A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War
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By the time John Brown hung from the gallows for his crimes at Harper’s Ferry, Northern abolitionists had made him a “holy martyr” in their campaign against Southern slave owners. This Northern hatred for Southerners long predated their objections to slavery. They were convinced that New England, whose spokesmen had begun the American Revolution, should have been the leader of the new nation. Instead, they had been displaced by Southern “slavocrats” like Thomas Jefferson.
This malevolent envy exacerbated the South’s greatest fear: a race war. Jefferson’s cry, “We are truly to be pitied,” summed up their dread. For decades, extremists in both regions flung insults and threats, creating intractable enmities. By 1861, only a civil war that would kill a million men could save the Union.
108–109, 112, 131, 154–155 Mexican War, 168–171, 173–174, 181 Mexico, 50–51, 161–162, 165, 168, 192 Military, blacks’ right to serve in, 42–44, 128, 268, 297–298 Miller, William Bluffton, 138, 301–302 Millerism, 138 Mills, Samuel, 89 Missouri, 91–93 Missouri Compromise, 91–94, 144–145, 269 Mob violence, 275 Monroe, James, 50–51, 71, 75, 89 Morris, Gouverneur, 52 Morton, Edwin, 245 Morton, Samuel George, 190–191 Mount Vernon, 55–56, 63–65 The National Era, 187 Negro Act (South
been helping to rebuild part of the walls. Three companies of regulars—perhaps 350 men—were ordered to march immediately to reinforce the militia sent to suppress Turner’s revolt. Five additional companies were rushed to the fort. By the time the regulars reached Southampton County, Virginia militia had dispersed, killed, or captured Nat Turner’s men. Only Turner himself escaped, remaining at large for another seven weeks. As an engineering officer, Captain Lee did not accompany the dispatched
backing a new and even steeper levy on consumer goods from Britain. President Adams was hoping to raise money for canals, highways, and other public works projects that the country needed. South Carolina’s politicians dismissed these ideas and denounced “the tariff of abominations.” Virginia’s John Randolph, always ready to create an uproar, accused the New Englanders of building their factories with dollars pilfered from the pockets of the South. Charleston began hosting mass protest meetings
soldiers, including the murderers of the unarmed men on Pottawatomie Creek, were “a perfect Cromwellian troop.” Franklin Sanborn and others who were part of the Concord world echoed this bizarre canonization.10 • • • When John Brown reached Tabor, Iowa, in August 1857, he had only $25 in his pocket. He was expecting to find most if not all of the $7,000 that George Stearns had promised him available to help him muster another troop of Cromwellian followers. Instead the local agent for the
Great Britain was agitated a hundred years before it was a final success.” Another thing worth remembering: Lincoln was keenly aware that he had a rival for the leadership of the Republican Party, Senator William Seward of New York. In 1856 Seward had made a speech, describing the tension between North and South as an “irrepressible conflict” that would only be decided by a “higher law.” This brinksmanship thrilled the abolitionist wing of the new party. The House Divided speech showed Lincoln,