cover image The Republic of Violence: The Tormented Rise of Abolition in Andrew Jackson’s America

The Republic of Violence: The Tormented Rise of Abolition in Andrew Jackson’s America

J.D. Dickey. Pegasus, $29.95 (408p) ISBN 978-1-64313-928-9

Historian Dickey (American Demagogue) delivers a colorful if uneven revisionist history of the abolitionist movement in the U.S. Between 1833 and 1838, Dickey contends, America endured “some of the worst violence the nation has ever seen,” with drunken mobs of Andrew Jackson’s nativist, pro-slavery supporters targeting immigrants, financial institutions, free Blacks, and abolitionists. Dickey explains how the abolitionist movement emerged out of the religious fervor of the Second Great Awakening and delves into early tensions between Black leaders like David Walker, whose 1829 manifesto Appeal in Four Articles exhorted captive slaves to “kill or be killed,” and white abolitionists who opposed slavery but were wary of racial amalgamation. Meanwhile, pro-slavery advocates used the specter of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave revolt and anxieties over “interracial sex and marriage” to incite mob violence and further constrain the rights of free and enslaved Blacks. Dickey documents numerous outbreaks of racial violence, including the 1835 Snow Riot in Washington, D.C., and spotlights lesser-known African American abolitionists, including David Ruggles and Samuel Cornish. The portrait of Andrew Jackson is notably one-sided, however, portraying him as a conspiracist with a “bent toward violence” while underplaying the economic factors that contributed to his appeal among working-class whites. Still, this is an accessible and enlightening chronicle of a tumultuous period in American history. Agent: Adam Chromy, Movable Type Management. (Mar.)