Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession / Edition 1

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Overview

When Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 prompted several Southern states to secede, the North was sharply divided over how to respond. In this groundbreaking and highly praised book, McClintock follows the decision-making process from bitter partisan rancor to consensus. From small towns to big cities and from state capitals to Washington, D.C., McClintock highlights individuals both powerful and obscure to demonstrate the ways ordinary citizens, party activists, state officials, and national leaders interacted to influence the Northern response to what was essentially a political crisis. He argues that although Northerners' reactions to Southern secession were understood and expressed through partisan newspapers and officials, the decision fell into the hands of an ever-smaller group of people until finally it was Lincoln alone who would choose whether the future of the American republic was to be determined through peace or by sword.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A balanced and erudite examination of the secession crisis from the all too neglected northern political angle. . . . [This] deeply researched study promotes fresh interpretations and insights that are deserving of a wide readership. The literature of the secession winter is appreciably richer for its existence. Highly recommended."--Civil War Books and Authors

"[McClintock's] analysis is exceptionally clear and well written, easily accessible to the layperson as well as the scholar; it stimulates thought about the nature of leadership and crisis management."--Choice

"McClintock transports the reader into the realm of antebellum American brinksmanship. . . . [A] satisfying account."--Civil War Times

"A substantial contribution. . . . A fine study that deserves to be read along with the work of Daniel Crofts, Kenneth Stampp, and David Potter."--Journal of Illinois History

"Indispensable for students of political history."--Georgia Historical Quarterly

"This fine analytic book anatomizes the currents of need at the time, the efforts of the many varied cultures to cope with them and the results."--Journal of American Cultures

"Ably researched and well-written."--Bowling Green Daily News

"McClintock's well-written and brilliantly analyzed account is a most important contribution to the study of the Civil War. . . . Illuminates the immediate origins. . . . Provides an intimate understanding of the antebellum political system."--The McCormick Messenger

"Well-written, shows appreciation for the complexity of northern sentiment during the secession crisis, and treats the crisis for the essentially political drama it was."--Civil War Book Review

"With deft strokes, McClintock describes the various competing concepts of union among Republicans, Democrats and others and discovers that in the end they agreed that representative democracy must oppose disunion or else self-government itself would be lost. . . . More than any other scholar, McClintock incisively shows that in the end the North and Lincoln simply could not let the South go. Highly recommended."--Library Journal, starred review

"McClintock's vision of the period in which events led to a new president's decision to go to war to preserve a union is to comprehend the war, its causes and effects, more deeply, more complexly."--The Advocate

"[In Lincoln and the Decision for War], McClintock usefully changes the usual focus from Lincoln to a northern public worried about the possibility of war but uncertain how to avert it. . . . Intended to redress an oversight in scholarship, McClintock's study should find favor with general readers interested in the Civil War's immediate origins."--Booklist

Library Journal

In his first book, McClintock insists, rightly, that in defining the secession crisis, the words of party leaders and of petitions, the press, and letters to the editors were of central import. How party leaders, especially Lincoln, understood and shaped the crisis created the constitutional and political framework for Northern responses. With deft strokes, McClintock describes the various competing concepts of union among Republicans, Democrats, and others and discovers that in the end they agreed that representative democracy must oppose disunion or else self-government itself would be lost. Lincoln used the power of patronage to secure his hand in managing the crisis and gained his own appreciation of the practicalities of not conceding a right to secession or, should war come, not firing the first shot, thus enabling Northerners to rally to a common love for the "union." More than any other scholar, McClintock incisively shows that in the end the North and Lincoln simply could not let the South go. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.


—Randall M. Miller
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807831885
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Series: Civil War America Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Russell McClintock earned his Ph.D. in U.S. history from Clark University and now teaches at St. John's High School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface
Introduction
Chapter 1. On the Brink of the Precipice: The Election of 1860
Chapter 2. I Would Not Endanger the Perpetuity of This Union: November
Chapter 3. Proportions of Which I Had but a Faint Conception: Early December
Chapter 4. The Issues of the Late Campaign Are Obsolete: Late December
Chapter 5. We Know Not What a Day or Two or an Hour May Bring Forth: December- January
Chapter 6. One's Opinions Change Fast in Revolutionary Times: January-February
Chapter 7. The Storm Is Weathered: January-February, Revisited
Chapter 8. A Calm Pervades the Political World: March
Chapter 9. Any Decision Would Be Preferable to This Uncertainty: March-April
Chapter 10. Everybody Now Is for the Union: April-May
Conclusion: Shall It Be Peace, or a Sword?
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Decisions in difficult times

    The normal historical point of view for November 1860 to April 1861 is Southern. Lincoln and the efforts to find a comprise are noted but the main story is what the South is doing. This book changes that by concentrating on Northern politics and reactions. Secession and all the maneuvering for and against it, take place off stage. Except for South Carolina, leaving the Union was a wrenching process. Many Southern states resisted secession until the very end. Kentucky was not able to make a choice and Maryland may not have been able to choose. Their stories are the subject of most histories about this period.
    What about the North? How did the political, personal and public opinion shape a response to the crisis? This book tells that story and what a story it is. The Democrats, badly damaged by the events 1860, try to blame everything on the Republicans. While they work to construct a comprise to save the Union one more time. The Republicans are not united nor are they sure how to proceed. A substantial part of the party sides with the Democrats in trying to find a comprise. Another large faction is ready to allow the South to leave the Union. Large numbers feel that secession is wrong but that the Federal government lacks the authority to force states back into the Union. Many question if it is desirable to use force to maintain the Union and if doing so would not destroy the Union. Added is the plea of Southern Unionists for something to stop secession.
    Lincoln, Douglas, Seward stride across these pages. Each man with multiple agendas that create and destroy alliances. Each man trying to lead his political party, maintain the Union and do what he feels is best for the nation. Shifting priorities, new developments, regional pride and abrupt changes of position make this a rollercoaster ride even if we know the story.
    Russell McClintock is an excellent author. He tells this story in a straightforward manner with minimum back tracking. This allows each event to be placed in the proper perspective of the time and almost makes the reader forget we know the story. While moving from Washington to Springfield to New York, we never lose the story line nor the reason for the trip.
    The decisions made during this time were difficult ones. The issues were complex and the correct response unclear. This book captures that and explains it to the reader in an informative and enjoyable way.

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