It was a year packed with unsettling events. The Panic of 1857 closed every bank in New York City, ruined thousands of businesses, and caused widespread unemployment among industrial workers. The Mormons in Utah Territory threatened rebellion when federal troops approached with a non-Mormon governor to replace Brigham Young. The Supreme Court outraged northern Republicans and abolitionists with the Dred Scott decision ("a breathtaking example of judicial activism"). And when a proslavery minority in Kansas Territory tried to foist a proslavery constitution on a large antislavery majority, President Buchanan reneged on a crucial commitment and supported the minority, a disastrous miscalculation which ultimately split the Democratic party in two.
In America in 1857, eminent American historian Kenneth Stampp offers a sweeping narrative of this eventful year, covering all the major crises while providing readers with a vivid portrait of America at mid-century. Stampp gives us a fascinating account of the attempt by William Walker and his band of filibusters to conquer Nicaragua and make it a slave state, of crime and corruption, and of street riots by urban gangs such as New York's Dead Rabbits and Bowery Boys and Baltimore's Plug Uglies and Blood Tubs. But the focus continually returns to Kansas. He examines the outrageous political frauds perpetrated by proslavery Kansans, Buchanan's calamitous response and Stephen Douglas's break with the President (a rare event in American politics, a major party leader repudiating the president he helped elect), and the whirl of congressional votes and dramatic debates that led to a settlement humiliating to Buchanan--and devastating to the Democrats.
1857 marked a turning point, at which sectional conflict spun out of control and the country moved rapidly toward the final violent resolution in the Civil War. Stampp's intensely focused look at this pivotal year illuminates the forces at work and the mood of the nation as it plummeted toward disaster.
"A well-written, usable book that sets the scene for the Civil War. Perfect for an upper division seminar."--Carolle J. Carter, Menlo College
"Outstanding, much-needed interpretation by a premier historian."--Glen Barrett, Boise State University
"An invaluable book for a specialized course such as I teach in U.S. History 1820-1865. It provides all the needed data and details frequently omitted in other textbooks. A most welcome addition to available sources covering the crucial period on the eve of the War Between the State."--Alexander Niven, St. Louis University
"[A] splendidly lucid, elegantly crafted, and exciting narrative."--New York Newsday
"His sweeping survey ably demonstrates how the growing tension between North and South reached 'the political point of no return.'"--Publishers Weekly
"A skillfull narrative about a pivotal year...featuring the author's usual judicious analysis."--Kirkus Reviews
"A graceful narrative....[A] detailed and comprehensive examination....An important statement on the coming of the civil war."--Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
"An immensely readable book....Vivid history of a period that should be more familiar than it is."--Newark Star-Ledger
"[Kenneth Stampp's] new book, richly detailed, judicious, and convincing in its recreation of complex events and decisions, will appeal to specialists and general readers alike....A compelling exploration of the struggle between proslavery and free state forces in Kansas."--Gateway Heritage
"A particularly enlightening book."--Booklist
"Kenneth M. Stampp is by common acclaim the dean of historians of the Civil War era....A triumph of the historian's craft....Stampp's style is as clear and plain as his knowledge is great. America in 1857 is a book from which even scholars can learn, nonhistorians can enjoy, and which Civil War buffs will certainly relish."--The New York Times Book Review
"An impressive reconsideration of why the Civil War came....The author draws upon his extensive scholarly experience, upon an exhaustive use of firsthand sources (an enormous number of manuscript collections, newspapers, and government documents), and upon a mass of secondary literature. He blends cultural elements with his study of political behavior."--The Journal of American History
"Stampp makes a strong case....[His] engrossing, month-by-month narrative covers all [the] events....As one would expect from one of our most distinguished senior historians, this is a masterful and authoritative work....It provides the best account we have of the meaning and significance of the Lecompton controversy....There can be no question that Professor Stampp has done what he chose to do with exceptional grace and effectiveness."--New York