John Brown's prophecy: "We Have the War Upon Us: 1 of 2: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861" by William J. Cooper.

Jul 06, 12:40 AM

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The "secession movement". Lithograph; cropped from Library of Congress original. Library of Congress summary: The movement of several Southern states toward secession in early 1861 is portrayed as a doomed enterprise. The artist shows Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, all represented by men riding donkeys, following the lead of South Carolina toward a cliff. South Carolina, who rides a pig, pursues a butterfly "Secession Humbug." A sixth man, Georgia, rides down an inclined path rather than follow the group, confessing, "We have some doubts about "the end" of that road and think it expedient to deviate a little." South Carolina, reaching for the butterfly, says, "We go the whole hog.--Old Hickory is dead, and now we'll have it." His reference to Andrew Jackson ("Old Hickory") is in keeping with the anti-Democratic line of the cartoon. The work is in fact based on an 1837 satire criticizing Jacksonian fiscal policy and its bullionist pursuit of the "Gold Humbug." (See "Fifty Cents. Shin Plaster," no. 1837-11.) Florida, immediately behind South Carolina, cries, "Go it Carolina! we are the boys to "wreck" the Union." Next follows Alabama, who declares, "We go it blind, Cotton is King!'" Mississippi says, "Down with the Union! Mississippi "repudiates her bonds."" Last is Louisiana, who says, "Go it boys! We'll soon taste the "sweets" of secession," alluding to the state's domination of the sugar trade. )

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John Brown's prophecy: "We Have the War Upon Us: 1 of 2: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861" by William J. Cooper.

“The book reads like a Shakespearean tragedy played out on the national stage, where everything is converging toward a point of catastrophe, and the one thing that could avert disaster at the last minute (in this case, some kind of compromise) fails. . . . There are moral implications here, as well as historical.” —The Daily Beast

“Cooper suggests Lincoln might have forestalled the march toward secession by speaking out before his inaugural, but he refused and was as firmly opposed to compromise as the rest of his party. . . . The book gains momentum as the crisis deepens and Cooper describes the enormous pressures on Lincoln as he agonized whether to reinforce beleaguered Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.” —Seattle Times¶

“In this compelling blend of crisp narrative and shrewd analysis, William J. Cooper examines the most profound crisis of the antebellum American Union through the eyes of the contesting political camps. The result is a triumph of balanced, wise, and genuinely fresh historical writing: a book that brilliantly captures the uncertainty, the search for compromise, and the role of contingency during these fraught months.” —Richard Carwardine, author of Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power

“We Have the War Upon Us is the best survey of the secession crisis published in a generation. There is no more important question than how the Union fell apart in the wake of Abraham Lincoln’s election in November 1860. Cooper answers it with a clarity that comes only after years of research and thought. This is a book for scholars to ponder, but for all interested readers to enjoy.” —James Oakes, author of Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861—1865