Lincoln, the Rise of the Republicans, and the Coming of the Civil War: A Reference Guide

Lincoln, the Rise of the Republicans, and the Coming of the Civil War: A Reference Guide

Lincoln, the Rise of the Republicans, and the Coming of the Civil War: A Reference Guide

Lincoln, the Rise of the Republicans, and the Coming of the Civil War: A Reference Guide

Synopsis

This book vividly depicts and clearly explains the events in the decades leading up to the Civil War that resulted from the controversy over expansion of slavery into the western territories. The chapters describe how this single issue drove a wedge through the country and spawned the creation of several new political parties, including the Republican Party; caused furious congressional debates; sparked violence in Kansas; increased sectional discord between North and South; and allowed Abraham Lincoln to rise from relative obscurity to become the first Republican president of the United States. The work also supplies two-dozen thumbnail sketches of the period's greatest statesmen and less-than-great presidents, including individuals such as James Buchanan, John C. Calhoun, Salmon P. Chase, Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas, and William Henry Seward.

Excerpt

The subject of this book is vast—far too vast for a single volume— and this necessarily means that one of several possible approaches must be decided upon at the cost of others. In examining the career of Lincoln and the rise of the anti-Nebraska and pro–free labor Republican fusion of the 1850s, I have chosen a “top-down” rather than “bottom-up” approach.

Both are valuable and offer essential insights into the period. The latter examines economic, cultural, social, religious, and literary factors that were fueled by and in turn influenced congressional debates about slavery. The former focuses on presidential policy, judicial decisions, and congressional legislation concerning slavery that responded to and exacerbated the growing sectional crisis of the 1840s and 1850s. Neither approach wholly excludes the other, but they do have different emphases. Accordingly, although I necessarily touch on social and cultural factors contributing to the rise of the Republicans, my concentration in this book is on Capitol Hill more than Main Street USA. For readers interested in exploring the period’s social history, several excellent sources are provided in the Annotated Bibliography.

Still, the distinction between top-down and bottom-up approaches ought not to be overplayed. In the three decades leading up to the Civil War, the political arena in many ways was a microcosm of the social and cultural ones. Rancor in Congress over the issue of slavery’s expansion into the western territories—rancor that included angry shouting matches between adversaries, drawn weapons on the floors of the U.S. House and Senate, and even the savage beating of one northern Senator by a . . .

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