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“These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people’s money to settle the quarrel.” Abraham Lincoln speech to Illinois legislature, Jan. 1837

Who would ever think of quoting Lincoln to explain the war that he lit the fuse for but even villains are given their moments to speak the truth. Economics not only started the war but they guaranteed – in the absence of a quick and decisive Confederate victory – the ultimate triumph of the north. In the waning days of the war Lincoln shed a few crocodile tears when he told a correspondent, “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”, but it was too little, too late, even if it was sincere – which with Lincoln is highly dubious.

Clash of extremes : the economic origins of the Civil War  Marc Egnal United States ,History ,Civil War, 1861-1865 ,Economic aspects New York : Hill and Wang, c 2009 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xii, 416 p. : ill. maps ; 24 cm.     Includes bibliographical references (p. 349-398) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

Clash of Extremes takes on the reigning orthodoxy that the American Civil War was waged over high moral principles. Marc Egnal contends that economics, more than any other factor, moved the country to war in 1861.

Drawing on a wealth of primary and secondary sources, Egnal shows that between 1820 and 1850, patterns of trade and production drew the North and South together and allowed sectional leaders to broker a series of compromises. After mid-century, however, all that changed as the rise of the Great Lakes economy reoriented Northern trade along east-west lines. Meanwhile, in the South, soil exhaustion, concerns about the country’s westward expansion, and growing ties between the Upper South and the free states led many cotton planters to contemplate secession. The war that ensued was truly a “clash of extremes.”

Sweeping from the 1820s through Reconstruction and filled with colorful portraits of leading individuals, Clash of Extremes emphasizes economics while giving careful consideration to social conflicts, ideology, and the rise of the antislavery movement. The result is a bold reinterpretation that will challenge the way we think about the Civil War.

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