ROMANCE

We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861

Knopf. 2012. c.352p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781400042005. $30. HIST
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Cooper (history, Louisiana State Univ.; Jefferson Davis, American) posits that the Civil War came about because Lincoln and Republican radicals refused to engage in serious compromise efforts with Southern moderates and "fire-eaters," referring primarily to the Southern demand for the territorial expansion of slavery. In fact, Lincoln and the Republicans consistently stated that they were willing to compromise over every other divisive issue except slavery in the territories. Cooper contends that the territorial expansion of slavery wasn't practically important because slavery would not exist in Western climates and, therefore, Republicans should not have been so intransigent. This only leads to the question, why did the South demand it if it was unimportant? Further, Cooper argues that Lincoln should not have used force to coerce Southern states back into the Union and should instead have sought reconciliation by giving in to all Southern demands. It's difficult to see how Lincoln could have survived politically if he had completely abandoned the platform on which he was elected. Nor does Cooper explain how reunion could have taken place since secessionists made clear that the break was permanent.
VERDICT Most pro-Confederate books downplay the role of slavery in the conflict. Cooper calls slavery a moral wrong, while making it the central issue. Objective historians may want to read this book, but they are likely to find that Cooper's argument uses flawed logic.

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