The Scorpion's Sting

The Scorpion's Sting

Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War

Book - 2014
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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.
Published: New York, NY :, W. W. Norton & Company,, [2014]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780393239935
Branch Call Number: 973.711 OAK
Characteristics: 207 pages ;,22 cm


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ChristchurchLib Jun 30, 2014

In The Scorpion's Sting, historian James Oakes presents a riveting analysis of the abolition of slavery in the United States. He begins by explaining that leading antislavery advocates hoped that surrounding slaveholding states with free states would gradually and peacefully eliminate the institution. However, secession and the Civil War broke out before slavery could be less violently extinguished. Oakes' insightful discussion highlights a key difference between pro- and antislavery views: the question of property rights versus the human right to freedom. This complex work offers a thought-provoking contribution to Civil War history and the broader history of slavery.
From the July 2014 History and Current Events Newsletter.


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