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BOOK REVIEWS3O5 commonwealth." Instead we are told that For most Southerners the war represented "an assertion ofracial and economic prerogatives." Ifthe affinity school of thought is going to provide a better understanding, then this begs the other half of the question: why did the North fight? Now its back to the garden to differentiate the roots. John M. Ysursa San Diego State University Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America. By Richard J. Cawardine. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1997. Pp. 512. $25.00 paper.) Nineteenth-century America seemed a pious hope in the best sense. That only makes it all the stranger that an earlier generation of historians, in studying politics from the backrooms to the polling-booths, halted cautiously at the church door. Yet as Richard Cawardine's excellent study shows, we cannot understand how the parties broke and reconfigured in the antebellum period, norhow the war itself came, without seeing the fervor unleashed in the Second Great Awakening. Cawardine's study may well preach to the converted. Recent scholars have known well the connection between religious and political loyalties, and the moral dimension of the breakup of the Jacksonian party system has become a commonplace. But no book has made the thorough examination thatEvangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America, nor used such a wide array of religious tracts, sermons, and ecclesiasticaljournals. Where most scholars have looked at religion from a party perspective, Cawardine sets forth politics from a religious perspective. In doing so, he places it closer to the center of political debate than anyone has done before. Each party tried to get right with the godly. Evangelicals, as Cawardine makes clear, could findjustification for every position, from slavery's Scriptural blessedness to its incarnate evil to its presence as one of those wrongs better acquiesced in than removed at the cost of disunion. Still, one side always seemed to have the stronger battalions. While partisans roared for 'Tippecanoe" and guzzled hard cider in front of ersatz log cabins, ministers assured their parishioners of the candidate's credentials as an abstainer and warned how Democracy meant free thinking, blasphemy, and subservience to the Pope. Whiggery could never escape the nativism, temperance, and anti-Catholicism that its evangelical legions gave it. In the end, those forces helped weaken the party on the state level, while the moral case against slavery brought its disruption and complete destruction nationally. Laws against activity on the Sabbath and liquor-dealing any time shaped the secondAmerican party system and became a component in the third. At the same time, Southern evangelicals found in their faith a new backing for an aggressive proslavery position. By 1 860 evangelicalism, Northern and Southern, had made the differences between slave and free states 3?6CIVIL WAR HISTORY virtually irresoluble, and turned the conflict that followed into something of a holy war. Cawardine makes a good case, but certain cautions to readers too hasty to read the caveats in his measured prose are in order. To show that evangelical Protestants reacted to events does not show how far they actually influenced them. Limitations are built into the sources that this book uses—as there are to any sources. Not a bit surprisingly, religious magazines and ministers, when they dealt with the secular world, brought religion into it. That does not necessarily show that when their parishioners responded to events, they put the moral dimension foremost. Something more than we see here is needed to show that the church people were themselves driving forces in public debate. A good case in point would be the i860 campaign. Clearly, all parties were glad to have backing in the pulpit, and Republicans went out of their way to earn their nickname, "the party of moral ideas." But looking at their campaign as a whole, the hosts of virtue look somewhat less prominent than they would seem from readng Cawardine's chapter 9. A party deep-dyed in piety could have chosen praying Salmon Chase; it chose Lincoln, a non-churchgoer. But that hardly mattered to the delegates in Chicago. Assembling a majority in the North, Republicanism had to appeal to self-interest, fear, patriotism, and to the skeptical and secular Americans. Fierce...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 305-306
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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