Michael F. Holt’s book, The Political Crisis of the 1850’s, was written in the early 80’s, but its content is eerily prescient of today’s political playground.
In this book, Holt offered his not-so-typical thesis of why the Civil War happened. He suggested that is was not slavery, nor states rights, nor North vs South. Instead, Holt contends that it was the breakdown of the 2-party system of government. The breakdown occurred, not because of the differences of the two parties, but because they were so similar, that there was no real difference or robust competition anymore. Therefore, ideological disputes manifested itself in other forms — and ultimately, the Civil War.
A highly recommended read. From Amazon:
“Holt sees the Civil War as representing a breakdown in America’s democratic political process, more specifically the Second Party System of Whigs and Democrats. He demonstrates this system’s success, beginning in the 1820s and 1830s, in confining sectional disputes safely within the political arena. With the breakdown of vital two-party competition in the 1850s, sectional issues increasingly took on ideological dimension, causing, Americans North and South to see in them dangerous threats to cherished republican institutions. No longer manageable within the arena of politics, sectional differences had to be resolved with in the arena of battle.
The Political Crisis of the 1850s offers a clearly written account of politics (state and federal), sectionalism, race, and slavery from the 1820s through to the Civil War, brilliantly combining the behavioral and ideological approaches to political history”
Has anyone else ever read it? Thoughts? If you are a fan of Holt, you’ll also love his magisterial history of the Whig Party, the enormous tome which fleshes out the topics contained in “The Political Crisis of the 1850s“.