America in 1857

America in 1857 : A Nation on the Brink

4.16 (54 ratings by Goodreads)
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It was a year packed with unsettling events. The Panic of 1857 closed every bank in New York City, ruined thousands of businesses, and caused widespread unemployment among industrial workers. The Mormons in Utah Territory threatened rebellion when federal troops approached with a non-Mormon governor to replace Brigham Young. The Supreme Court outraged northern Republicans and abolitionists with the Dred Scott decision ("a breathtaking example of judicial activism"). And when a pro-slavery minority in Kansas Territory tried to foist a pro-slavery constitution on a large anti-slavery majority, President Buchanan reneged on a crucial commitment and supported the minority, a disastrous miscalculation which ultimately split the Democratic party in two. In America in 1857, eminent American historian Kenneth Stampp offers a sweeping narrative of this eventful year, covering all the major crises while providing readers with a vivid portrait of America at mid-century.
Stampp gives us a fascinating account of the attempt by William Walker and his band of filibusters to conquer Nicaragua and make it a slave state, of crime and corruption, and of street riots by urban gangs such as New York's Dead Rabbits and Bowery Boys and Baltimore's Plug Uglies and Blood Tubs. But the focus continually returns to Kansas. He examines the outrageous political frauds perpetrated by proslavery Kansans, Buchanan's calamitous response and Stephen Douglas's break with the President (a rare event in American politics, a major party leader repudiating the president he helped elect), and the whirl of congressional votes and dramatic debates that led to a settlement humiliating to Buchanan, and devastating to the Democrats. 1857 marked a turning point, at which sectional conflict spun out of control and the country moved rapidly toward the final violent resolution in the Civil War. Stampp's intensely focused look at this pivotal year illuminates the forces at work and the mood of the nation as it plummeted toward disaster.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 155.7 x 233.2 x 28.4mm | 547.41g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • halftones, line drawings
  • 0195074815
  • 9780195074819

Review quote

"Stampp makes a strong case....[His] engrossing, month-by-month narrative covers all [the] events....As one would expect from one of our most distinguished senior historians, this is a masterful and authoritative work....It provides the best account we have of the meaning and significance of the Lecompton controversy....There can be no question that Professor Stampp has done what he chose to do with exceptional grace and effectiveness."-New York
History "An impressive reconsideration of why the Civil War came....The author draws upon his extensive scholarly experience, upon an exhaustive use of firsthand sources (an enormous number of manuscript collections, newspapers, and government documents), and upon a mass of secondary literature. He blends cultural elements with his study of political behavior."-The Journal of American History "Kenneth M. Stampp is by common acclaim the dean of historians of the Civil War era....A triumph of the historian's craft....Stampp's style is as clear and plain as his knowledge is great. America in 1857 is a book from which even scholars can learn, nonhistorians can enjoy, and which Civil War buffs will certainly relish."-Hugh Brogan, The New York Times Book Review "A particularly enlightening book."-Booklist "[Kenneth Stampp's] new book, richly detailed, judicious, and convincing in its recreation of complex events and decisions, will appeal to specialists and general readers alike....A compelling exploration of the struggle between proslavery and free state forces in Kansas."-Gateway Heritage "An immensely readable book....Vivid history of a period that should be more familiar than it is."-Newark Star-Ledger "A graceful narrative....[A] detailed and comprehensive examination....An important statement on the coming of the civil war."-Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography "A skillfull narrative about a pivotal year...featuring the author's usual judicious analysis."-Kirkus Reviews "His sweeping survey ably demonstrates how the growing tension between North and South reached 'the political point of no return.'"-Publishers Weekly "[A] splendidly lucid, elegantly crafted, and exciting narrative."-New York Newsday
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About Kenneth M. Stampp

Kenneth M. Stampp is Morrison Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. A past president of the Organization of American Historians, a recipient of an American Historical Association Award for Scholarly Distinction, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the author of several seminal works in American history, including The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South and The Imperiled Union.
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Rating details

54 ratings
4.16 out of 5 stars
5 35% (19)
4 48% (26)
3 15% (8)
2 2% (1)
1 0% (0)
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