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Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War Paperback – April 20, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0195094978 ISBN-10: 0195094972

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Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War + Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 20, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195094972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195094978
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"First-rate in every respect...a work of genuine distinction, and a major contribution to ante-bellum political history."--Kenneth Stampp, author of The Imperiled Union


"Still the best book on the politics of the 1850's."--Norman B. Ferris, Middle Tennessee State University


"It's the best book on Republican ideology there is. Foner is among the very best Americanists ever. Bravo!"--Harlow Sheidley, University of Colorado


"Foner's work remains the classic treatment of the subject!'--K.M. Startip, Williams Baptist College


"Excellent volume--Foner is always good anyway!"--John F. McCormack, Delaware County Community College


About the Author

Eric Foner is Professor of History at Columbia University, and author of Tom Paine and Revolutionary America and Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War.

More About the Author

Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, where he earned his B.A. and Ph.D. In his teaching and scholarship, Foner focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and nineteenth-century America. His "Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877," won the Bancroft, Parkman, and Los Angeles Times Book prizes and remains the standard history of the period. In 2006 Foner received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching at Columbia University. He has served as president of the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the Society of American Historians. He is currently writing a book on Lincoln and slavery.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#86 in Books > History
#86 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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The book is somewhat narrowly focused.
J. Grattan
The book is very well researched and has footnotes throughout so that the reader can see what sources were used for the book.
Mitchell F. Mcdonald
Of all of the books I've read about antebellum American politics, this is far and away my favorite.
Steven M. Couch

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on November 16, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Civil War era is surely one of the most complex, controversial, and tumultuous periods in our nation's history and one of the most difficult to capture. "Free Soil, Free Labor, ..." is a sterling effort to provide insight into the social philosophies of the time that almost inevitably led to the breakup of the Union. While ostensibly concerned with the ideology of the Republican Party leading up to the Civil War, the author clearly shows that the Republicans also both reflected and advanced the belief system that came to permeate much of the North.
A key component of Northern thinking emphasized a free labor and producer ethic, which extolled the virtues of free, independent, and propertied working men. Dependency was eschewed as evidence of personal shortcoming. But the institution of slavery violated that ethic in every way. Not only were slaves not free, but also Southern aristocratic society degraded free labor. To be a free laborer in the South was to be a member of a lower class. These diametrically opposed views of labor were the basis of an ongoing controversy dating from the Missouri Compromise over the issue of permitting slavery in newly obtained territories or newly admitted states. The Northern and Republican position was one of "free soil," for free laborers.
Though not emphasizing the chronological history of the Republican Party, the author traces the assimilation into the party of members or adherents of the Abolitionists, the Liberty Party, the Free Soil Party, anti-slavery Democrats and Whigs, the Know-Nothings, and the so-called radical Republicans. A good sampling of the pronouncements of the leading Northern political figures of the era as well as the positions of key newspaper publishers is quite illuminating.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Steven M. Couch on April 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
Foner's account of the antebellum formation of the Republican Party and its ideology is a model for what truly great history writing should be. This work is a relatively easy read (as history texts go), but without sacrificing any academic value. Of all of the books I've read about antebellum American politics, this is far and away my favorite.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Steven Farron on December 23, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book, along with Foner's Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, provides extremely valuable insights into a crucial turning point in American history, which still resonates today. Both are masterpieces of synthesis and interpretation. Both are scholarly and detailed, yet convey a feeling of excitement at the events described. Both enable the reader to relive the tensions, aspirations, thoughts, and struggles of the times they describe. The 1995 reissue of Free Soil begins with an important essay by Foner, which he wrote for it.
Foner was a Marxist-Leninist when he wrote both books. But he never allowed his Marxism to vitiate his historical analysis. On the contrary, he constantly emphasized that the motives that propelled the participants were ideas and ideals, not economic interest or social class (e.g., pages 4-5, 104-5, 110, 113, 168-76, 183-4, 304)
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ryan Setliff's crude economic analysis of the reasons for the formation of the Republican party (see next review) hardly stand up to Foner's convincing arguments, backed with a suitable array of EVIDENCE, for the tangled web of factors and motives that led individuals into the Republican part in the 1950s. Anyone wishing to understand this crucial period in US history cannot afford to miss this book.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mitchell F. Mcdonald on April 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
The issues with slavery in America reached all the way back to the birth of the nation. The Founding Fathers agreed to a compromise on slavery when the Constitution was written. Basically nothing was done about the institution except to leave it to later generations to deal with. Mr. Foner explains some of the attitudes and actions taken by the northern Republicans in the twenty years prior to the U.S. Civil War.

The party of the South became the Democrats, once known as the Jacksonian Democrats, and the Whigs in the North were replaced by the conservative Republicans. In the North a person could improve his social standing with hard work. The Republicans major belief was in the idea of free labor. The belief in free labor was contrary to the society in the South. Slaves and poor whites were for the most part unable to advance socially and economically. Foner quoted the New York Times of the day as printing: "Our Paupers today, thanks to free labor, are our yeoman and merchants of tomorrow. (p.16) Basically the Republicans believed if a man applied himself and worked very hard he could improve both his financial and social condition.

The Republicans believed that the slaves in the South were lazy and ignorant and would never better themselves. They also thought that the poor whites despised the slaves and considered any work that a slave did as beneath them and disgraceful. This promoted laziness and helped to keep the poor whites of the South from advancing. The Republicans thought that the institution of slavery was not only oppressing the slaves but the southern economy as well. In 1858 Aaron Cragin, a New Hampshire Congressman observed after hearing southern speech, "this language of feudalism and aristocracy has a strange sound to me." (p.
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