History scholars to discuss, debate causes of U.S. Civil War at Tarleton

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STEPHENVILLE (February 4, 2015) — Two scholars will discuss the causes of the U.S. Civil War during an upcoming speaking engagement hosted by Tarleton State University’s Department of Social Sciences, Thursday, Feb. 19, on the Stephenville campus.

The free event will be held from 4:30-6 p.m. inside ballroom A of the Barry B. Thompson Student Center, and the general public is invited to attend.

Dr. Michael Landis, associate professor of history at Tarleton and author of Northern Men with Southern Loyalties: The Democratic Party and the Sectional Crisis, will be joined by Dr. Michael Green, a prominent scholar of the Civil War-era and faculty member at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, who will offer insights and perspective on Landis’s argument and research.

“The event will begin with me describing my overall argument and findings, and then Dr. Green will comment and offer his own take, based on his own scholarship,” said Landis. “After he and I have both spoken, the audience can ask questions, and, hopefully, we’ll have a lively discussion.”

Landis said that slavery was unquestionably the cause of the Civil War. “Our event will look at how slavery shaped politics and led to political developments—the rise of the Republicans, collapse of the Democrats—that were the immediate ‘causes’ of the war, and why the war began in 1861, not 1851, for instance,” he said.

“Slavery was at the heart of the sectional crisis, but the crisis manifested in numerous ways: politics, economics, social movements, etc. Since my book is on the Democratic Party, my portion of the event will focus on that organization,” Landis added. “Dr. Green is free to respond as he likes. Since two of his books are on the Republican Party, I imagine that will be his emphasis.”

Following the discussion, both authors will offer their books for sale and hold a book signing.

About Northern Men with Southern Loyalties: The Democratic Party and the Sectional Crisis:
In the decade before the Civil War, Northern Democrats, although they ostensibly represented antislavery and free-state constituencies, made possible the passage of such proslavery legislation as the Compromise of 1850 and Fugitive Slave Law of the same year, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and the Lecompton Constitution of 1858. In Northern Men with Southern Loyalties, Dr. Michael Todd Landis forcefully contends that a full understanding of the Civil War and its causes is impossible without a careful examination of Northern Democrats and their proslavery sentiments and activities. He focuses on a variety of key Democratic politicians, such as Stephen Douglas, William Marcy and Jesse Bright, to unravel the puzzle of Northern Democratic political allegiance to the South. As congressmen, state party bosses, convention wire-pullers, cabinet officials and presidents, these men produced the legislation and policies that led to the fragmentation of the party and catastrophic disunion.

Through a careful examination of correspondence, speeches, public and private utterances, memoirs, and personal anecdotes, Landis lays bare the desires and designs of Northern Democrats. He ventures into the complex realm of state politics and party mechanics, drawing connections between national events and district and state activity as well as between partisan dynamics and national policy. Northern Democrats had to walk a perilously thin line between loyalty to the Southern party leaders and answering to their free-state constituents. If Northern Democrats sought high office, they would have to cater to the “Slave Power.” Yet, if they hoped for election at home, they had to convince voters that they were not mere lackeys of the Southern grandees.

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