Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Author Open Court Publishing Company $48 (440p) ISBN 978-0-8126-9312-6
In this insightful treatment of the Civil War (addressing the causes, the war itself and Reconstruction), Hummel's text argues against the thesis that armed confrontation was inevitable. ""As an excuse for civil war,"" he says, ""maintaining the States territorial integrity is bankrupt and reprehensible. Slavery's elimination is the only morally worthy justification."" But slavery, he suggests, was on its way out in any case. Not only was it a political liability, but the institution's many-faceted costs (social cost, enforcement, uprisings, mistreatment) outweighed any profits. If, after decades of unsuccessful compromise, the North had recognized the South's revolutionary right to self-determination and had let the Gulf states secede, slavery would have succumbed in the border states. Hummel goes on to argue, as have many others before, that after a devastating war and the disappointment of Reconstruction, a federal government that once interfered only a little in the affairs of individual states ""had been transformed into an overbearing bureaucracy that intruded into daily life with taxes, drafts, surveillance, subsidies and regulations."" Hummel, a professor of history and economics at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, quotes David H. Donald, saying, ""Before the Civil War, many politicians and writers referred to the United States in the plural""--i.e., the United States are, a grammatical agreement no longer used after 1865. With its insightful analysis (not to mention the extensive bibliographical essays that elaborate each chapter), Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men will supply both the academic and Civil War buff with an added perspective on the causes and consequences of the Civil War. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
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Hardcover - 440 pages - 978-0-8126-9311-9
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