From the preface: "My reasons for presenting a re-examination of the Nullification Controversy go beyond a desire to clarify its causes. The crisis of 1832-3 is one of the more dramatic events in United States history, and has, I think, never been chronicled fully or accurately. Furthermore, the Nullification Crisis has usually been presented as an isolated event. Viewed in proper perspective, the confrontation between Andrew Jackson and the Carolina nullifiers was the central occurrence in the broader transition of South Carolina from the enthusiastic nationalism of 1816 to the extreme sectionalism of 1836. And I hope the following analysis of the acute anxieties surrounding the mere discussion of slavery during these years of transition will help to explain why South Carolina led the South in a suicidal assault on the federal Union a generation later."
In the first volume of his long awaited, monumental study of the South's road to disunion, historian William Freehling offers a sweeping political and social history of the antebellum South from 1776 to 1854. All the dramatic events leading to secession are here: the Missouri Compromise, the Nullification Controversy, the Gag Rule ("the Pearl Harbor of the slavery controversy"), the Annexation of Texas, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Freehling vividly recounts each crisis, illuminating complex issues and sketching colorful portraits of major figures. Along the way, he reveals the surprising extent to which slavery influenced national politics before 1850, and he provides important reinterpretations of American republicanism, Jeffersonian states' rights, Jacksonian democracy, and the causes of the American Civil War.
In this second and concluding volume of my southern Road to Disunion, Northerners sometimes step front and center, to illuminate provokers, targets, and effects of southern defenders' rage. But by usually focusing on aggressively defensive Southerners, I seek to resurrect their pre-Civil War political saga, one of America's most important and mysterious epics.
The critical northern antebellum debate matched the rhetorical skills of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in an historic argument over the future of slavery in a westward-expanding America. Two years later, an equally historic oratorical showdown between secessionists and Unionists in Georgia generated as much popular interest south of the Mason-Dixon line, and perhaps had an even more profound immediate effect on the future of the United States.With Abraham Lincoln's "Black Republican" triumph in the presidential election of 1860 came ardent secessionist sentiment in the South. But Unionists were equally zealous and while South Carolina--a bastion of Disunionism since 1832--seemed certain to secede; the other fourteen slave states were far from decided. In the deep South, the road to disunion depended much on the actions of Georgia, a veritable microcosm of the divided South and geographically in the middle of the Cotton South. If Georgia went for the Union, secessionist South Carolina could be isolated. So in November of 1860 all the eyes of Dixie turned to tiny Milledgeville, pre-war capital of Georgia, for a legislative confrontation that would help chart the course toward civil war.In Secession Debated, William W. Freehling and Craig M. Simpson have for the first time collected the seven surviving speeches and public letters of this greatest of southern debates over disunion, providing today's reader with a unique window into a moment of American crisis. Introducing the debate and debaters in compelling fashion, the editors help bring to life a sleepy Southern town suddenly alive with importance as a divided legislature met to decide the fate of Georgia, and by extension, that of the nation. We hear myriad voices, among them the energetic and self-righteous governor Joseph E. Brown who, while a slaveholder and secessionist, was somewhat suspect as a native North Georgian; Alexander H. Stephens, the eloquent Unionist whose "calm dispassionate approach" ultimately backfired; and fiery secessionist Robert Toombs who, impatient with Brown's indecisiveness and the caution of the Unionists, shouted to legislators: "Give me the sword! but if you do not place it in my hands, before God! I will take it." The secessionists' Henry Benning and Thomas R.R. Cobb as well as the Unionists Benjamin Hill and Herschel Johnson also speak to us across the years, most with eloquence, all with the patriotic, passionate conviction that defined an era. In the end, the legislature adopted a convention bill which decreed a popular vote on the issue in early January, 1861. The election results were close, mirroring the intense debate of two months before: 51% of Georgians favored immediate secession, a slim margin which the propaganda-conscious Brown later inflated to 58%. On January 19th the Georgia Convention sanctioned secession in a 166-130 vote, and the imminent Confederacy had its Southern hinge.Secession Debated is a colorful and gripping tale told in the words of the actual participants, one which sheds new light on one of the great and hitherto neglected verbal showdowns in American history. It is essential to a full understanding of the origins of the war between the states.
In the spring of 1861, Virginians confronted destiny--their own and their nation's. Pivotal decisions awaited about secession, the consequences of which would unfold for a hundred years and more. But few Virginians wanted to decide at all. Instead, they talked, almost interminably. The remarkable record of the Virginia State Convention, edited in a fine modern version in 1965, runs to almost 3,000 pages, some 1.3 million words. Through the diligent efforts of William W. Freehling and Craig M. Simpson, this daunting record has now been made accessible to teachers, students, and general readers. With important contextual contributions--an introduction and commentary, chronology, headnotes, and suggestions for further reading--the essential core of the speeches, and what they signified, is now within reach.This is a collection of speeches by men for whom everything was at risk. Some saw independence and even war as glory; others predicted ruin and devastation. They all offered commentary of lasting interest to anyone concerned about the fate of democracy in crisis.
Takes the position that, without the defections in the South, the North would probably not have been the victor.
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