The Fate of Their Country by Michael F. Holt
Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War

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How partisan politics lead to the Civil War

What brought about the Civil War? Leading historian Michael F. Holt convincingly offers a disturbingly contemporary answer: partisan politics. In this brilliant and succinct book, Holt distills a lifetime of scholarship to demonstrate that secession and war did not arise from two irreconcilable economies any more than from moral objections to slavery. Short-sighted politicians were to blame. Rarely looking beyond the next election, the two dominant political parties used the emotionally charged and largely chimerical issue of slavery's extension westward to pursue reelection and settle political scores, all the while inexorably dragging the nation towards disunion.

Despite the majority opinion (held in both the North and South) that slavery could never flourish in the areas that sparked the most contention from 1845 to 1861-the Mexican Cession, Oregon, and Kansas-politicians in Washington, especially members of Congress, realized the partisan value of the issue and acted on short-term political calculations with minimal regard for sectional comity. War was the result.

Including select speeches by Lincoln and others, The Fate of Their Country openly challenges us to rethink a seminal moment in America's history.


About Michael F. Holt

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Michael F. Holt is Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History at the University of Virginia and the author, most recently, of The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party.
Published June 20, 2005 by Hill and Wang. 185 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, War. Non-fiction

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“Politicians made decisions,” he writes, “from short-term calculations of partisan, factional, or personal advantage rather than from any long-term concern for the health, indeed, the very preservation of the Union.” Holt implies that times have not changed much, and perhaps it was the contempora...

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