Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought on the Civil War

Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought on the Civil War

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by Douglas R. Egerton
     
 

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In early 1860, pundits across America confidently predicted the

election of Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas in the coming

presidential race. Douglas, after all, led the only party that bridged

North and South. But the Democrats would split over the issue ofslavery,

leading Southerners in the party to run their own

Overview

In early 1860, pundits across America confidently predicted the

election of Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas in the coming

presidential race. Douglas, after all, led the only party that bridged

North and South. But the Democrats would split over the issue ofslavery,

leading Southerners in the party to run their own presidential slate.

This opened the door for the upstart Republicans, exclusively Northern,

to steal the Oval Office. Dark horse Abraham Lincoln, not the first

choice even of his own party, won the presidency with a record-low 39.8

percent of the popular vote.

Acclaimed scholar Douglas R. Egerton

chronicles the contest with a historian's keen insight and a veteran

political reporter's eye for detail. Vividly, Egerton re-creates the

cascade of unforeseen events that confounded political bosses, set North

and South on the road to disunion, and put not Stephen Douglas, but his

greatest rival, in the White House.

We see Lincoln and his team

outmaneuvering more prominent Republicans, like New York's grandiose

William Seward, while Democratic conventions collapse in confusion. And

we see the gifted, flawed Douglas marking his finest hour in defeat, as

he strives, and fails, to save the Union. Year of Meteors

delivers a teeming cast of characters, minor and major, and a breakneck

narrative of this most momentous year in American history.

A brilliantly told prequel to Team of Rivals-the first history

in six decades of the wild presidential contest that put Abraham

Lincoln in the White House and brought the United States to the brink of

civil war.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The center could not hold amid a flood of passionate intensity recorded in this illuminating study of the 1860 election campaign. Historian Egerton (Death or Liberty) chronicles the year’s chaotic political wranglings, from the fractious party conventions that threw up four presidential contenders (two from minor parties) to the search for a congressional compromise to save the Union on the eve of Lincoln’s inauguration. An energized antislavery Republican Party supported Lincoln, unwittingly aided by cagey Southern radicals William Yancey and Robert Rhett, who, Egerton argues, conspired to split their own Democratic party in order to guarantee Lincoln’s victory and thus obtain a pretext for secession. In the doomed middle are Stephen Douglas and other moderates trying to preserve the nation with proslavery compromises that infuriated the North without appeasing the South. This is politics as high drama, and Egerton does it justice with his lucid, meticulous account of backroom deals, parliamentary brawling, and speeches whose rhetorical vitriol (one Republican convention speaker called Southerners “the whole vassalage of hell”) presaged violence. Also fine is Egerton’s analysis of the human motivations that tore the country apart. B&w illus. (Oct.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781608193516
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
10/04/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
1,013,091
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Douglas R. Egerton is Professor of History at LeMoyne College. He is the author of five books, including He Shall Go Out Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey, Gabriel's Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 & 1802, and Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America.

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