"There Is a North": Fugitive Slaves, Political Crisis, and Cultural Transformation in the Coming of the Civil War

by John Brooke

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How does political change take hold? In the 1850s, politicians and abolitionists despaired, complaining that the “North, the poor timid, mercenary, driveling North” offered no forceful opposition to the power of the slaveholding South. And yet, as John L. Brooke proves, the North did change. Inspired by brave fugitives who escaped slavery and the cultural craze that was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the North rose up to battle slavery, ultimately waging the bloody Civil War.

While Lincoln’s alleged quip about the little woman who started the big war has been oft-repeated, scholars have not fully explained the dynamics between politics and culture in the decades leading up to 1861. Rather than simply viewing the events of the 1850s through the lens of party politics, “There Is a North” is the first book to explore how cultural action—including minstrelsy, theater, and popular literature—transformed public opinion and political structures. Taking the North’s rallying cry as his title, Brooke shows how the course of history was forever changed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781625344472
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
Publication date: 10/25/2019
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 376
Sales rank: 628,234
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

JOHN L. BROOKE is Warner Woodring Chair and Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor of History at the Ohio State University.

Table of Contents

List of Figures ix

Preface and Acknowledgments xi

Chronology, 1846-1861 xv

Introduction: Confluence, Creolization, Liminal Crisis, and the Antislavery North 1

Chapter 1 Structures Challenged: The Rise of Abolitionism and Antislavery 23

Chapter 2 Structure Defended: The Compromise of 1850 65

Chapter 3 Liminality Erupting in the First Crisis: Fugitives and the Northern Public 89

Chapter 4 Creative Liminality: Writing and Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin 116

Chapter 5 Transforming Culture: Commercializing Antislavery 159

Chapter 6 Guarantees Violated in the Second Crisis: The Kansas-Nebraska Act 202

Chapter 7 Restructuring Coalescence: Nativism and Antislavery Politics 230

Chapter 8 Confirming and Consolidating New Structures: The Rise of the Republican Party 276

Epilogue Into the War 295

Appendix of Tables 307

Notes 319

Index 385

Gallery follows page 158.

What People are Saying About This

Alice Fahs

This beautifully written, elegantly theorized, and deeply researched book offers a fresh and timely examination of the intertwined political and cultural crises and forces leading to the American Civil War.

James Oakes

It turns out that the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin did more to establish the Republican Party than the caning of Charles Sumner. By combining the sensitivity of a cultural historian with the savvy of a political historian, John L. Brooke offers us a remarkable, and remarkably persuasive, new account of the emergence of antislavery politics in the early 1850s.

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