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Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854 by William…

Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854 (1990)

by William W. Freehling

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I consider this a well written book that deals with an issue of American politics in a new way. The author looks in unusual places for significant factors in the growth of succession. He certainly provided me with some new ideas to think about. Freehling places great emphasis on the border south, the middle south and the deep south as separate regions that reacted differently to slavery. He begins with an interesting discussion of the death of slavery in the North. According to him there were slaves in New York and New Jersey until the 1830's.
Freehling focuses on the low country South Carolinians as the part of the south that never joined the Union and pushed secession. He has many interesting portrayals of the people involved who present a wide ranging cast of characters. The men behind secession included everyone from intellectuals to low country sugar growers who all saw the Southern way of life as alien to Northern culture.
As he describes the lessening of the ties between the sections you can hear the bands that hold the nation fly apart. Very specific factors, such as the death of the Whig party are chronicled as secession comes closer. One item, the Kansas-Nebraska Act is not given the prominence of other authors. Mr. Freehling draws his own picture of the national disintegration.
I recommend the book highly. It is written very intelligently and once you forget that this isn't the story you usually hear several good points are made. Some knowledge of the era is useful. My favorite on the breaking up has always been The Coming Fury by Bruce Catton. ( )
3 vote wildbill | Jun 27, 2008 |
3736. The Road to Disunion Volume I: Secessionists at Bay 1776-1854, by William W. Freehling (read 26 Apr 2003) I have done a lot reading in pre-Civil War U.S. history, including the masterpieceful The Impending Crisis 1848-1861, by David M. Potter (read 15 May 1976), and thought this book would be good to read since it has been a while since I have read in the field. Freehling is not a lucid writer and the first 100 pages or so of this were hard to read, but the book gets steadily better and it covers the exciting and momentous events in the 1830s to 1854 period very well. Great subject matter, not so great writing. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Nov 14, 2007 |
A very good, yet very oddly written book. Certain topics relating to US history are examined as if under a microscope with mind-numbing detail, yet other seemingly important topics are just about ignored. As in, it would be just about impossible from this book to realize that the USA fought a war with Mexico in the 1840s or that one of the chief complaints of Southerners was Northern inspired tariffs. But what it does look at, it does a very good job with. The material on the demographics of South Carolina and other "black belts" alone makes this one worth the price of admission. I will go so far as to say that this one does not stand alone, nor that it is really for the general reader looking to plug some gaps in their knowledge of US history. ( )
1 vote worldsedge | May 6, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195058143, Hardcover)

Far from a monolithic block of diehard slave states, the South in the eight decades before the Civil War was, in William Freehling's words, "a world so lushly various as to be a storyteller's dream." It was a world where Deep South cotton planters clashed with South Carolina rice growers, where the egalitarian spirit sweeping the North seeped down through border states already uncertain about slavery, where even sections of the same state (for instance, coastal and mountain Virginia) divided bitterly on key issues. It was the world of Jefferson Davis, John C. Calhoun, Andrew Jackson, and Thomas Jefferson, and also of Gullah Jack, Nat Turner, and Frederick Douglass.
Now, in the first volume of his long awaited, monumental study of the South's road to disunion, historian William Freehling offers a sweeping political and social history of the antebellum South from 1776 to 1854. All the dramatic events leading to secession are here: the Missouri Compromise, the Nullification Controversy, the Gag Rule ("the Pearl Harbor of the slavery controversy"), the Annexation of Texas, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Freehling vividly recounts each crisis, illuminating complex issues and sketching colorful portraits of major figures. Along the way, he reveals the surprising extent to which slavery influenced national politics before 1850, and he provides important reinterpretations of American republicanism, Jeffersonian states' rights, Jacksonian democracy, and the causes of the American Civil War.
But for all Freehling's brilliant insight into American antebellum politics, Secessionists at Bay is at bottom the saga of the rich social tapestry of the pre-war South. He takes us to old Charleston, Natchez, and Nashville, to the big house of a typical plantation, and we feel anew the tensions between the slaveowner and his family, the poor whites and the planters, the established South and the newer South, and especially between the slave and his master, "Cuffee" and "Massa." Freehling brings the Old South back to life in all its color, cruelty, and diversity. It is a memorable portrait, certain to be a key analysis of this crucial era in American history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:59 -0400)

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