Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Booknotes: The Slaveholding Crisis

New Arrival:
The Slaveholding Crisis: Fear of Insurrection and the Coming of the Civil War by Carl Lawrence Paulus (LSU Press, 2017).

Though John Brown's Harpers Ferry Raid completely failed in its mission to incite a massive slave rebellion and was widely condemned in the North, there was a great enough undercurrent of support to lead many southerners to believe that more such attacks lay in the future if the South stayed in the Union and Republican power continued to flourish. "Carl Lawrence Paulus’s The Slaveholding Crisis examines how, due to the fear of insurrection by the enslaved, southerners created their own version of American exceptionalism—one that placed the perpetuation of slavery at its forefront. Feeling a loss of power in the years before the Civil War, the planter elite no longer saw the Union, as a whole, fulfilling that vision of exceptionalism. As a result, Paulus contends, slaveholders and nonslaveholding southerners believed that the white South could anticipate racial conflict and brutal warfare." According to Paulus, the planter class was able to convince most nonslaveholding whites that Republican insistence on slavery's non-extension and presumed support for abolitionist intervention where it already existed made secession a less risky proposition than relying on existing protections within the Union. "In the end, Paulus argues, by insisting that the new party in control of the federal government promoted this very insurrection, the planter elite gained enough popular support to create the Confederate States of America. In doing so, they established a thoroughly proslavery, modern state with the military capability to quell massive resistance by the enslaved, expand its territorial borders, and war against the forces of the Atlantic antislavery movement."

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