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The failure of popular sovereignty : slavery, manifest destiny, and the radicalization of southern politics /
Christopher Childers.
Lawrence : University Press of Kansas, c2012.
xii, 334 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
0700618686 (cloth : alk. paper), 9780700618682 (cloth : alk. paper)
More Details
Lawrence : University Press of Kansas, c2012.
0700618686 (cloth : alk. paper)
9780700618682 (cloth : alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
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Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2013-05-01:
Childers (Crowder College) has written a thorough study of the idea of popular sovereignty in the antebellum US--the doctrine that the local inhabitants (as opposed to the federal government) had the power to decide whether their territory would allow the existence of slavery. This was an evolving concept, according to Childers. Embracing the localism that characterized US politics in this era, popular sovereignty appeared to be a promising solution to the debate over slavery and its future in an expanding republic. This was the way most white southerners saw it; they embraced the doctrine in the 1830s as a tool to prevent any federal claim of authority over slavery. Childers's main contribution is to describe the process by which southern politics "radicalized" as popular sovereignty proved to threaten slavery's ability to expand during the 1850s. By first embracing then rejecting popular sovereignty, radical southerners demonstrated how slavery's expansion trumped all else in an intensifying sectional crisis. This is the first study to delve so deeply into the doctrine of popular sovereignty, and Childers provides fresh insights into the process of southern radicalization that culminated in secession and civil war. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above. K. M. Gannon Grand View University
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Choice, May 2013
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Main Description
As the expanding United States grappled with the question of how to determine the boundaries of slavery, politicians proposed popular sovereignty as a means of entrusting the issue to citizens of new territories. Christopher Childers now uses popular sovereignty as a lens for viewing the radicalization of southern states rights politics, demonstrating how this misbegotten offspring of slavery and Manifest Destiny, though intended to assuage passions, instead worsened sectional differences, radicalized southerners, and paved the way for secession. In this first major history of popular sovereignty, Childers explores the triangular relationship among the extension of slavery, southern politics, and territorial governance. He shows how, as politicians from North and South redesigned popular sovereignty to lessen sectional tensions and remove slavery from the national political discourse, the doctrine instead made sectional divisions intractable, placed the territorial issue at the center of national politics, and gave voice to an increasingly radical states rights interpretation of the federal compact. Childers explains how politicians offered the idea of local control over slavery as a way to appease the South-or at least as a compromise that would not offend the states rights constitutional scruples of southerners. In the end, that strategy backfired by transforming the South into a rigid sectional bloc dedicated to the protection and perpetuation of slavery-a political time bomb that eventually exploded into Civil War. Tracing the doctrine of popular sovereignty back to its roots in the early American republic, Childers describes the dichotomy between believers in local control in the territories and national control as first embodied in the 1787 Northwest Ordinance. Noting that the slavery extension issue had surfaced before but obviously not been resolved, he shows how the debate over this issue played out over time, complicated the relationship between the federal government and the territories, and radicalized sectional politics. He also provides new insight into such topics as Arkansas and Florida statehood, the early phases of Californias statehood bid, and the emergence of John C. Calhouns common property doctrine. Laced with new insights, Childerss study offers a coherent narrative of the formative moments in the slavery debate that have been seen heretofore as discrete events. His work stands at the intersection of political, intellectual, and constitutional history, unfolding the formative moments in the slavery debate to expand our understanding of the peculiar institution in the early republic.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
A Desire for Self-Government Slavery in the Early American Territoriesp. 9
"Shall the Creature Govern the Creator?" Self-Government and the Missouri Compromisep. 40
"Forgotten Principles of Their Forefathers": Retreat from the Missouri Compromisep. 74
"A Fit of Convulsions": The Wilmot Proviso and Slavery in the Westp. 102
"Intended to Delude the South": Northern Democrats Redefine Popular Sovereigntyp. 135
"Shall the Conquered Govern the Conqueror?" Popular Sovereignty in the Mexican Cessionp. 000
"A Recurrence to First Principles": Kansas-Nebraska and Popular Sovereigntyp. 166
"Moves on the Political Chess-Board": Southerners Redefine Popular Sovereigntyp. 200
Epilogue: The Demise of Popular Sovereignty and the Crisis of the Unionp. 269
Notesp. 283
Bibliographyp. 317
Indexp. 329
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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