Academic journal article Military Review

Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession

Academic journal article Military Review

Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession

Article excerpt

LINCOLN AND THE DECISION FOR WAR: The Northern Response to Secession, Russell McClintock, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2008, 400 pages, $35.00.

Russell McClintock's book examines why Northerners opposed slavery's westward expansion so strongly that they risked disunion rather than compromise on it, and why almost all Northerners opposed disunion so strongly they went to war to prevent it. McClintock shows that a number of dynamics were in play between Lincoln's election and the firing on Fort Sumter. First, Lincoln, the de facto leader of the six-year old Republican party, had to make sure that his policy decisions did not destroy the fledgling party, just when it was about to assume power. Lincoln felt that any compromise on the expansion of slavery into the territories would likely tear the new party apart. Second, politics at the state level, especially in Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts, influenced the actions of the leaders at the Federal level. Third, during the secession winter of 1860-1861, William Seward engaged in a careful and increasingly desperate political dance with the president-elect to control federal policy and to try to find a compromise solution. Seward believed a conciliatory policy would keep the Upper South in the Union and cause the Deep South to return to the fold. …

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