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Distant Revolutions: 1848 and the Challenge to American Exceptionalism (review)

Distant Revolutions: 1848 and the Challenge to American Exceptionalism (review) REVIEWS of the late 1840s and 1850s feature a simple substitution of sectionalism for partisanship as the necessary catalyst for disunion. Yet, even in viewing the war as inescapable, historians must account for the tenacity of partisan loyalty, even when seemingly outdated or even irrational. Although the architects of the second party system hoped it would prevent disunion by orienting the electorate away from sectional concerns, the parties demonstrated, as they did in 1848, that they could accommodate themselves to sectionalism, producing a heady brew of ever more divisive partisan policies. While partisanship coexisted with and even exploited sectionalism, sectionalism itself cannot simply be equated with disunion. Read's meticulous reconstruction of Calhoun's political thought reveals that some sectionalists understood their actions as bulwarking the Union. Although sectional consensus was fundamentally unworkable as long as the core issue in dispute--slavery--was placed outside the boundaries of legitimate discussion, southern sectionalists (as well as northern ones) were not always actively pursuing disunion. As these works suggest, any narrative of the road to civil war in which unionist parties yield to disunionist sectionalists does not capture the diversity and confusion of antebellum politics. While a richer portrayal may not undermine those who http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the Early Republic University of Pennsylvania Press

Distant Revolutions: 1848 and the Challenge to American Exceptionalism (review)

Journal of the Early Republic , Volume 31 (2) – Apr 21, 2011

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University of Pennsylvania Press
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Copyright © University of Pennsylvania Press
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1553-0620
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Abstract

REVIEWS of the late 1840s and 1850s feature a simple substitution of sectionalism for partisanship as the necessary catalyst for disunion. Yet, even in viewing the war as inescapable, historians must account for the tenacity of partisan loyalty, even when seemingly outdated or even irrational. Although the architects of the second party system hoped it would prevent disunion by orienting the electorate away from sectional concerns, the parties demonstrated, as they did in 1848, that they could accommodate themselves to sectionalism, producing a heady brew of ever more divisive partisan policies. While partisanship coexisted with and even exploited sectionalism, sectionalism itself cannot simply be equated with disunion. Read's meticulous reconstruction of Calhoun's political thought reveals that some sectionalists understood their actions as bulwarking the Union. Although sectional consensus was fundamentally unworkable as long as the core issue in dispute--slavery--was placed outside the boundaries of legitimate discussion, southern sectionalists (as well as northern ones) were not always actively pursuing disunion. As these works suggest, any narrative of the road to civil war in which unionist parties yield to disunionist sectionalists does not capture the diversity and confusion of antebellum politics. While a richer portrayal may not undermine those who

Journal

Journal of the Early RepublicUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

Published: Apr 21, 2011

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