Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 (Google eBook)

Front Cover
Univ of North Carolina Press, Nov 1, 2008 - History - 416 pages
6 Reviews
In the decades before the Civil War, Americans debating the fate of slavery often invoked the specter of disunion to frighten or discredit their opponents. According to Elizabeth Varon, "disunion" was a startling and provocative keyword in Americans' political vocabulary: it connoted the failure of the founders' singular effort to establish a lasting representative government. For many Americans in both the North and the South, disunion was a nightmare, the image of a cataclysm that would reduce them to misery and fratricidal war. For many others, however, threats, accusations, and intimations of disunion were instruments they could wield to achieve their partisan and sectional goals.

In this bracing reinterpretation of the origins of the Civil War, Varon blends political history with intellectual and cultural history to show how Americans, as far back as the earliest days of the republic, agonized and strategized over disunion. She focuses not only on politicians but also on a wide range of reformers, editors, writers, and commentators. Included here are the voices of fugitive slaves, white Southern dissenters, free black activists, abolitionist women, and other outsiders to the halls of power. In a new and expanding nation still learning how to meld disparate and powerful interests, the rhetoric of disunion proved pervasive--and volatile. As the word was marshaled by competing sectional interests in the tumultuous 1840s and 1850s, the politics of compromise grew more remote and an epic collision between the free North and slaveholding South seemed the only way to resolve, once and for all, whether the struggling republic would survive.


What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Review: Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era)

User Review  - John Daly - Goodreads

The book tracks the discussion of slavery and disunion -- inextricably linked -- during the 80 years from the writing of the Constitution to the election of Abraham Lincoln. While most of the authors ... Read full review

Review: Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era)

User Review  - Jay Perkins - Goodreads

The issue of secession and disunion wasn't just a problem during the Civil War Era. Varon shows from numerous letters and publications that "for many Americans in the North and the South, disunion was ... Read full review


PART I 1789 1836
PART II 1837 1850
PART III 1851 1859
The Rubicon Is Passed The War and Beyond

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2008)

Elizabeth R. Varon is professor of history at Temple University. She is author of the award-winning Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy and We Mean to Be Counted: White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia (from the University of North Carolina Press).

Bibliographic information