What really brought about the Civil War? Leading historian Michael F. Holt convincingly offers a disturbingly contemporary answer: partisan politics. In this brilliant, original, and succinct study, Holt demonstrates that secession and war did not arise from two irreconcilable economies any more than from moral objections to slavery: shortsighted politicians were to blame. Rarely looking beyond the next election, the dominant political parties used the emotionally charged and largely chimerical issue of slavery's extension westward to pursue the election of their candidates and settle political scores, all the while inexorably dragging the nation toward disunion.
Despite the majority opinion (held in both the North and South) that slavery could never flourish in the areas that sparked the most contention from 1845 to 1861—the Mexican Cession, Oregon, and Kansas—politicians in Washington, especially members of Congress, realized the partisan value of the issue and acted on short-term political calculations with minimal regard for sectional comity. War was the result.
Complete with a brief appendix of excerpted writings by Lincoln and others, The Fate of Their Country openly challenges us to rethink a seminal moment in America's history.