Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

Americans are very used to hearing their own story. Most learn it a few times before graduating from high school, and many encounter it again a few times in college. They see it depicted in feature films and television documentaries, read many popular and scholarly books on it, and even live it themselves on weekends and vacations. For many of us, the past may be a foreign country...

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PROLOGUE: A House Divided

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pp. xv-xxii

On June 16, 1858, Illinois Republicans anointed their new candidate for U.S. senator: Abraham Lincoln. At age forty-nine, Lincoln was a seasoned though hardly famous politician—a veteran of frontier political skirmishes between the Whig Party, to which he had long been loyal, and the Democratic Party of Andrew Jackson. Having gained only some slight military experience...

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INTRODUCTION: The Slave Power

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pp. 1-26

For Lincoln and his Republicans, Union victory in the Civil War consummated the defeat of the slave power. What happened in the United States was a variation—singular, to be sure—on a theme that played out over the Atlantic Basin throughout the nineteenth century. The American Civil War was about many things, but above all it was about slavery and how slavery would end. The...

SECTION 1. The Age of Revolution

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CHAPTER 1: Impious Prayers: Slavery and the Revolution

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pp. 29-61

Samuel Johnson was not a man to bandy words. In the midst of Britain’s imperial crisis with its mainland North American colonies, the renowned lexicographer and pamphleteer exercised his polemical skills to attack upstart colonials who complained of “taxation without representation.” Those who held slaves, the Tory argued, had little business proclaiming the virtues of liberty....

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CHAPTER 2: Half Slave and Half Free: The Founding of the United States

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pp. 62-88

For all the revolutionary generation’s concern that practice match principle, enacting liberty for people of African descent proved remarkably challenging. During the Revolution itself, with enthusiasm for liberty fueling a fierce struggle for national independence, a great many Americans asserted that dedication to liberty demanded the eradication of slavery. The devil, though, lay in...

SECTION 2. The Early Republic

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CHAPTER 3: A House Dividing: Atlantic Slavery and Abolition in the Era of the Early Republic

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pp. 91-125

The United States encountered its earliest and most pressing foreign policy crisis just as the states were arguing over ratification of the new Constitution. The Atlantic-wide revolutions that mainland colonists inaugurated in 1775 soon struck other European empires, challenging the young nation to grapple...

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CHAPTER 4: To Become a Great Nation: Caste and Resistance in the Age of Emancipations

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pp. 126-160

In the first three decades of the nineteenth century, the slaveholding states’ strong position in the Union failed to be countered by a North as committed to free society as the South was to slavery. It did not hurt the South that the northern metropole to which it was connected was itself so ambivalent...

SECTION 3. The Age of Immediatism

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CHAPTER 5: Minds Long Set on Freedom: Rebellion, Metropolitan Abolition, and Sectional Conflict

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pp. 163-197

Now imagine another Virginia slave, on another summer night, some hundred miles to the south of the Richmond where Gabriel had launched his uprising thirty-one years earlier. This night, August 21, 1831, witnessed a similar gathering of enslaved African Americans, this time in a remote wood in the southeastern part of the state, not far from the Great Dismal Swamp, an area...

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CHAPTER 6: Ere the Storm Come Forth: Antislavery Militance and the Collapse of Party Politics

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pp. 198-236

The transformations that struck American politics in the decades before the Civil War might appear at first glance to have been unrelated to the actions of the enslaved themselves. Questions of slavery’s expansion, or the sectional balance of power in Congress, seemed to have little to do with those who toiled on southern plantations. And no major insurrection had imperiled American...

SECTION 4. The Civil War and Reconstruction

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CHAPTER 7: This Terrible War: Secession, Civil War, and Emancipation

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pp. 239-279

On November 6, 1860, Americans elected a president for the eighteenth time. When the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed in 1854, the political party he represented had not existed. In the election of 1860, the name Abraham Lincoln did not even appear on the ballot in many southern states. When he nonetheless won, it took but a month for South Carolina, the leading slaveholding state of...

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CHAPTER 8: One Hundred Years: Reconstruction

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pp. 280-320

In early November 1861, a scant half year after the start of the Civil War, a Union naval flotilla, launched from Hampton Roads, Virginia, swept down the coast and attacked two forts protecting the harbor of Port Royal, South Carolina. On November 7, Confederate forces abandoned Forts Walker and Beauregard,...

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CONCLUSION: What Peace among the Whites Brought

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pp. 321-330

Reconstruction failed to secure equal rights and meaningful equality for African Americans in the long run. For a brief moment—no more than a decade— black people had exercised the political and civil rights promised by the nation’s founding commitments to universal equality. The incorporation of African Americans into the political systems of the southern states represented a remarkable...

Notes

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pp. 331-380

Index

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pp. 381-392