Book Recommendation: America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink Revised Edition
by Kenneth M. Stampp
This terrific book is well-researched, well-written and well-balanced. It will be of interest to history buffs, political buffs and anyone interested in the Civil War, for Buchanan’s efforts to appease southern Democrats and bring Kansas into the Union as a slave state, against the wishes of the vast majority of her people, assured a Republican victory in 1860. Anyone who thinks that slavery wasn’t the primary cause of the war should read this book. Democrat politicians and Democrat editors north and south almost universally referred to the opposition as the “Black Republicans,” trying to tie them to abolition and wanting equality of the races. Few did, though all Republicans thought slavery was an abomination and hoped for its eventual extinction, thus opposing the spread of slavery to Kansas and other territories. The struggle over Kansas forms a large part of the book, but the Dred Scott decision and William Walker’s filibustering efforts to take over Nicaragua, supported by southern Democrats who saw it as another slave state, as well as the financial panic that fall are all covered in detail.
The book will also give you hope for our time, as politics then as now was filled with slander, name-calling, vituperation, corruption, chicanery and vote fraud.
Some quotes from the book: “unban immigrants were the source of much of the illegal voting, for party leaders found compliant judges who would naturalize compliant followers in large numbers on the eve of an election, often in violation of naturalization laws. In Philadelphia, for example, several thousand illegal votes helped the Democrats carry Pennsylvania for Buchanan (in 1956).
“In his journal, Ralph waldo Emmerson, “…wrote indignantly about the, ‘class of privileged thieves who infest our politics…’”
The 1856 Republican platform said it was “both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism—Polygamy and Slavery.” While the Democrat platform, “exploiting northern race prejudice, attacked the ‘Black’ Republicans as ‘amalgamationists’ and reckless abolitionists whose triumph would destroy the Union.” (An amalgamationist was someone who favored mixing the races.)
“When a Wisconsin Republican moved to amend a proposed referendum on black suffrage to include suffrage for women, the Democratic minority supported him ‘to get a political advantage by making the bill odious.’”
“Racial equality was only one of heresies of which Democrats accused Republicans. According to the Washington Union (the organ of the Democrat administration, ‘The black-republican party comprises within it’s ranks all the isms of the North…Mormonism, abolitionism, free-soilism, spiritual rappings, women’s rights, socialism, free-loveism, and know-nothingism have sprung up from this corrupt state of political profligacy and religious infidelity…’”
“When the Milwaukee Sentinel…asked whether ‘some small degree of consideration’ was not due to a ‘proscribed and unjustly treated class of citizens. Democrats lost no time is seizing the issue, insisting that black suffrage was tantamount of ‘giving negro husbands and negro progeny to our fair daughters and sisters.’ Their state convention promised to resist ‘the odious doctrine of Negro equality.”
“Oxford (Kansas) a village of six houses located on the Missouri line…reported 1628 pro-slavery votes, which greatly exceeded the number of eligible voters in the whole of Johnson county. … They soon discovered that 1500 of the names had been copied from in alphabetical order out of William’s Cincinnati Director for 1855.”
So, pretty much business as usual. I highly recommend this book.