In the face of such realities, Smith argues that a conservative impulse was more than just a historical or nostalgic tendency; it was fundamental to charting a path to the future. At stake for Northerners was their conception of the Union as the vanguard in a global struggle between democracy and despotism, and their ability to navigate their freedoms through the stormy waters of modernity. As a result, the language of conservatism was peculiarly, and revealingly, prominent in Northern politics during these years. The story this book tells is of conservative people coming, in the end, to accept radical change.
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This brilliant, timely, and original book is a must-read for specialists and scholars of nineteenth-century U.S. History and American politics. Among his many contributions, Smith finds the sensible middle ground between conflicting interpretations of whether the Civil War was a war for abolition or for Union.Elizabeth R. Varon, University of Virginia