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

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 39%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $4.33
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 79%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (17) from $4.33   
  • New (7) from $13.54   
  • Used (10) from $4.33   


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, Russell 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.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
In telling the story so thoughtfully and with such attention to detail, this fine piece of scholarship certainly deserves to take its place alongside the familiar historiographical landmarks.—American Historical Review

It is the rare reader who will not find this an eminently satisfactory book. McClintock has consulted an impressive range of primary sources to construct his narrative, illustrate his points, and support his analysis, and [he] demonstrates a solid grasp of secondary literature.—Journal of Illinois History

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

[This] work should . . . be the beginning of a reappraisal.—The Journal of American History

[A] highly readable, thoroughly researched, and welcome narrative. . . . McClintock's book has set a high standard—indeed, a Lincolnian one.—Civil War History

Reader[s] will revel in McClintock's attention to detail and presentation of his interpretation and information in this rich narrative. His ability to immerse the reader within the politics and personalities of the nineteenth century is skillful indeed. . . . Should be the one book that scholars and interested readers consult on the matter of Northern attitudes towards secession at the brink of the Civil War.—Virginia Libraries

Though McClintock's topic may not be new, his conclusions are. Lincoln and the Decision for War is an important contribution to our understanding of the causes of the American Civil War.—Military History of the West

A fine study.—Sean Wilentz, The New Republic

Tells this story in a straightforward manner with minimum back tracking. . . . Informative and enjoyable.— James Durney, independent Book Reviewer

Those interested in better understanding Lincoln's role in the crucial period between his election and the call for volunteers in mid-April 1861 would do well to consult Russell McClintock's new book. . . . Does a fabulous job of uncovering the sense of contingency that existed throughout the nation in the early months.—Louisiana History

Indispensable for students of political history.—Georgia Historical Quarterly

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

A worthy addition to Civil War scholarship.—H-Net Reviews

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
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807871546
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2010
  • Series: Civil War America Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (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.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


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-
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?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)