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The American Civil War often seems inevitable in retrospect, but to historians who examine the secession crisis of 1860–61, it does not seem quite so obvious. Succeeding works such as And the War Came, by Kenneth M. Stampp (1950), and Days of Defiance, by Maury Klein (1997), McClintock’s contribution assesses the impact in the North of South Carolina’s belligerence following Lincoln’s election. Through the lens of politics, McClintock analyzes how the factions composing the Republican and Democratic parties reacted, and how partisan newspaper editors attempted to influence these factions. From this bottom-up viewpoint, McClintock usefully changes the usual focus from Lincoln to a northern public worried about the possibility of war but uncertain how to avert it. Its fears consolidated into camps of hard-liners and conciliators, argues McClintock, who recounts the failures of compromise formulas that left Republicans opposed to concessions (Lincoln) with the upper hand over would-be deal cutters (William Seward). Intended to redress an oversight in scholarship, McClintock’s study should find favor with general readers interested in the Civil War’s immediate origin. --Gilbert Taylor
"Reader[s] will revel in McClintock's attention to detail and presentation of his interpretation and information in this rich narrative. His ability to immerse the reader within the politics and personalities of the nineteenth century is skillful indeed. . . . Should be the one book that scholars and interested readers consult on the matter of Northern attitudes towards secession at the brink of the Civil War."
"Those interested in better understanding Lincoln's role in the crucial period between his election and the call for volunteers in mid-April 1861 would do well to consult Russell McClintock's new book. . . . Does a fabulous job of uncovering the sense of contingency that existed throughout the nation in the early months."
"[A] splendid study. . . . The success of McClintock's book lies not only in its welcome reconsideration of Republican policy but also in its highlighting the crying need for a modern treatment of the secession winter as a national crisis, a climax of decades of sectional dynamics across the North's and the South's porous political and physical borders."
-Journal of Southern History
"[A] highly readable, thoroughly researched, and welcome narrative. . . . McClintock's book has set a high standard--indeed, a Lincolnian one."
-Civil War History
"McClintock contributes greatly to Civil War scholarship and perhaps even helps Army officers understand the current political climate. . . . McClintock has truly mastered his subject."
"In telling the story so thoughtfully and with such attention to detail, this fine piece of scholarship certainly deserves to take its place alongside the familiar historiographical landmarks."
-American Historical Review
"Tells this story in a straightforward manner with minimum back tracking. . . . Informative and enjoyable."
-James Durney, Independent Book Reviewer
"McClintock understands . . . the complexity of what was happening in the slave states."
-History News Network
"A fine study."
-Sean Wilentz, The New Republic
"It is the rare reader who will not find this an eminently satisfactory book. McClintock has consulted an impressive range of primary sources to construct his narrative, illustrate his points, and support his analysis, and [he] demonstrates a solid grasp of secondary literature."
-Journal of Illinois History
"Answers a question long understood to be central to any larger explanation of the Civil War. . . . A compelling account."
-Maryland Historical Magazine
"A worthy addition to Civil War scholarship."
"A balanced and erudite examination of the secession crisis from the all too neglected northern political angle. . . . [This] deeply researched study promotes fresh interpretations and insights that are deserving of a wide readership. The literature of the secession winter is appreciably richer for its existence. Highly recommended."
-Civil War Books and Authors
"[McClintock's] analysis is exceptionally clear and well written, easily accessible to the layperson as well as the scholar; it stimulates thought about the nature of leadership and crisis management."
"Ably researched and well-written."
-Bowling Green Daily News
"[This] work should . . . be the beginning of a reappraisal."
-The Journal of American History
"McClintock's vision of the period in which events led to a new president's decision to go to war to preserve a union is to comprehend the war, its causes and effects, more deeply, more complexly."
In Lincoln and the Decision for War, McClintock usefully changes the usual focus from Lincoln to a northern public worried about the possibility of war but uncertain how to avert it. . . . Intended to redress an oversight in scholarship, McClintock's study should find favor with general readers interested in the Civil War's immediate origins."
"Well-written, shows appreciation for the complexity of northern sentiment during the secession crisis, and treats the crisis for the essentially political drama it was."
-Civil War Book Review
In this 'gotcha' culture there are those who blame Abraham Lincoln for the secession of Southern states, but Russell McClintock presents the truth in his nuanced Lincoln and the Decision for War. While Lincoln's election provoked secession, there was nothing Lincoln could do to prevent it. McClintock's most important contribution is to show us how coincidence, accidents, and ignored factors, along with Abraham Lincoln's role, affected events. The book is an excellent reappraisal--sincere, intelligent, and absorbing.
-Frank J. Williams, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and founding chair of The Lincoln Forum
"This fine analytic book anatomizes the currents of need at the time, the efforts of the many varied cultures to cope with them, and the results."
-Journal of American Cultures
"With deft strokes, McClintock describes the various competing concepts of union among Republicans, Democrats and others and discovers that in the end they agreed that representative democracy must oppose disunion or else self-government itself would be lost. . . . More than any other scholar, McClintock incisively shows that in the end the North and Lincoln simply could not let the South go. Highly recommended."
. . . [W]ell-written and brilliantly analyzed. . . .
-William C. Harris, author of Lincoln's Rise to the Presidency
"[A] most exhaustively researched, highly original, and persuasively argued interpretation by Russell McClintock, who views the secession crisis and the run-up to civil war through an entirely political lens. . . . This profoundly conceived and gracefully written book will rightfully be at the center of the [secession crisis] discussion for many years to come."
-Harold Holzer, Virginia Magazine
"McClintock transports the reader into the realm of antebellum American brinksmanship. . . . [A] satisfying account."
-Civil War Times
"McClintock's well-written and brilliantly analyzed account is a most important contribution to the study of the Civil War. . . . Illuminates the immediate origins. . . . Provides an intimate understanding of the antebellum political system."
-The McCormick Messenger
"A substantial contribution. . . . A fine study that deserves to be read along with the work of Daniel Crofts, Kenneth Stampp, and David Potter."
-Journal of Illinois History
"Indispensable for students of political history."
-Georgia Historical Quarterly
Full of details, very well written, and he entirely misses the point.
You can have your own narrative, if you know, or at least suspect, a full set of facts. Read more
I found this an excellent post read to Bowman's, "At the Precipice:.. " for those that want to look at gaining an even better understand of the Secession Crisis.Published on August 30, 2013 by Michael A. Turner
Lincoln and the Decision of War examines a lot of events, some of them huge and well remembered and others seemingly insignificant. Read morePublished on June 18, 2012 by Alan Dale Daniel