Causes of the Civil War – 7: Political Discord, Slavery, and the Fight for Political Control
Slave sale poster

Political discord represents yet another candidate for the war’s cause. Late historian William E. Gienapp (pictured right) suggests that “however much social and economic developments fueled the sectional conflict, the coming of the Civil War must be explained ultimately in political terms, for the outbreak of war in April 1861 represented the complete breakdown of the American political system. As such, the Civil War constituted the greatest single failure of American democracy.”[i]

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Causes of the American Civil War – 3: The Antebellum South
Monticello

The Southern man aspired to a lifestyle that had, as utopian model of success, the English country farmer. Jeffersonian agrarianism was valued over Hamiltonian industrialization. To achieve success, cheap labor in the form of slavery was embraced. The capital of the south was invested in slaves even after modernized farming equipment became available. More land […]

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Eric Foner Lectures on Lincoln and Slavery

Anyone studying 19th century American history will likely have read Eric Foner. WGBH Forum Network provides an audio video lecture Foner provided on Lincoln and slavery in November of 2008 at The Boston Athenaem. It provides some interesting insights on Lincoln’s views on slavery and the Civil War. You can access it here. Eric Foner […]

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Freeaudio.com Carries the Works of Douglass, Lincoln, and Others

In this world of hustle and bustle, having books read to me is a wonderful luxury. Today I found a terrific site, Freeaudio.org, that takes largely public domain works and provides them free to the public in audio form. This trumps my Kindle 2 text-to-speech feature in that real human readers are easier to listen […]

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The Sacking of Lawrence, May 21, 1856 – 4

The actual number of free-state settlers that made it to Kansas was far more modest than the expectations set in the press but the perception was in the public psyche. When the Kansas Territory’s first governor, Andrew Reeder, called for elections of the Kansas Territorial Legislature on March 30, 1855, pro-slavery Missourians crossed the border […]

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The Sacking of Lawrence, May 21, 1856 – 1

One of the most surprising things I learned from reading Michael F. Holt’s exceptional book, The Political Crisis of the 1850’s, was that the “Sacking of Lawrence” was not the murderous affair I had always thought it was. It led to further research on my part and the realization that I was guilty of combining […]

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The Compromise of 1850: Effective Political Action or Forecast of Disaster?

Thanks to everyone that has participated in the Compromise of 1850 Poll going on here. If you haven’t voted, please do! To expand the discussion, let me share my perspective on the question I raised, whether The Compromise of 1850 was an effective political action or a forecast of disaster. Michael F. Holt makes an […]

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New Acquisition – Fredrerick Douglass Autobiographies

My study of Antebellum America this term has revealed a significant gap in my library. That has been filled with the arrival this week of Frederick Douglass: Autobiographies. I purchased The Library of America edition. I like the look and feel. It includes three works: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave […]

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Fugitive Slave Law Backfires

Interesting reading from Bruce Levine’s text, Half Slave and Half Free : The Roots of Civil War, this evening. He contends that the fugitive slave law that was a part of the Compromise of 1850 actually did more damage to slavery’s cause than good. So long as slavery seemed geographically contained and remote, free-state residents […]

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New! The Lincoln-Douglas Debates Audiobook

The good folks at BBC Audiobooks America have sent me a review copy of their new audiobook, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates. This production is particularly apropos because we have arrived at the 150th anniversary of these debates. The timing couldn’t be better for me because I am studying Antebellum America this term. I put this 16 […]

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On Free Soilers – 2

A key reason that “Free Soilers” feared the South, and particularly slaveholders, was because of the political power they wielded in the national parties and government. This resentment found as “epithet the term ‘Slave Power,’ which Northern politicians of both parties used to denounce the political pretensions of slaveholders. Prohibiting slavery from the territories was […]

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On Free Soilers – 1

David M. Potter describes “Free Soilers” as “antislavery dissenters within both old parties.”(1) Michael F. Holt provides an excellent profile of the Northerners who made up the “Free Soil” Party in his description of the delegates, both elected and self-appointed, who attended the first convention of the party in Buffalo. “Uniformly zealous, they were a […]

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On Slavery 9 – Partus Sequitur Ventrem

When considering slaves, Colonial Virginians abandoned the English tradition of partus sequitur patrem (one’s status was determined by the disposition of their father) in favor of the Roman principle of partus sequitur ventrem, a “child inherits the condition of the mother.” (1) Thus offspring of slave women were the property of their mother’s owner whether […]

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