A Disease in the Public Mind
A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War
By the time his body hung from the gallows for hiscrimes at Harper’s Ferry, abolitionists had made John Brown a “holy martyr” in thefight against Southern slave owners. But Northern hatred for Southerners hadbeen long in the making. Northern rage was born of the conviction that NewEngland, whose spokesmen and militia had begun the American Revolution, shouldhave been the leader of the new nation. Instead, they had been displaced bySouthern “slavocrats” like Thomas Jefferson. And Northern envy onlyexacerbated the South’s greatest fear: race war. In the sixty years precedingthe outbreak of civil war, Northern and Southern fanatics ramped up thestruggle over slavery. By the time they had become intractable enemies, onlythe tragedy of a bloody civil war could save the Union.
In this riveting and character-driven history, one ofAmerica’s most respected historians traces the “disease in the publicmind”—distortions of reality that seized large numbers of Americans—in thedecades-long run-up to the Civil War.
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