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The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 by David M.…
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The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (original 1976; edition 1977)

by David M. Potter

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296637,920 (4.38)40
Member:wildbill
Title:The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861
Authors:David M. Potter
Info:Harper Perennial (1977), Paperback, 672 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites, read, insightful books
Rating:****1/2
Tags:history, ante-bellum America

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The Impending Crisis : America Before the Civil War : 1848-1861 by David M. Potter (1976)

Recently added bybellaluna, private library, ericssaulnier, SigmundFraud, ahuntca, ASMSALibrary
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» See also 40 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This is a reread of one of my favorite books. This is an excellent narrative history of the political events leading up to the Civil War. I consider it the best book on how the Civil War started that I have read. It is a thick 600 pages and took me a couple of weeks to read. The focus is on the events more than the personalities. If any character stands out it is Stephen Douglas. His decision to go South at the end of the 1860 presidential campaign to try to save the Union is lauded as an act of courage. President Buchanan is prominent for his poor handling of the Kansas crisis and the Lecompton Constitution.
Each chapter is a detailed analysis of the events that led to secession and Civil War. The emphasis is on the details. For instance the decision to attack Fort Sumter by the Confederate government took place on on April 9, 1861, four years to the day before the surrender at Appomattox. After setting out the choices available based upon the circumstances the author then discusses the decisions that were made and why.
The analysis of the alternatives and choices made lift this book a cut above the standard narrative history. It is not often that I come across this level of scholarship. Another plus is the author's discussion of how many of the events have been dealt with by other historians. I read a lot of the textual footnotes which contain a lot of the most interesting details.
The secondary sources are a little dated but the heavy reliance on primary sources gives me confidence in the author's scholarship.
The author conveyed a very clear understanding of the events and why the actors made the choices they did. In order to fully enjoy the book I think it would be important to have some knowledge of the topic. I enjoyed the book very much and learned a lot more the second time around. ( )
  wildbill | Dec 31, 2012 |
Everything you could possibly want to know about why there was an American Civil War. Gives me a whole different view of the war. Highly recommended. ( )
  sgtbigg | May 27, 2011 |
Americans have heard much about the Civil War and how it started over slavery and the attack at Fort Sumter but after finishing this book, the reader realizes that the Civil War was about so much more.

In this book, which spans the era of time from 1848 when Zachary Taylor was elected President after the Mexican American War to the first shots at Fort Sumter in 1861, the deluge of information concerning the issues of the time can often be overwhelming. The Southerners were concerned about the apparent efforts of the Northerners to prevent them from continuing their society in the manner of the day and the Northerners were trying to prevent the spread of slavery into the territories.

The reason that the book starts with the time period after the Mexican American war is blatantly obvious because of the additional territories acquired in the settlement from Mexico. The political arenas of this era were filled with Northern Abolitionists, Southern Secessionists, and all manner in-between. As the political battles raged, "the South became increasingly a closed society, distrustful of isms from outside and unsympathetic toward dissenters".

Yet the decisions made by the states to attempt secession were not simply on the spur of the moment as sometimes implied by historians, but was discussed and threatened on numerous occasions for several decades. After Lincoln's election 120 days elapsed before his inauguration and during that time, the southern states held numerous conventions to determine their "plan of attack" to the situation. In the time that it took Lincoln to get from Illinois to Washington, the Southerners had held their conventions and created a provisional government and elected Jefferson Davis as their President.

What was the Union doing you ask? President Buchanan was trying to be peacemaker (unsuccessfully) and Lincoln was waiting for his "power". As President-Elect he had none. After taking office, Lincoln had to deal with the various factions and determine his stance and political reactions to the Southern states that had "seceded".

The crisis had arrived and had to be dealt with and Lincoln set about to do just that. His policy was that the Union needed to be preserved at any cost and thus civil war was thrust upon a nation.

So much information to absorb but I'm hoping that this background will help when I move forward from this time period to the actual war itself.

I knew that there were a lot issues related to the Civil War and so I asked someone who I thought was very knowledgeable about the era what book to read. JOYCEPA of the ClubRead group told me that this was one of the best and I want to thank her for the recommendation. ( )
1 vote cyderry | Jun 6, 2010 |
The prose is a little dense at times, and the author uses so many points to back up his arguments that I sometimes forget what the original argument was, but excellent overall. Potter really does an excellent job of showing how the eventuality of secession was actually a coalescing of myriad factors, and not just slavery vs. abolition. ( )
  5hrdrive | Nov 23, 2009 |
1392 The Impending Crisis 1848-1861, by David M. Potter Completed by Don E. Fehrenbacher (read 15 May 1976) (Book of the Year) (Pulitzer History prize in 1977) I really doubt that I will read many more interesting books than this was. I was simply enthralled, and also amazed that I should find so fresh a volume on a period in history I've long felt I knew well. But I found much that was new or had been forgotten. The last paragraph of this very great book: "Exactly four years after the surrender--that is, on April 14, 1865--Robert Anderson returned to raise his old flag over Fort Sumter. By then, the sounds of battle had given way to the stillness of Appomattox and the issues that inflamed the antebellum years had been settled. Slavery was dead; secession was dead; and 600,000 men were dead. That was the basic balance sheet of the national conflict." I listed eleven books from the bibliography which I wanted to read. I have since read only six of them, so far, but I am not dead yet so who knows whether I will read more of them ... ( )
  Schmerguls | Feb 7, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David M. Potterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fehrenbacher, Don E.Editorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Examines the problems of slavery, expansion, and sectionalism between 1848 and 1861.

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