A history of the Civil War as told through the six American presidents that experienced it firsthand.
Only once have five former presidents been alive to look upon their successor. When Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861, these men were John Tyler, Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. DeRose (Law/Arizona Summit Law School; Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, the Bill of Rights, and the Election that Saved a Nation, 2011, etc.) carefully examines each president’s role in the buildup to the Civil War and their respective differences in their approaches to the problem of slavery and secession. Precipitated by the tariffs of 1828 and 1832, the nullification crisis of 1832 proved an early test of the Union’s resolve and willingness to assert its sovereignty. South Carolina declared both tariff bills null and void and would no longer remit federal duties. President Andrew Jackson, hardly one to recoil from this type of brazen insubordination, demanded local allies collect the duty by any means necessary and issued a statement asserting the power of the Union over the right of a state to annul federal law or secede. Ultimately, the nullification crisis was resolved through political compromise, but the pivotal issue of secession proved to have roots far deeper than many could have foreseen. Foreshadowing the Civil War nearly 40 years later, this crisis would shape the way future presidents forged their opinions on slavery and states’ rights. While discussing Jackson and Lincoln, DeRose smartly focuses his attention on a few of the lesser-known, but not less valuable presidents. The author’s narrative portraits of each president’s often precarious relationship to the Union reveals eye-opening facts that are otherwise overlooked—e.g., John Tyler was the only president to die an enemy of his country.
DeRose condenses half a century’s worth of political history into an informative compendium of the political struggles leading to the Civil War.