America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink

America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink

by Kenneth M. Stampp


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It was a year packed with unsettling events. The Panic of 1857 closed every bank in New York City, ruined thousands of businesses, and caused widespread unemployment among industrial workers. The Mormons in Utah Territory threatened rebellion when federal troops approached with a non-Mormon governor to replace Brigham Young. The Supreme Court outraged northern Republicans and abolitionists with the Dred Scott decision ("a breathtaking example of judicial activism"). And when a proslavery minority in Kansas Territory tried to foist a proslavery constitution on a large antislavery majority, President Buchanan reneged on a crucial commitment and supported the minority, a disastrous miscalculation which ultimately split the Democratic party in two.
In America in 1857, eminent American historian Kenneth Stampp offers a sweeping narrative of this eventful year, covering all the major crises while providing readers with a vivid portrait of America at mid-century. Stampp gives us a fascinating account of the attempt by William Walker and his band of filibusters to conquer Nicaragua and make it a slave state, of crime and corruption, and of street riots by urban gangs such as New York's Dead Rabbits and Bowery Boys and Baltimore's Plug Uglies and Blood Tubs. But the focus continually returns to Kansas. He examines the outrageous political frauds perpetrated by proslavery Kansans, Buchanan's calamitous response and Stephen Douglas's break with the President (a rare event in American politics, a major party leader repudiating the president he helped elect), and the whirl of congressional votes and dramatic debates that led to a settlement humiliating to Buchanan—and devastating to the Democrats.
1857 marked a turning point, at which sectional conflict spun out of control and the country moved rapidly toward the final violent resolution in the Civil War. Stampp's intensely focused look at this pivotal year illuminates the forces at work and the mood of the nation as it plummeted toward disaster.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195074819
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 04/28/1992
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 1,200,720
Product dimensions: 6.13(w) x 9.19(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Kenneth M. Stampp is Morrison Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. A past president of the Organization of American Historians, a recipient of an American Historical Association Award for Scholarly Distinction, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the author of several seminal works in American history, including The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South and The Imperiled Union.

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America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
baggette on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
MrStamp is an eminent scholar, no doubt, but this book has nothing that encourages the reader to continue. The is no meter; no pace. He starts in December 1856 and circles around the whole previous 5 to 15 years. I can't say that I enjoyed this book, learned anything new, or will remember it for anything but a very tedious read. Sorry I can't say anything more positive, but he really dashed my hopes and tried my patience.