The American Civil War led directly to the passage of the 13th Amendment and the abolition of chattel slavery in the United States. How that happened and why it took so long has been a matter of dispute ever since.
The ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865 marked the crowning achievement in the history of American abolitionism. The sesquicentennial anniversary of this amendment has led to a recent avalanche of scholarship on the downfall of American slavery and the coming of freedom for more than four million slaves. Who abolished slavery? How was slavery abolished?
American evangelicalism has, for some time, been dominated by Baptists. American Baptist churches attract tens of millions of worshippers, and the Southern Baptist Convention stands unrivalled as the single largest Protestant denomination in the country. And yet, despite their numerical hegemony, American Baptists have not attracted commensurate attention from historians.
‘We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies’.(1) These famous lines from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address serve as a stark point of contrast in the introduction of Damn Yankees! Demonization and Defiance in the Confederate South. For whilst Lincoln implored the nation to avoid violent confrontation, the war of words had already begun.
The mention of the Southern plantation tends to bring to mind one of two competing images: either the white-columned antebellum mansion and its manicured grounds, or the desolate home of African-American sharecroppers in the post-Civil War era.
It is common for historians of the antebellum, civil war, and reconstruction-era United States to talk of ‘the Northeast’, ‘the South’, or ‘the West’ as offhand for a wide range of interests, like the Confederacy, slaveholders, or industrial capitalism.
In Commons Democracy, literary scholar Dana Nelson offers an alternative history of democracy in Revolutionary America. Nelson challenges the comforting narrative Americans like to tell themselves about the ‘Founders’ high-minded ideals and their careful crafting of the sage framework for democracy – a representative republican government’ (p. 3).
The years from 1840 to 1890 constituted a ‘golden age’ of turn out in American elections. Although only white men were assured of their votes, this period saw the highest rate of political participation among the eligible electorate, with roughly 70–80 per cent of voters casting ballots in Presidential elections; as compared to today’s figure of about 55 per cent.
Benjamin Franklin in London is a narrative biography of the American ‘founding father’ Benjamin Franklin. As the title suggests, the book substantively concentrates on Franklin in London between 1757 and 1775. During this time, Franklin was an agent advocating colonial interests in Parliament.
Given the volume of recent works produced on the anti-slavery movement of the 19th–century Atlantic world, it was time for someone to create a new synthesis. Manisha Sinha’s The Slave’s Cause is a synthetic work that traces the long trajectory of the anti-slavery movement in the United States and places it into an international context.