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The Scorpion's Sting : Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War
by James Oakes


Overview - Surrounded by a ring of fire, the scorpion stings itself to death. The image, widespread among antislavery leaders before the Civil War, captures their long-standing strategy for peaceful abolition: they would surround the slave states with a cordon of freedom.  Read more...

 
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More About The Scorpion's Sting by James Oakes
 
 
 
Overview
Surrounded by a ring of fire, the scorpion stings itself to death. The image, widespread among antislavery leaders before the Civil War, captures their long-standing strategy for peaceful abolition: they would surround the slave states with a cordon of freedom. They planned to use federal power wherever they could to establish freedom: the western territories, the District of Columbia, the high seas. By constricting slavery they would induce a crisis: slaves would escape in ever-greater numbers, the southern economy would falter, and finally the southern states would abolish the institution themselves. For their part the southern states fully understood this antislavery strategy. They cited it repeatedly as they adopted secession ordinances in response to Lincoln's election.

The scorpion's sting is the centerpiece of this fresh, incisive exploration of slavery and the Civil War: Was there a peaceful route to abolition? Was Lincoln late to emancipation? What role did race play in the politics of slavery? With stunning insight James Oakes moves us ever closer to a new understanding of the most momentous events in our history.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780393239935
  • ISBN-10: 0393239934
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Publish Date: May 2014
  • Page Count: 207


Related Categories

Books > History > United States - Civil War
Books > Social Science > Slavery

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-01-20
  • Reviewer: Staff

Oakes (Freedom National) takes an in-depth look at political attitudes toward slavery at the brink of the Civil War. His title refers to a strategy most Republicans—sometimes overtly, sometimes secretly—supported, of gradual abolition by surrounding slave states with a “cordon of freedom” so that eventually slavery would “sting itself to death,” like a scorpion in a circle of fire. As any American with a basic knowledge of history knows, however, what actually occurred was the outbreak of Civil War and, in time, the Emancipation Proclamation. Oakes examines the latter document in the context of the tradition of military emancipation, as well as the philosophical arguments underlying debates about slavery—of the right to freedom versus the right to property. While occasionally repetitive, Oakes is thorough in his explanations and research. Since the book focuses on such a narrow moment in American history, however, it works best for those already well-versed in Civil War and American history. (May)

 
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