Read The Fate of Their Country: Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War by Michael F. Holt Online


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 moralHow 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....

Title : The Fate of Their Country: Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War
Author :
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ISBN : 9780809044399
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 192 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

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

  • David R.
    2019-05-06 16:08

    A surprisingly robust account of the lead up to the War Between the States. Holt does a splendid job recounting and interpreting the political movements from the 1840s through 1860 and in so doing makes clear the explanations for the destruction of the Whigs and the decimation of the Democrats. There is one glaring weakness. Holt suggests in his introduction that he means for the work to serve as a warning to contemporary politicians, but never makes clear why, nor does he offer any explanation of how the conflict of the 19th century could have been avoided. Sorry, but "don't go purist" doesn't quite do it for me. That said, it's still well worth the read for serious students.

  • Hillary Borders
    2019-05-08 10:32

    Read for Jacksonian America.

  • David Nichols
    2019-04-26 11:18

    Michael Holt's stated purpose in writing this book – really a long essay with appended documents – is to remind modern Americans that the decisions their lawmakers make, be they ever so petty or venial, have much greater consequences than they realize, or than social historians are willing to admit. Taking as his subject the approach of the American Civil War in the 1840s and '50s, Holt observes that several of the most important causes of that war were legislative and political acts, whose authors frequently followed rather base motives. The Wilmot Proviso of 1846, which made the no-slavery-in-the-territories (or free soil) movement a Northern cause celebre, originated with Northern Democrats' desire to embarrass President James Polk after he reneged on his implied promise to annex all of the Oregon Country. Popular sovereignty, the controversial policy that allowed the citizen inhabitants of a territory to decide on the status of slavery there, advanced to legislative reality courtesy of an alliance between Democrats and Northern Whigs, the latter of whom wanted help opposing Whig President Zachary Taylor's unpopular political appointments. The fateful Kansas-Nebraska Act, which extended popular sovereignty into the previously free-soil central Plains and touched off a civil war in Kansas, was introduced by Senator Stephen Douglas to improve the value of his own land holdings, and won key support from a faction within the New York Democratic Party (the “Hardshell Hunkers”) who used it to bludgeon rival factions of NY Democrats. Finally, the new Republican Party kept flogging the slavery-in-the-territories issue, even after it became clear that Kansas would never become a slave state (says Holt), to rally voters behind them for the 1858 and 1860 elections.FATE OF THEIR COUNTRY is short, clearly written, and makes intriguing observations about some of the most famous signposts on the path to the American Civil War. However, it delves a bit too deeply into the arcana of 19th-century lawmaking for most lay readers, and I think it neglects one important question about the decision-makers who are Holt's principal subjects: were these venial and vindictive demogogues aware of the likely long-term consequences of their actions? Did the authors of the Wilmot Proviso know that it would win the enthusiastic approval of most Northern state legislatures, and become the rallying point for a new political movement? Did Stephen Douglas and the Hunkers understand that the Kansas-Nebraska Act was going to start a shooting war in Kansas and make a general civil war much likelier? Here I think the answer is probably “no.” Few of these politicos had anything to gain from a general dissolution of the Union, which would have deprived them of the resources (federal patronage appointments, railroad money, tariff protection) they needed to advance their constituents' interests and their own political fortunes. There were certainly politicians in the 1840s and '50s who wanted the United States to break up, but as Holt observes they were a minority. The people who ultimately started the Civil War were “the people,” or more precisely the Northern voters who took a chance on a Republican presidency in 1860 and the Southern white secessionists who took a chance on separate nationhood, even if that meant war. Politicians helped them focus their antipathies, but what ultimately caused the conflict, I think, was the two sections' realization that their labor systems and sustaining ideologies were incompatible, coupled with their peoples' belief that nationhood of one kind or another was something worth fighting over. Neither David Wilmot, nor Stephen Douglas, nor the Hardshell Hunkers realized this until it was too late.

  • David Withun
    2019-05-02 18:17

    The description on the back cover describes this book as "succinct." That is certainly an understatement. Barely achieving 150 pages even with its larger-than-average font and nearly double-spaced lines as well as a lengthy appendix, I read the entirety of this book in a single evening. While most readers probably won't finish it in a single night, I think most will find this a very quick read.That being said, I think most readers will also find this book fits the other descriptive word offered by the back cover as well: "brilliant." The author is not brief in his writing because he does not offer a thorough and well-written introduction to the subject or because of lack of material; instead, his brevity is due to his lack of chattiness and fillers. He gets to the point and sticks to the point throughout the book, and makes his point in the end: partisan politics led to the American Civil War.Also of value in this book is the appendix, which contains a number of important primary documents, including letters, speeches, and laws. I recommend this book to anyone interested in American history and especially in examining the events that led up to the Civil War.

  • Dan
    2019-05-20 12:13

    Finally got around to reading this short book, which was a nice overview of the politics of my old area of American history. Nothing here was too groundbreaking, though I thought he did a very solid job of explaining the importance of the short-lived Know Nothings, who really did have a major impact in the way things shook out in the mid-1850s.The major question, which this book really does not answer, is the counterfactual. Would a more responsible leadership class have prevented the war and resolved the slavery question peacefully? My instincts tell me no, and that few politicians would have done what was needed to keep the United States as one country while eliminating the evil of slavery. Thankfully, we had Lincoln.

  • William Kerrigan
    2019-04-22 17:21

    Well written, brief political history of the coming of the Civil War. One of the long debates among historians of the Civil War has been the question, "Was the Civil War an inevitable/irrepressible conflict, or might it have been avoided. Holt sides with those who see the war as avoidable, and lays the blame at the feet of a generation of incompetent and/or self-serving politicians. While he does an effective job noting the ways in which political leaders intentionally or unintentionally fanned the flames, I was not completely convinced by the argument. At best, I think, the actions of political leaders determined when, not whether the conflict would occur. But I remain open to additional argument on this interesting question.

  • Denise Kettering
    2019-04-23 16:28

    This book is an introduction only to the political issues and conflicts leading up to the Civil War. It does not attempt to be a comprehensive history. If you are interested in a more detailed treatment, read Holt's tome, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party. However, as a quick introduction, this book will acquaint readers with the key tensions that developed over time. Persons interested in 19th century American history will find this an interesting and relatively easy and quick read.

  • Sharon
    2019-05-05 11:11

    This was a bitch to read, mostly because it was packed with so much detail and this is an especially complex period in history. But Holt makes a powerful argument that the politics leading up to the war contributed to its outbreak.

  • Sean Chick
    2019-05-17 13:16

    Basically an advanced textbook on the slave controversy's most salient point: expansion. Holt rarely gives us a feel for the men involved (a failing of his and other "bloodless" historians) but the events are described fairly, accurately, and without undue verbiage.

  • Fred R
    2019-05-15 16:11

    An able summary of the period, but it would require a more serious and in-depth work to make a convincing argument for the author's theory (with which I have some sympathy) that the Civil War was more contingent, and less inevitable, than is commonly assumed.

  • Kat
    2019-05-14 15:33

    A little biased, but whateves.He used to teach at UVA.

  • Tommy
    2019-04-24 16:12

    Read more like a long essay than a book.