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Lincoln and the Decision for War by Russell…
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Lincoln and the Decision for War (2008)

by Russell A. McClintock

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This is a political history of the northern states in the roughly six months from Lincoln's election to the bombardment of Fort Sumter. It is thorough and excruciatingly detailed. It is also repetitive and somewhat aimless. The political parties and popular opinion vacillated between aggressiveness against the seceding states, and a wish to accomodate them. There were polar extremes, and a wishy-washy middle. The author analyzes these phenomena month-by-month, almost day by day. The book is larded with quotations from contemporary journals, newspapers, and letters, which although supporting his analysis mostly reiterate the same thoughts and feelings from one week to the next to the next. I recommend this book for scholars who wish a microscopic look at the politics of this short but crucial period. I do not recommend it for the general reader interested in the history of the times. For such a reader this material could be satisfactorily covered in a fairly brief essay or chapter. The writing is clear and flexible. There are detailed notes and bibliography for those seeking substantiation of the author's opinions or pursuing further information. Note that this work only addresses the northern states. ( )
  anthonywillard | Sep 9, 2012 |
4800. Lincoln and the Decision for War The Northern Response to Secession, by Russell McClintock (read 15 Feb 2011) Though I have read books on Fort Sumter (W. A. Swanberg's First Blood (read 25 Nov 1990) and Maury Klein's Days of Defiance (read 5 Aug 2008)) this book deals with the events in the North after Lincoln's election and with maybe excessive detail relates the course of events from then till after Fort Sumter's fall. It shows Lincoln's masterful handling of the situation, even though it was a very frustrating time for him. The book is extremely well-researched and paints the situation in those crucial months excellently. It is solid history, not overly popularized, with extensive notes and a great bibliography. ( )
  Schmerguls | Feb 15, 2011 |
From our perspective the Civil War seems inevitable as soon as the southerns states declared themselves seceded from the Union. McClintock thesis is to examine from a Northern perspective of why war was necessary against this insurgency. There were other options such as a negotiated peace with concessions made on one or both sides or the Union could have just let those states go. Similarly, the Union could have acted preemptively to suppress succession movements or gone to war immediately after secession, but did not. McClintlock paints the picture of the political scene in the North in the time between Lincoln's nomination and the first shots fired at Fort Sumter. First, the Republican party itself at that time was a loose coalition of former whigs, Free Soilers and more radical antislavery elements that Lincoln had his hands full trying to keep them together. Then there were Northern Democrats like Stephen Douglass who had their own ideas of how the crisis should be handled. Broad opinion across the North ranged from conciliatory to retributional. And Lincoln himself couldn't do much about it during the time between his election and inauguration. The Buchanan administration had their own problems and weren't up to the task. Lincoln would bumble and hesitate and try every option to keep the Union against war and eventually would make the decisions that would help the inevitable war begin in a way that would unite the Union behind the cause. Despite Lincoln's name in the title this book focuses on a much wider canvas of political figures and ideas of the time. It can be a bit dry at time but it tackles some interesting questions with fascinating results. ( )
  Othemts | Mar 5, 2010 |
Interesting but somewhat dry (my opinion) account of how the north reacted to all the succession fever that swept the south in the months following Lincoln's election. To a Civil War scholar, this is loaded with great information about what was going on in DC and the North before Lincoln's inaugural and up to the firing on Fort Sumter. To the Lincoln scholar, there really is not a whole lot to recommend it... Lincoln is rarely mentioned until nearly 200 pages in (out of 280 non-index pages). That is not a criticism, just a fact.
I did learn a few things... what was particularly interesting was how (and why) the north was split between conciliators and hard-liners in late 1860 and early 1861. There is a lot of that. Bottom-line: Interesting if you want to learn all you can about northern attitudes prior to the outbreak of war. If you want to learn something about Lincoln, this could be skipped. ( )
  estamm | Aug 20, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807831883, Hardcover)

When Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 prompted several Southern states to secede, the North was sharply divided over how to respond. In this groundbreaking book, the first major study in over fifty years of how the North handled the secession crisis, Russell McClintock follows the decision-making process from bitter partisan rancor to consensus.

From small towns to big cities and from state capitals to Washington, D.C., McClintock highlights individuals both powerful and obscure to demonstrate the ways ordinary citizens, party activists, state officials, and national leaders interacted to influence the Northern response to what was essentially a political crisis. He argues that although Northerners' reactions to Southern secession were understood and expressed through partisan newspapers and officials, the decision fell into the hands of an ever-smaller handful of people until finally it was Abraham Lincoln alone who would choose whether the future of the American republic was to be determined through peace or a sword.

Lincoln and the Decision for War illuminates the immediate origins of the Civil War, demonstrating that Northern thought evolved quite significantly as the crisis unfolded. It also provides an intimate understanding of the antebellum political system as well as Lincoln's political acuity in his early presidential career.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:00 -0400)

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