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The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War

The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War


The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War

valutazioni:
4.5/5 (11 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
11 ore
Pubblicato:
Sep 11, 2018
ISBN:
9781427293411
Formato:
Audiolibro

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Descrizione

The previously untold story of the violence in Congress that helped spark the Civil War

In The Field of Blood, Joanne B. Freeman recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, she shows that the Capitol was rife with conflict in the decades before the Civil War. Legislative sessions were often punctuated by mortal threats, canings, flipped desks, and all-out slugfests. When debate broke down, congressmen drew pistols and waved Bowie knives. One representative even killed another in a duel. Many were beaten and bullied in an attempt to intimidate them into compliance, particularly on the issue of slavery.

These fights didn't happen in a vacuum. Freeman's dramatic accounts of brawls and thrashings tell a larger story of how fisticuffs and journalism, and the powerful emotions they elicited, raised tensions between North and South and led toward war. In the process, she brings the antebellum Congress to life, revealing its rough realities—the feel, sense, and sound of it—as well as its nation-shaping import.

Funny, tragic, and rivetingly told, The Field of Blood offers a front-row view of congressional mayhem and sheds new light on the careers of John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and other luminaries, as well as introducing a host of lesser-known but no less fascinating men. The result is a fresh understanding of the workings of American democracy and the bonds of Union on the eve of their greatest peril.

Pubblicato:
Sep 11, 2018
ISBN:
9781427293411
Formato:
Audiolibro

Disponibile anche come...

LibroSnapshot


Informazioni sull'autore

Joanne B. Freeman, a professor of history and American studies at Yale University, is a leading authority on early national politics and political culture. Author of the award-winning Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic and editor of The Essential Hamilton and Alexander Hamilton: Writings, she is a cohost of the popular history podcast BackStory.

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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (3/5)
    5635. The Field of Blood Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War, by Joanne B. Freeman (read 30 Jun 2019) This is prodigiously well-researched book published in 2018. It tells of violence in Congress in the years from about 1930 to the time of the Civil War. A congressman was killed by another congressman in a duel in 1837 and that is discussed extensively. The book is held together by what Benjamin Brown French (born in New hampshire in 1800, died in Washington, D.C. in 1870) saw and noted in his diary while he was a clerk with the House of Representatives from the 1830s till near the time of the Civil War. French knew everybody and kept a diary. and the author also researched in the Congressional Globe and newspapers . The text of 295 pages is supported by 100 pages of notes. The best known instance of violence in Congress was on 22 May 1856 when Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina went to the Senate floor and found Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts sitting at his desk and Brooks beat Sumner with his cane till the cane shattered. That occurrence is fully related in the book and also other violence between Southerners addicted to slavery and members of Congress opposed to such. There is so much detail that I confess, though I have long had an intense interest in doings in Congress (in my youth I perused issues of the Congressional Record daily, and started doing that in 1941 and continued to do so till into the 1960s, so hat I knew of all the Senators and Representatives during those years), I found the detail a bit overwhelming.
  • (4/5)
    Not a page turner, but very readable and full of interesting information.
  • (5/5)
    Rousing, first-class bit of history regarding the history of Congressional violence in the generation leading up to the Civil War, and its origins and ties to ongoing disputes over the future of slavery in the United States. Some of the material (like the caning of Senator Sumner) is old territory, but there is a great deal of fresh material, including one on an 1830s duel that killed a Maine congressman, an affair that poisoned Congressional relationships quite seriously. The author, quite cleverly, has chosen to have us see things through the diary and eyes of B.B. French, a New Hampshire man that was briefly the clerk of the House, and later a bureaucrat under President Pierce. There's a wealth of well-chosen illustrations, though my one complaint about them is that they're hard to read at the size they're reproduced. If you like American history, you are going to love this book.
  • (4/5)
    In the early days of our republic, serving as an elected official in either house of Congress could prove to be a mortal hazard. In antebellum America, the carrying of knives and guns on one’s person was common, as was drunkenness and gambling. Add to this already volatile mix the sectional tensions regarding the slavery issue, and, as author Joanne B. Freeman clearly shows, the cup of violence soon runneth over. The generally well-known incident of Representative Preston S. Brooks (D-S.C.) beating Senator Charles Sumner (R-Mass.) with a cane is only one example of Congressional passions run amok. Many more are outlined within these pages.This book is more than a mere recounting of duels, fistfights, and other bloodshed within the hallowed halls of our nation’s capital. Using the diary of one Benjamin Brown French, a minor bureaucrat that nevertheless was acquainted with 12 presidents and kept a diary over the course of 42 years, Freeman traces the trajectory of our decent into civil war. Brown had a ringside seat to the daily mayhem and he duly recorded such in often pithy remarks in what eventually ran to eleven volumes. As both French and Freeman show, despite the turmoil, speeches were made, compromises agreed to, and laws were passed. It is a fascinating record of American politics before it became professionalized, as handshakes now have replaced handguns. While duels and derring-do among our elected officials of yesteryear may be news to some in the here and now, it comes as no surprise to students of American history or American politics. Over twenty years ago, in the pages of the four volume reference work The Encyclopedia of the United States Congress (Bacon, Davidson, and Keller, eds., Simon and Schuster, 1995), there may be found a lengthy article entitled “Violence in Congress.” In part, it reads, “Congress in the 1800’s was no place for the timid…From frontier states came rugged individualists, some more accustomed to settling disputes with fists or weapons than with gentlemanly compromise. From the south came a number of hot-tempered aristocrats schooled in the manly arts…and alert to any slur on their honor. From the north came a veritable human menagerie, including agitators whose moral zealotry stirred constant turmoil and discontent.” (Vol. 4, page 2062). By all accounts, not a pleasant place to conduct the people’s business. And yet, Congress, and the nation, endures. As good a story as is being told, however, it is marred somewhat by the author’s workmanlike style. The sometimes pedestrian prose makes for a bit of a slog in places. That quibble aside, this is a thoroughly researched volume, with copious citations to sources consulted and an ample bibliography for further reading. Freeman, a professor of history and American studies at Yale University, specializes in early national politics and political culture. She has previously written Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic, which has received excellent reviews. This book is highly recommended for all those who wish to know more about how our government operated back in the bad old days.
  • (5/5)
    Great, disturbing book about how much violence there was in the antebellum Congress—a guy died in a duel, and that’s not even the thing you know about (Sumner’s caning). John Quincy Adams deliberately used his elderly, decrepit statesman status to say things that other Northerners couldn’t say without getting called out for a literal duel, because Southerners were amazing bullies and used that bullying to prevent discussion of slavery. Eventually Northerners got fed up and started electing representatives who professed themselves willing to fight back, though Northerners still disapproved of dueling and so it was always a tightrope. But white Southerners were committed to their ideals of slavery and manhood as aggression, and so we got the Civil War. Not promising for today’s situation.