America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink

Kenneth M. Stampp, Author Oxford University Press, USA $35 (416p) ISBN 978-0-19-503902-3
1857 marked the climax of the pro-slavery South's political power; it was a year dominated by the issue of slavery in the Federal territories. In this scholarly study Stampp ( The Imperiled Union ) zeroes in on the Lecompton convention, during which a pro-slavery minority in the Kansas territory attempted to impose its will on the anti-slavery majority. When President James Buchanan, reneging on a campaign promise, endorsed the pro-slavery Lecompton constitution, an epic debate ensued in Congress, led by Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas. The pro-slavery move was defeated, but the resulting schism within the Democratic party opened the way for the presidential candidacy of Abraham Lincoln and the escalation of North-South tensions that led to civil war. Stampp also discusses other signal events of that dark year, including the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, the financial Panic of 1857 and the Mormon rebellion in Utah. His sweeping survey ably demonstrates how the growing tension between North and South reached ``the political point of no return.'' Photos. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1990
Release date: 11/01/1990
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-19-507481-9
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