The Road to Disunion, Volume 2: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861
William W. Freehling
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Here is history in the grand manner, a powerful narrative peopled with dozens of memorable portraits, telling this important story with skill and relish. Freehling highlights all the key moments on the road to war, including the violence in Bleeding Kansas, Preston Brooks's beating of Charles Sumner in the Senate chambers, the Dred Scott Decision, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, and much more. As Freehling shows, the election of Abraham Lincoln sparked a political crisis, but at first most Southerners took a cautious approach, willing to wait and see what Lincoln would do--especially, whether he would take any antagonistic measures against the South. But at this moment, the extreme fringe in the South took charge, first in South Carolina and Mississippi, but then throughout the lower South, sounding the drum roll for secession. Indeed, The Road to Disunion is the first book to fully document how this decided minority of Southern hotspurs took hold of the secessionist issue and, aided by a series of fortuitous events, drove the South out of the Union. Freehling provides compelling profiles of the leaders of this movement--many of them members of the South Carolina elite. Throughout the narrative, he evokes a world of fascinating characters and places as he captures the drama of one of America's most important--and least understood--stories. The long-awaited sequel to the award-winning Secessionists at Bay, which was hailed as "the most important history of the Old South ever published," this volume concludes a major contribution to our understanding of the Civil War. A compelling, vivid portrait of the final years of the antebellum South, The Road to Disunion will stand as an important history of its subject.
"This sure-to-be-lasting work--studded with pen portraits and consistently astute in its appraisal of the subtle cultural and geographic variations in the region--adds crucial layers to scholarship on the origins of America's bloodiest conflict."
--The Atlantic Monthly
"Splendid, painstaking account...and so a work of history reaches into the past to illuminate the present. It is light we need, and we owe Freehling a debt for shedding it."
"A masterful, dramatic, breathtakingly detailed narrative."
--The Baltimore Sun
Republicans and the Compendium.3 Two locales spawned these precipitators. Both regions trained the eye to see dangers that other Southerners initially thought came out of nowhere. The oldest, eastern South nurtured one group: Hammond, Upshur, Spratt, and Jacobs (plus, climactically, the leading South Carolina disunionists). All these reactionaries feared that egalitarian mobocracy would shatter aristocratic slavery. All conceived that the newer South’s white men’s egalitarianism led to myopic
the course South Carolina should pursue.”36 Except for Jefferson Davis’s “discouraging” message, Rhett claimed that the private answers encouraged South Carolina to strike, certain that other states would follow. With the supposedly sufficient clandestine pledges packed in their bags, the Rhetts sped to Columbia for the early November legislative session. Perhaps their secret mail would brace the state’s uneasy establishment to snatch the postelection moment away from Hammond, Orr, and Chesnut,
Carolina would not automatically return. So Secretary of the Treasury Howell Cobb sought to lure South Carolina with a delayed secession strategy. In early December, he joined fellow southern members of Buchanan’s cabinet and some dominant Lower South congressmen in seeking a South Carolina pause, followed by four states’ simultaneous secession on February 1. This southern national establishment initiative remains as little known and as revealing as the Charleston and Savannah Railroad
General Pezuela with José G. de la Concha, a less committed “Africanizationist.” Nor did prospects seem auspicious after U.S. officials seized the New York Cuban junta’s ship in early 1855. In one last grasp for hope, Quitman journeyed to Washington. There he sought to persuade President Pierce to suspend the Neutrality Laws. Pierce more persuasively handed Quitman some news about Cuban repressions awaiting freebooters. In April 1855, the most proslavery of filibusterers surrendered his command.
likely to listen to an antislavery demagogue, remained scarce in crusty South Carolina. South Carolina propertyless whites furthermore lacked other southern citizens’ eligibility for the people’s offices. In South Carolina, voters elected only legislators, who had to meet property qualifications and selected all other officials, who in turn had to meet higher property qualifications. Moreover, unwritten custom dictated that South Carolina legislative candidates seldom discussed policy with