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The Fate of Their Country

Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War

Michael F. Holt

Hill and Wang

How partisan politics lead to the Civil War

What brought about the Civil War? Leading historian Michael F. Holt convincingly offers a disturbingly contemporary answer: partisan politics. In this brilliant and succinct book, Holt distills a lifetime of scholarship to demonstrate that secession and war did not arise from two irreconcilable economies any more than from moral objections to slavery. Short-sighted politicians were to blame. Rarely looking beyond the next election, the two dominant political parties used the emotionally charged and largely chimerical issue of slavery's extension westward to pursue reelection and settle political scores, all the while inexorably dragging the nation towards 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.

Including select speeches by Lincoln and others, The Fate of Their Country openly challenges us to rethink a seminal moment in America's history.

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The Fate of their Country
1PANDORA'S BOXIn the winter of 1860-61, as one Deep South state after another seceded in a furious reaction to the November election of the Republican Abraham Lincoln as President, congressmen frantically sought to devise a compromise that would soothe southern tempers, lure seceded states back into the Union, and avert civil war. The compromisers aimed to reassure Southerners that the almost exclusively northern and now-victorious Republican Party represented no threat to slavery and what were called Southern Rights. So hoping, both the House and the Senate passed
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REVIEWS

Praise for The Fate of Their Country

"Michael Holt’s fascinating study of partisan politics and the territorial slavery issue shows again why he is one of America’s finest pre-civil war historians." --William W. Freehling, author of The South vs. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War

"Michael Holt has distilled a lifetime of scholarship in this impressive account of America's greatest political crisis. There is no better introduction to the intricate yet explosive politics of the 1850s." --Harry Watson, author of Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America

"Michael Holt has written a superb account of the nation's decent into Civil War. A skilled political historian, he focuses on the decisions that political leaders made, their arousal of the most divisive passions, and their loss of control of a system present in American life." --Joel H. Silbey, author of Martin Van Buren and the Emergence of American Popular Politics

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Michael F. Holt

  • Michael F. Holt teaches at the University of Virginia and is author of numerous books, including The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party and The Political Crisis of the 1850s, and the co-author of The Civil War and Reconstruction (3rd edition).
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    The Fate of Their Country

    Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War

    Michael F. Holt

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    FROM THE PUBLISHER

    Hill and Wang

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