In this comprehensive analysis of politics and ideology in
antebellum South Carolina, Manisha Sinha offers a provocative new
look at the roots of southern separatism and the causes of the
Civil War. Challenging works that portray secession as a fight for
white liberty, she argues instead that it was a conservative,
antidemocratic movement to protect and perpetuate racial
Sinha discusses some of the major sectional crises of the
antebellum era--including nullification, the conflict over the
expansion of slavery into western territories, and secession--and
offers an important reevaluation of the movement to reopen the
African slave trade in the 1850s. In the process she reveals the
central role played by South Carolina planter politicians in
developing proslavery ideology and the use of states' rights and
constitutional theory for the defense of slavery.
Sinha's work underscores the necessity of integrating the history
of slavery with the traditional narrative of southern politics.
Only by taking into account the political importance of slavery,
she insists, can we arrive at a complete understanding of southern
politics and the enormity of the issues confronting both
northerners and southerners on the eve of the Civil War.