single bill, only two of twenty-two Southerners opposed this package, despite its prohibition of slavery from the vast majority of the Louisiana Territory. In the House, where the ban on slavery north of what became famous as the Missouri Compromise line was voted on separately, all Northerners supported the prohibition while Southerners split narrowly 39-37 in its favor. In short, in 1820 a majority of southern congressmen accepted congressional prohibition of slavery from almost all of the western territories. The southern demand thirty-four years later that this prohibition be repealed in the Kansas-Nebraska Act was arguably the single most important turning point on the road to disunion and civil war. That demand clearly reflected a shift in the southern position since 1820, and no action by Congress ever outraged the northern public so much as the repeal of the Missouri Compromise line.The second incident involving slavery's westward extension before 1846 took a different form and had a more immediate impact on subsequent events. In April 1844, President John Tyler asked the Senate to ratify a treaty annexing the pro-slaveryRepublic of Texas, which had won its independence from Mexico in 1836. Here the question was not prohibiting slavery from or allowing slavery into an area largely unoccupied by American citizens. It was whether to add to the Union an area where slavery was already legal, as had happened with the acquisition of Florida from Spain in 1819. More significant, the clash over Texas annexation took a decidedly partisan rather than sectional form. It did so largely because of a crucial intervening development between 1820 and 1844: the emergence of the nation's first truly mass-based two-party political system, a development that would critically affect all subsequent debates over slavery extension.The Missouri crisis debates took a nakedly sectional form because, by 1820, the previous system of party competition between Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans had collapsed and the Federalist Party had all but disappeared. Without an external foe to provoke internal party discipline and unity, Jeffersonians had fragmented along sectional lines over Missouri. In response, some exceptionally shrewd political leaders sought to revive interparty competition to preclude future sectional conflicts. Of these, New York's Martin Van Buren took the lead in constructing what became the Democratic Party behind Andrew Jackson's presidential candidacy in 1828. Called the "Little Magician" because of his political dexterity, Van Buren wrote a Virginia ally in 1827 that reviving a system of two-party competition between Jackson's friends and enemies would best neutralize "prejudices between the free & slaveholding states." "Party attachment," he declared, had once "furnished a complete antidote to sectional prejudices by producing counteracting feelings." The best way to restore that party loyalty was for northern and southern advocates of states' rights and strict constructionto combine behind Jackson against incumbent President John Quincy Adams, whose broad construal of national power struck states' rights men as anathema.Andrew Jackson's actions during his two terms as President between 1829 and 1837 went far toward reviving partisan attachments. To his avid supporters, Jackson's contempt for established social and economic elites, his determination to remove Indian tribes still east of the Mississippi River from their lands, and his war against the Bank of the United States made him seem a champion of the people against the privileged. His foes, however, regarded Jackson, or "Old Hickory," as his admirers called him, as a potential Caesar. His alleged dictatorial penchant for flouting Congress, the law, and the Constitution endangered the Republic. In 1834 these opponents began to combine under the banner of the new Whig Party. They chose the name to identify themselves with the Revolutionary patriots who had fought King George.Initially, only common opposition to "King Andrew" held Whigs together, and they failed to prevent the election of Van Buren as Jackson's successor in 1836. Within months of Van Buren's inauguration in March 1837, however, a sharp financial panic occurred that qui...

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Descrizione libro Hill Wang Inc.,U.S., United States, 2005. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. How partisan politics lead to the Civil War What brought about the Civil War? Leading historian Michael F. Holt convincingly offers a disturbingly contemporary answer: partisan politics. In this brilliant and succinct book, Holt distills a lifetime of scholarship to demonstrate that secession and war did not arise from two irreconcilable economies any more than from moral objections to slavery. Short-sighted politicians were to blame. Rarely looking beyond the next election, the two dominant political parties used the emotionally charged and largely chimerical issue of slavery s extension westward to pursue reelection and settle political scores, all the while inexorably dragging the nation towards disunion. Despite the majority opinion (held in both the North and South) that slavery could never flourish in the areas that sparked the most contention from 1845 to 1861-the Mexican Cession, Oregon, and Kansas-politicians in Washington, especially members of Congress, realized the partisan value of the issue and acted on short-term political calculations with minimal regard for sectional comity. War was the result. Including select speeches by Lincoln and others, The Fate of Their Country openly challenges us to rethink a seminal moment in America s history. Codice libro della libreria AAC9780809044399

