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America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink Paperback – April 30, 1992

ISBN-13: 978-0195074819 ISBN-10: 0195074815 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (April 30, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195074815
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195074819
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,201,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

1857 marked the climax of the pro-slavery South's political power; it was a year dominated by the issue of slavery in the Federal territories. In this scholarly study Stampp ( The Imperiled Union ) zeroes in on the Lecompton convention, during which a pro-slavery minority in the Kansas territory attempted to impose its will on the anti-slavery majority. When President James Buchanan, reneging on a campaign promise, endorsed the pro-slavery Lecompton constitution, an epic debate ensued in Congress, led by Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas. The pro-slavery move was defeated, but the resulting schism within the Democratic party opened the way for the presidential candidacy of Abraham Lincoln and the escalation of North-South tensions that led to civil war. Stampp also discusses other signal events of that dark year, including the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, the financial Panic of 1857 and the Mormon rebellion in Utah. His sweeping survey ably demonstrates how the growing tension between North and South reached "the political point of no return." Photos.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Eminent historian Stampp ( The Peculiar Institution , Knopf 1956; The Imperiled Union , LJ 5/1/80) argues that 1857, not 1860, marked the political and emotional point of no return between North and South. Covering the economic depression (Northerners suffered, Southerners gloated), the Dred Scott decision, Kansas troubles, filibustering in Nicaragua, religious revivals, crime, land speculation, Mormons in Utah, and more, Stampp portrays a people so divided along class, ethno-religious, and sectional lines that one wonders what glue held the nation together. Stronger on politics than social history, and strained by a premise that makes events move lock-step toward secession, this book will not satisfy professional historians so much as it will engage and inform general readers, but Stampp forces all to rethink the chronology and dynamic of American unity and identity. Recommended for college libraries.
- Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 12 customer reviews
It was interesting and it is keeper for my book shelf.
gene
It covers the year 1857 and Mr. Stampp makes a persuasive case that this year was the year that made the Civil War inevitable.
T. Berner
This book is priced reasonably and holds a good amount of information.
Jim

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
Kenneth Stampp, one of the country's most distinguished historians, focuses on the pivotal year of 1857. The new president comes into office as a reconciliation Democrat, pledged to unite the country, with his party in firm control of Congress. Many predict that the new Republican Party will wither away in the calmer times ahead. Instead of that, events in Kansas, the Dredd Scott case, the panic of 1857, and struggle within the Democratic Party between Northerners, Unionists and Fire Eaters (proto-Secessionists) wreck the party and leave the Republicans with a clear road to the White House. The President's rigid response and limited point of view leave his party in ruins. The future seems to belong to the radical Republicans and the Disunionist South.
The book is quite well written, and flows like a suspense novel, even though you know how it will end. I read most of "1857" in one sitting, eager to see what would happen next. "Nation on the Brink" was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the year which it appeared,but lost out in a very strong field.
Another reviewer complained that Stampp centered his argument on 1857 and neglected things which came before. That is the focus of the book, which is not an introduction to U.S. history. I don't believe that too much background is required, but David Potter's "Impending Crisis" is a good book if you want to study the 15 years before the war, and would provide a good companion to "Nation on the Brink".
Finally, it should be noted that Stampp is reluctant to draw conclusions, spending most of his time reporting the events of the year-- perfect for people who know a little about the era.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. Berner on July 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book has a lot to tell people even if they think they know all about the Civil War. It covers the year 1857 and Mr. Stampp makes a persuasive case that this year was the year that made the Civil War inevitable.

Bad Presidents often get stigmatized with the reputation that they were merely ineffectual. Often, this allows the really bad Presidents from getting off the hook for active wrongdoing. Herbert Hoover for instance is hardly known for instituting the first Presidential break-in of political enemies which became common practice among almost all of his successors until Richard Nixon was caught. And people remember Bill Clinton for Monica Lewinsky, not for being the first President to receive bribes from Red China. So it is with James Buchanan, whose intervention in the Kansas controversy was so outrageous that he brought about the collapse of the Democratic Party and the dissolution of the Union. Stampp also makes it clear why Stephen A. Douglas deserves his reputation as a great man.

Stampp gives you a flavor of the year, so much that you almost feel that you are there. I would have preferred more cultural news - what the people were reading, what was playing in the theaters - but there is no reason for complaining about a book which didn't get written. As it stands, this is a splendid acheivement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jim on October 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
The book by Stampp is a very good look into the events prior to the Civil War. The year 1857 was frought with issues and factors which would lead to the spark for the Civil War. Stampp investigates the issues of the year very thoroughly.

Stampp is one of the best Civil War historians, and this book will get you good insight to Pre-Civil War United States. This book is priced reasonably and holds a good amount of information. The detailed attack and the aftermath in the Senate is included, and provides an example of the hostility that was brewing in 1857.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The author concentrates on events in the year 1857 to illustrate how America got from there to the Civil war. Featuring such landmark events as the Dred Scott decision of the supreme court, the ineptness of the Buchanan administration, and the financial panic, Stampp attempts to show how this year was a turning point in our history. The problem is that he attempts to do so in a vacuum, ignoring events that went before and after, so that the view is somewhat distorted. All the same, it shows many events that are unfamiliar to the reader and enlightens on how we entered, and could have avoided, a major internal conflict only four years later.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By gene on January 22, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Needing this book for a course on The Civil War, I found it very informative and a fairly easy read. Some of the other books I used for this course are confusing and I found myself going back and reading the material 2 or three times. This book was not like that at all. It was interesting and it is keeper for my book shelf.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alfred Johnson on May 15, 2013
Format: Paperback
As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War I have been poring through some books concerning the lead-up to that conflict trying to gather again a picture of what the political, social and economic landscape looked like that in a few short years would tear the American state apart and seriously jeopardize what Abraham Lincoln called this fragile experiment in democracy. The book under review, Kenneth Stampp's America In 1857 is one such snapshot in time just prior to that war. And a good one.

The historian's art is all about periodization, you know ages, eras, the times, zeitgeist, and things like that in order to set their arguments. Sometimes the choice is rather an arbitrary construct but here Professor Stampp has set out a pretty good argument for the year 1857 as decisive in the slide to civil war. Certainly the whole decade of the 1850s was filled with events that lead in that direction but 1857 with the inauguration of Democrat James Buchanan is not a bad place, especially over Kansas, to show where the "irrepressible conflict," free labor or slave, would accelerate that rush to war.

Professor Stampp, who has written other books on antebellum slavery and post-war reconstruction and so knows the period well, details how the forces that emerged from the presidential election of 1856 where Buchanan beat the upstart Republican Fremont played out in 1857 the first year of his administration.
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America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink
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