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.
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)