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Descrizione libro Hill Wang Inc.,U.S., United States, 2005. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. How partisan politics lead to the Civil War What brought about the Civil War? Leading historian Michael F. Holt convincingly offers a disturbingly contemporary answer: partisan politics. In this brilliant and succinct book, Holt distills a lifetime of scholarship to demonstrate that secession and war did not arise from two irreconcilable economies any more than from moral objections to slavery. Short-sighted politicians were to blame. Rarely looking beyond the next election, the two dominant political parties used the emotionally charged and largely chimerical issue of slavery s extension westward to pursue reelection and settle political scores, all the while inexorably dragging the nation towards disunion. Despite the majority opinion (held in both the North and South) that slavery could never flourish in the areas that sparked the most contention from 1845 to 1861-the Mexican Cession, Oregon, and Kansas-politicians in Washington, especially members of Congress, realized the partisan value of the issue and acted on short-term political calculations with minimal regard for sectional comity. War was the result. Including select speeches by Lincoln and others, The Fate of Their Country openly challenges us to rethink a seminal moment in America s history. Codice libro della libreria AAC9780809044399

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Descrizione libro Hill Wang Inc.,U.S., United States, 2005. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. How partisan politics lead to the Civil War What brought about the Civil War? Leading historian Michael F. Holt convincingly offers a disturbingly contemporary answer: partisan politics. In this brilliant and succinct book, Holt distills a lifetime of scholarship to demonstrate that secession and war did not arise from two irreconcilable economies any more than from moral objections to slavery. Short-sighted politicians were to blame. Rarely looking beyond the next election, the two dominant political parties used the emotionally charged and largely chimerical issue of slavery s extension westward to pursue reelection and settle political scores, all the while inexorably dragging the nation towards disunion. Despite the majority opinion (held in both the North and South) that slavery could never flourish in the areas that sparked the most contention from 1845 to 1861-the Mexican Cession, Oregon, and Kansas-politicians in Washington, especially members of Congress, realized the partisan value of the issue and acted on short-term political calculations with minimal regard for sectional comity. War was the result. Including select speeches by Lincoln and others, The Fate of Their Country openly challenges us to rethink a seminal moment in America s history. Codice libro della libreria BZE9780809044399

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Descrizione libro Softcover. Condizione libro: New. How partisan politics lead to the Civil War What brought about the Civil War? Leading historian Michael F. Holt convincingly offers a disturbingly contemporary answer: partisan politics. In this brilliant and succinct book, Holt distills a lifetime of scholarship to demonstrate that secession and war did not arise from two irreconcilable economies any more than from moral objections to slavery. Short-sighted politicians were to blame. Rarely looking beyond the next election, the two dominant political parties used the emotionally charged and largely chimerical issue of slavery's extension westward to pursue reelection and settle political scores, all the while inexorably dragging the nation towards disunion.Despite the majority opinion (held in both the North and South) that slavery could never flourish in the areas that sparked the most contention from 1845 to 1861-the Mexican Cession, Oregon, and Kansas-politicians in Washington, especially members of Congress, realized the partisan value of the issue and acted on short-term political calculations with minimal regard for sectional comity. War was the result.Including select speeches by Lincoln and others, The Fate of Their Country openly challenges us to rethink a seminal moment in America's history. Codice libro della libreria 9800275

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Descrizione libro Hill and Wang 2016-12-09, New York, 2016. paperback. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria 9780809044399

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