Lincoln's Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era

University of Virginia Press
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The Civil War forced America finally to confront the contradiction between its founding values and human slavery. At the center of this historic confrontation was Abraham Lincoln. By the time this Illinois politician had risen to the office of president, the dilemma of slavery had expanded to the question of all African Americans’ future. In this fascinating new book Paul Escott considers the evolution of the president’s thoughts on race in relation to three other, powerful--and often conflicting--voices.

Lincoln’s fellow Republicans Charles Sumner and Montgomery Blair played crucial roles in the shaping of their party. While both Sumner and Blair were opposed to slavery, their motivations reflected profoundly different approaches to the issue. Blair’s antislavery stance stemmed from a racist dedication to remove African Americans from the country altogether. Sumner, in contrast, opposed slavery as a crusader for racial equality and a passionate abolitionist. Lincoln maintained close personal relationships with both men as he wrestled with the slavery question. In addition to these antislavery voices, Escott also weaves into his narrative the other extreme, of which Lincoln was politically aware: the virulent racism and hierarchical values that motivated not only the Confederates but surprisingly many Northerners and which were embodied by the president’s eventual assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

Sumner, Blair, and violent racists like Booth each represent forces with which Lincoln had to contend as he presided over a brutal civil war and faced the issues of slavery and equality lying at its root. Other books and films have provided glimpses of the atmosphere in which the president created his Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln’s Dilemma evokes more fully and brings to life the men Lincoln worked with, and against, as he moved racial equality forward.

A Nation Divided: Studies in the Civil War Era

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About the author

Paul D. Escott is Reynolds Professor of History at Wake Forest University and the author of Slavery Remembered: A Record of Twentieth-Century Slave Narratives, winner of the Mayflower Cup, and "What Shall We Do with the Negro?": Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America (Virginia).

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Virginia Press
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Published on
Aug 29, 2014
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780813936208
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Although North Carolina was a "home front" state rather than a battlefield state for most of the Civil War, it was heavily involved in the Confederate war effort and experienced many conflicts as a result. North Carolinians were divided over the issue of secession, and changes in race and gender relations brought new controversy. Blacks fought for freedom, women sought greater independence, and their aspirations for change stimulated fierce resistance from more privileged groups. Republicans and Democrats fought over power during Reconstruction and for decades thereafter disagreed over the meaning of the war and Reconstruction.

With contributions by well-known historians as well as talented younger scholars, this volume offers new insights into all the key issues of the Civil War era that played out in pronounced ways in the Tar Heel State. In nine essays composed specifically for this volume, contributors address themes such as ambivalent whites, freed blacks, the political establishment, racial hopes and fears, postwar ideology, and North Carolina women. These issues of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras were so powerful that they continue to agitate North Carolinians today.

Contributors:
David Brown, Manchester University
Judkin Browning, Appalachian State University
Laura F. Edwards, Duke University
Paul D. Escott, Wake Forest University
John C. Inscoe, University of Georgia
Chandra Manning, Georgetown University
Barton A. Myers, University of Georgia
Steven E. Nash, University of Georgia
Paul Yandle, West Virginia University
Karin Zipf, East Carolina University



Winner of the Lincoln Prize

Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Abraham Lincoln's political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president.

On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry.

Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery was leading inexorably to secession and civil war. That Lincoln succeeded, Goodwin demonstrates, was the result of a character that had been forged by experiences that raised him above his more privileged and accomplished rivals. He won because he possessed an extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires.

It was this capacity that enabled Lincoln as president to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.

We view the long, horrifying struggle from the vantage of the White House as Lincoln copes with incompetent generals, hostile congressmen, and his raucous cabinet. He overcomes these obstacles by winning the respect of his former competitors, and in the case of Seward, finds a loyal and crucial friend to see him through.

This brilliant multiple biography is centered on Lincoln's mastery of men and how it shaped the most significant presidency in the nation's history.
'A nation without a national government is an awful spectacle.' In the winter of 1787-8 a series of eighty-five essays appeared in the New York press; the purpose of the essays was to persuade the citizens of New York State to ratify the Constitution of the United States. The three authors - Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay - were respectively the first Secretary of the Treasury, the fourth President, and the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in American history. Each had played a crucial role in the events of the American Revolution; together they were convinced of the need to weld thirteen disparate and newly-independent states into a union. Their essays make the case for a new and united nation, governed under a written Constitution that endures to this day. The Federalist Papers are an indispensable guide to the intentions of the founding fathers who created the United States, and a canonical text in the development of western political thought. This new edition pays full attention to the classical learning of their authors and the historical examples they deploy. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
The core of this book is a systematic treatment of the historic transformation of the West from monarchy to democracy. Revisionist in nature, it reaches the conclusion that monarchy is a lesser evil than democracy, but outlines deficiencies in both. Its methodology is axiomatic-deductive, allowing the writer to derive economic and sociological theorems, and then apply them to interpret historical events. A compelling chapter on time preference describes the progress of civilization as lowering time preferences as capital structure is built, and explains how the interaction between people can lower time all around, with interesting parallels to the Ricardian Law of Association. By focusing on this transformation, the author is able to interpret many historical phenomena, such as rising levels of crime, degeneration of standards of conduct and morality, and the growth of the mega-state. In underscoring the deficiencies of both monarchy and democracy, the author demonstrates how these systems are both inferior to a natural order based on private-property. Hoppe deconstructs the classical liberal belief in the possibility of limited government and calls for an alignment of conservatism and libertarianism as natural allies with common goals. He defends the proper role of the production of defense as undertaken by insurance companies on a free market, and describes the emergence of private law among competing insurers. Having established a natural order as superior on utilitarian grounds, the author goes on to assess the prospects for achieving a natural order. Informed by his analysis of the deficiencies of social democracy, and armed with the social theory of legitimation, he forsees secession as the likely future of the US and Europe, resulting in a multitude of region and city-states. This book complements the author's previous work defending the ethics of private property and natural order. Democracy—The God that Failed will be of interest to scholars and students of history, political economy, and political philosophy.
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