In this engaging and nuanced political history of Northern
communities in the Civil War era, Adam I. P. Smith offers a new
interpretation of the familiar story of the path to war and
ultimate victory. Smith looks beyond the political divisions
between abolitionist Republicans and Copperhead Democrats to
consider the everyday conservatism that characterized the majority
of Northern voters. A sense of ongoing crisis in these Northern
states created anxiety and instability, which manifested in a range
of social and political tensions in individual communities.
In the face of such realities, Smith argues that a conservative
impulse was more than just a historical or nostalgic tendency; it
was fundamental to charting a path to the future. At stake for
Northerners was their conception of the Union as the vanguard in a
global struggle between democracy and despotism, and their ability
to navigate their freedoms through the stormy waters of modernity.
As a result, the language of conservatism was peculiarly, and
revealingly, prominent in Northern politics during these years. The
story this book tells is of conservative people coming, in the end,
to accept radical change.