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Fanatics and Fire-eaters

Fanatics and Fire-eaters: Newspapers and the Coming of the Civil War

Lorman A. Ratner
Dwight L. Teeter
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Fanatics and Fire-eaters
    Book Description:

    In the troubled years leading up to the Civil War, newspapers in the North and South presented the arguments for and against slavery, debated the right to secede, and disputed the Dred Scott decision, denouncing opposing viewpoints with imagination and vigor. _x000B__x000B_Although it is impossible to determine the precise effect of the newspapers on their readers, there is no question that they took the temperature of their communities and recorded the rising local agitations, unifying opinions, raising alarms, and cementing prejudices. _x000B__x000B_Lorman A. Ratner and Dwight Teeter's Fanatics and Fire-Eaters ably demonstrates the power of a fast-growing media to influence both perception and the course of events.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09221-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-6)

    In these concluding sentences of his first inaugural address in March 1861, Abraham Lincoln expressed fear for his country’s future and urged fellow citizens to remember its past. He was reminding Americans that the Union was the product of their forebears’ struggle to win freedom and to form a national government, based upon republican principles, and to protect that freedom. But when the president was inaugurated, eight states already had seceded from the Union. The implication of that action, as Lincoln addressed it, was that those Americans seemed no longer to hear the “mystic chords of memory.”¹

    Earlier in in...

  6. 1 The Emergence of a Democratic Press
    (pp. 7-33)

    The years from the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828 to the start of the American Civil War in 1861 saw extraordinary changes in all aspects of American life. Not long before, in 1803, the Louisiana Purchase added more than eight hundred thousand square miles of territory, doubling the land controlled by the United States. Much of this land-wealth, however, was inaccessible until steamboats, canals, and then railroads allowed Americans to begin to solve the riddle of how to explore the vastness of their nation.¹ In effect, this transportation revolution helped change what seemed to some a negative in the...

  7. 2 Impeding Civilization: The Brooks-Sumner Incident
    (pp. 34-48)

    The Mexican War provided a powerful stimulus to Americans’ sense of national identity, but—ironically—it brought to center stage the conflict over the place of slavery in a society founded upon and still resting on republican principles. The acquisition of a vast land mass available for settlement made reconciliation of the issue of whether and where slavery could be extended more urgent than ever. After two years of congressional debate, debate that threatened to splinter the two major political parties, a compromise was reached. As is often the case with compromises, however, advocates who held staunchly to their positions...

  8. 3 The Dred Scott Decision and a Society of Laws
    (pp. 49-59)

    In the summer months of 1856, with the Brooks-Sumner incident no longer hot news, the press turned its attention back to Kansas. While pro-and antislavery supporters continued to pour verbal abuse on one another, particularly through the newspapers, a new round of violence broke out. The violence was centered along the Wakarusa River near the town of Lawrence. There, the preceding spring, a proslavery force had attacked the predominantly antislavery community, burning, looting, and killing some of its residents. The new confrontation saw some fifteen hundred supporters of slavery gather in the area. Before a major conflict could occur, the...

  9. 4 Kansas and the Lecompton Constitution: Does the Majority Rule?
    (pp. 60-70)

    In the months that followed theDred Scottdecision, press attention turned back to the conflicts in Kansas. Political center stage was seized by maneuvering in Kansas Territory by advocates from each side of the slavery debate, first to gain dominance in the territorial legislature and then to control the choice of delegates to the state constitutional convention. Then, because each side created its own territorial government, each had its own constitutional convention and wrote a proposed constitution. Finally, in the winter of 1857–58, attention shifted to Washington, where Congress and the president had to decide for Kansas whether...

  10. 5 John Brown’s Raid: Violence in a Republican Society
    (pp. 71-84)

    It was May 1858 before a compromise bill on the disposition of the Kansas constitution finally passed both houses of Congress. The bill called for a referendum in Kansas to determine the fate of the proposed state constitution. In August 1858 an overwhelming majority defeated the constitution. Kansas remained a territory until January 1861, when, with a number of slave states no longer represented in Congress, an antislavery constitution was approved. The conflicts in Kansas had divided Democrats, further splintering the country along sectional lines. For some deeply involved in the conflicts and violence in Kansas there were wounds that...

  11. 6 Lincoln’s Election: Could a Republican Lead the Republic?
    (pp. 85-101)

    On May 16, 1860, six months after John Brown’s execution, the Republicans convened in Chicago. The pre-convention favorite and leader in the delegate count on the first two ballots, William Seward of New York, was unable to gain the support necessary to be the party’s nominee for the presidency. Delegates then turned to Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. The impact of the Harpers Ferry incident was still a raw wound in the North. Seward was closely identified with abolitionists. Lincoln was not. Seward’s views were well known. Lincoln’s views, despite the national attention paid to his debates with Stephen Douglas in...

  12. 7 Firing on Fort Sumter: A Republic at War with Itself
    (pp. 102-116)

    Less than a week after news of Lincoln’s election, the South Carolina legislature, in a unanimous vote, instructed that a state convention be held. The purpose was to pass a resolution that would take the state out of the Union. On December 20, 1860, the resolution was approved. Four days later, the delegates published a list of reasons for their action. They cited northern hostility toward slavery and emphasized that the president-elect had received support from only one section of the country and so, in their eyes, could not claim to lead all of the country.

    By February 1, 1861,...

    (pp. 117-120)

    From the moment of independence, Americans faced the daunting task of creating what Benedict Anderson has called “an imagined community.” ¹ Could people with different religious beliefs and who came from different ethnic backgrounds, were divided by class differences, and lived in communities far apart both in time and space be able to find some common identity? Lacking the bonds that one religion, one heritage, or at least the familiarity that came with social interaction that might be formed, Americans found communal bonds in ideas, images, myths, and symbols that reflected a shared belief and agreed upon values in what...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 121-132)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 133-138)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 139-143)