Who Freed the Slaves?: The Fight over the Thirteenth Amendment

University of Chicago Press
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In the popular imagination, slavery in the United States ended with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The Proclamation may have been limited—freeing only slaves within Confederate states who were able to make their way to Union lines—but it is nonetheless generally seen as the key moment, with Lincoln’s leadership setting into motion a train of inevitable events that culminated in the passage of an outright ban: the Thirteenth Amendment.
 
The real story, however, is much more complicated—and dramatic—than that. With Who Freed the Slaves?, distinguished historian Leonard L. Richards tells the little-known story of the battle over the Thirteenth Amendment, and of James Ashley, the unsung Ohio congressman who proposed the amendment and steered it to passage. Taking readers to the floor of Congress and the back rooms where deals were made, Richards brings to life the messy process of legislation—a process made all the more complicated by the bloody war and the deep-rooted fear of black emancipation. We watch as Ashley proposes, fine-tunes, and pushes the amendment even as Lincoln drags his feet, only coming aboard and providing crucial support at the last minute. Even as emancipation became the law of the land, Richards shows, its opponents were already regrouping, beginning what would become a decades-long—and largely successful—fight to limit the amendment’s impact.
 
Who Freed the Slaves? is a masterwork of American history, presenting a surprising, nuanced portrayal of a crucial moment for the nation, one whose effects are still being felt today.
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About the author

Leonard L. Richards is the author of seven books, including Shays’ Rebellion: The American Revolution’s Final Battle and, most recently, The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Apr 6, 2015
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Pages
322
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ISBN
9780226208947
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Language
English
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Genres
History / General
History / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
Law / Constitutional
Political Science / American Government / Legislative Branch
Political Science / History & Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Leonard L. Richards
During the bitter winter of 1786-87, Daniel Shays, a modest farmer and Revolutionary War veteran, and his compatriot Luke Day led an unsuccessful armed rebellion against the state of Massachusetts. Their desperate struggle was fueled by the injustice of a regressive tax system and a conservative state government that seemed no better than British colonial rule. But despite the immediate failure of this local call-to-arms in the Massachusetts countryside, the event fundamentally altered the course of American history. Shays and his army of four thousand rebels so shocked the young nation's governing elite—even drawing the retired General George Washington back into the service of his country—that ultimately the Articles of Confederation were discarded in favor of a new constitution, the very document that has guided the nation for more than two hundred years, and brought closure to the American Revolution.

The importance of Shays's Rebellion has never been fully appreciated, chiefly because Shays and his followers have always been viewed as a small group of poor farmers and debtors protesting local civil authority. In Shays's Rebellion: The American Revolution's Final Battle, Leonard Richards reveals that this perception is misleading, that the rebellion was much more widespread than previously thought, and that the participants and their supporters actually represented whole communities—the wealthy and the poor, the influential and the weak, even members of some of the best Massachusetts families.

Through careful examination of contemporary records, including a long-neglected but invaluable list of the participants, Richards provides a clear picture of the insurgency, capturing the spirit of the rebellion, the reasons for the revolt, and its long-term impact on the participants, the state of Massachusetts, and the nation as a whole. Shays's Rebellion, though seemingly a local affair, was the revolution that gave rise to modern American democracy.

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
Leonard L. Richards
During the bitter winter of 1786-87, Daniel Shays, a modest farmer and Revolutionary War veteran, and his compatriot Luke Day led an unsuccessful armed rebellion against the state of Massachusetts. Their desperate struggle was fueled by the injustice of a regressive tax system and a conservative state government that seemed no better than British colonial rule. But despite the immediate failure of this local call-to-arms in the Massachusetts countryside, the event fundamentally altered the course of American history. Shays and his army of four thousand rebels so shocked the young nation's governing elite—even drawing the retired General George Washington back into the service of his country—that ultimately the Articles of Confederation were discarded in favor of a new constitution, the very document that has guided the nation for more than two hundred years, and brought closure to the American Revolution.

The importance of Shays's Rebellion has never been fully appreciated, chiefly because Shays and his followers have always been viewed as a small group of poor farmers and debtors protesting local civil authority. In Shays's Rebellion: The American Revolution's Final Battle, Leonard Richards reveals that this perception is misleading, that the rebellion was much more widespread than previously thought, and that the participants and their supporters actually represented whole communities—the wealthy and the poor, the influential and the weak, even members of some of the best Massachusetts families.

Through careful examination of contemporary records, including a long-neglected but invaluable list of the participants, Richards provides a clear picture of the insurgency, capturing the spirit of the rebellion, the reasons for the revolt, and its long-term impact on the participants, the state of Massachusetts, and the nation as a whole. Shays's Rebellion, though seemingly a local affair, was the revolution that gave rise to modern American democracy.

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