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Yankee Leviathan: The Origins of Central State Authority in America, 1859-1877

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521398176
ISBN-10: 0521398177
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Bensel's work is impressive because he keeps his eye on the interrelationship of two broad issues: state formation and political economy. These issues are now at the forefront of the best new writing on the history of American politics, and Bensel's manuscript definitely marks a step forward for a discussion now associated with the writings of Skocpol, Skowronek and others...The reader comes away from the book with a deepened understanding of how political structures evolved during the Civil War era, and how this evolution was related both to class relations and broad issues of political economy." Eric Foner, Columbia University

"Bensel's perspective on the political economy of sectionalism seems inexhaustible as a source of fresh insight into the struggles of the Civil War era. In Yankee Leviathan, the irresistable conflict of the 1850s is not simply resolved in the North's favor, it is transposed into the structure and operations of new state formation." Stephen Skowronek, Yale University

Book Description

Contending that intense competition for national political economy control produced secession, this study describes the impact of the American Civil War upon the late nineteenth century development of central state authority.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (January 25, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521398177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521398176
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #988,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher P. Atwood on January 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
This books argues powerfully and convincingly that what happened in the US Civil War created a truly new state in America, one that owed little to old republic that preceded it. It also suggests that this sort of revolution from above is probably of broader historical significance in modern history than the more paradigmatic European revolutions (such as in France or Russia).

Richard Bensel uses a systematic methodology first to define state strengthening (i.e. how the state in a nation acquires relative freedom from the society in which it dwells), and then to characterize how it was built in the Civil War years. His main source of information is votes in the US and Confederate congresses, which he analyzes with a gimlet eye to sectional stresses and political economy. This is one case where quantitative methodology helps to make a clear, convincing and powerful argument.

It should also be noted that (contrary to the impression that the other review gives) this book is no shill for the Confederate cause either. As a political scientist with a focus on finance capital, Bensel does not view the Civil War through the lens of a noble crusade to abolish slavery. At the same time, however, he uses the same lens of political economy to look at the southern state-building as well. Ironically, the "Dixie Leviathan" was even more powerful and autonomous than the Yankee one. The small size of the southern economy and the broad popularity of the war gave the Confederate government both the need and the ability to confiscate property and trample states rights far more effectively than the Republicans did in the Union. The old slogans of Jeffersonian small government disappeared and big-government national mobilization became Dixie's order of the day.
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By A Customer on September 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book blew me away. All the books I'd read on American Reconstruction before this concentrated on carpetbaggers and scalawags, or on issues of equality. This one is different. Bensel looks at Reconstruction as the triumph of the Hamiltonian vision for America. Here the Republican Party, like the Russian Bolsheviks in the early 20th century, dominate the American political-economy with no significant political opposition.
With the Southern Democrats crushed in the Civil War and their opposition to Northern industrial development silenced, the Republicans are able to push forward their agenda of rapid national expansion and heavy governmental subsidies for Northern business interests. Little to nothing is spent on rebuilding the Southern infrastructure or on ensuring equality of opportunity for the freed slaves. Why wouldn't the Republicans live up to their wartime promises of providing land or other economic opportunities to African-Americans? Because if they did, then Northern factory workers would take notice and demand their fair share of Northern industry. This was intolerable to Northern business intersts. Thus, the South becomes an economic colony of the North, while the Republican Party's pro-business attitude helps turn Northern workers into virtual wage-slaves. Bensel's book is dense and difficult to read. Nevertheless, it's mind-opening rewards are worth the effort.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bensel is perhaps the best in the area of American Political Development. His work his thorough, accurate, and - unlike so many others - enjoyable. He gives a very clear explanation of how the Federal Government gained strength during and immediately after the Civil War.
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