The Othering: "A Disease in the Public Mind: 1 of 2: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War" by Thomas Fleming

Jul 05, 04:15 AM

AUTHOR.

(Photo: Representative Preston Brooks (left) brutally beat Senator Charles Sumner after Sumner gave a fiery speech attacking slavery and its practitioners.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpbh.02793. CALL NUMBER: LC-BH82- 5237 A [P&P]

Charles Sumner. Library of Congress description: "Charles Sumner")

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The Othering: "A Disease in the Public Mind: 1 of 2: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War" by Thomas Fleming

Titles regularly appear that posit the cause of the American Civil War—one indication that the war has no unassailable explanation. The prolific Fleming, for decades a fixture among American historians, pinpoints public opinion as the proximate origin of the war, specifically its acquisition by 1860 of a polarized, paranoid character, pitting Northerners’ fear of “slave power” against Southerners’ terror of a race war sparked by Northern abolitionists (John Brown was their nightmare made real). Fleming recounts attitudes of prominent Founders toward slavery, emphasizing how their general recognition of its injustice never quite trended, during the early decades of the 1800s, toward emancipation. Instead of declining, the peculiar institution retrenched and expanded. Without understanding white Southerners’ predicaments, Fleming argues, abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison damned them, their region, and the Union. An array of Southerners’ ripostes to Northern criticisms peppers Fleming’s narrative of each section’s exacerbating willingness to impute baleful motives to the other. Making a plausible presentation of antebellum attitudes and illusions, Fleming is sure to spark lively discussion about the Civil War. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.