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A Political Nation

New Directions in Mid-Nineteenth-Century American Political History

Edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Rachel A. Shelden

Publication Year: 2012

This impressive collection joins the recent outpouring of exciting new work on American politics and political actors in the mid-nineteenth century. For several generations, much of the scholarship on the political history of the period from 1840 to 1877 has carried a theme of failure; after all, politicians in the antebellum years failed to prevent war, and those of the Civil War and Reconstruction failed to take advantage of opportunities to remake the nation. Moving beyond these older debates, the essays in this volume ask new questions about mid-nineteenth-century American politics and politicians.

In A Political Nation, the contributors address the dynamics of political parties and factions, illuminate the presence of consensus and conflict in American political life, and analyze elections, voters, and issues. In addition to examining the structures of the United States Congress, state and local governments, and other political organizations, this collection emphasizes political leaders—those who made policy, ran for office, influenced elections, and helped to shape American life from the early years of the Second Party System to the turbulent period of Reconstruction.

The book moves chronologically, beginning with an antebellum focus on how political actors behaved within their cultural surroundings. The authors then use the critical role of language, rhetoric, and ideology in mid-nineteenth-century political culture as a lens through which to reevaluate the secession crisis. The collection closes with an examination of cultural and institutional influences on politicians in the Civil War and Reconstruction years. Stressing the role of federalism in understanding American political behavior, A Political Nation underscores the vitality of scholarship on mid-nineteenth-century American politics.

Erik B. Alexander, University of Tennessee, Knoxville · Jean Harvey Baker, Goucher College · William J. Cooper, Louisiana State University · Daniel W. Crofts, The College of New Jersey · William W. Freehling, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities · Gary W. Gallagher, University of Virginia · Sean Nalty, University of Virginia · Mark E. Neely Jr., Pennsylvania State University · Rachel A. Shelden, Georgia College and State University · Brooks D. Simpson, Arizona State University · J. Mills Thornton, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-ix

The editors incurred many debts in the course of preparing this volume for publication. We offer our warmest gratitude to the contributors, who found . . .

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pp. 1-7

This is a book about traditional American political history in the midnineteenth century. It is a book about elections, voters, and issues. It is about . . .

Part I: Political Culture in Antebellum America

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1. Not So Strange Bedfellows: Not So Strange Bedfellows Northern and Southern Whigs and the Texas Annexation Controversy, 1844–1845

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pp. 11-35

American politicians were not primarily motivated by sectional concerns in the early 1840s. Local and state bias, regionalism, party loyalty, class, and a . . .

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Apotheosis of a Ruffian:The Murder of Bill Pool and American Political Culture

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pp. 36-63

In the early hours of a Sunday morning in February 1855, in a saloon on Broadway in New York City, an ex-policeman named Lewis Baker shot and . . .

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Public Women and Partisan Politics, 1840–1860

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pp. 64-81

In the late 1960s and early 1970s a talented group of scholars turned their attention to nineteenth-century American political history. Instead of the . . .

Part II: The Politics of the Secession Crisis

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The Southern Oppositionand the Crisis of the Union

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pp. 85-111

The last stand of the Upper South’s Whig Party often has been overlooked. In 1859, five years after the national party disappeared, Whigs in the Upper . . .

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Reviving State Rights

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pp. 112-125

Before his tragically premature death, the historian William E. Gienapp joined Michael F. Holt in disputing a current conventional wisdom about the . . .

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Where Was Henry Clay?

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pp. 126-140

Abraham Lincoln occupies a secure place in the pantheon of great U.S. presidents. Even among that select group, in the view of many, professional . . .

Part III

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Come Weal, Come Woe,I Am with the Anti-Slavery Party”: Federalism and the Formation of the Pennsylvania Union Party, 1860–1864

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pp. 143-166

In early June 1864, a strange assemblage of Republicans, Democrats who endorsed President Lincoln and the war, and border-state Southerners gathered . . .

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Alabama’s Presidential Reconstruction Legislature

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pp. 167-187

The South’s Presidential Reconstruction state legislatures have not had a good press. Suspicious Radical Republicans at the time thought them . . .

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The Fate of Northern Democratsafter the Civil War: Another Look at the Presidential Election of 1868

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pp. 188-213

”Never before, in the history of the country have I been willing to see policy in any contingency, have any sort of dominion over principle,” wrote Samuel . . .

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Consider the Alternatives: Reassessing Republican Reconstruction

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pp. 214-230

Scholars have long debated whether Reconstruction succeeded or failed, why it turned out as it did, and who or what was responsible for the outcome. . . .

Works by Michael F. Holt

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pp. 231-232


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pp. 231-234


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pp. 235-253

E-ISBN-13: 9780813932835
E-ISBN-10: 0813932831
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813932828
Print-ISBN-10: 0813932823

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 11 tables
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 806056098
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Political Nation

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Federal government -- United States -- History -- 19th century
  • Secession -- United States -- History
  • States' rights (American politics) -- History -- 19th century.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1849-1877.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1845-1849.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1841-1845.
  • Political culture -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Political parties -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
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