American Historical Review, Volume 37, Issue 4, 1 July 1932

Southern Editorials on Secession. Edited by Dwight Lowell Dumond, Ph. D., Assistant Professor of History, University of Michigan. [Publications of the American Historical Association.] (New York: Century Company. 1931.)

Southern Editorials on Secession is a most appropriate initial volume for the Beveridge Fund Publications. It would certainly have delighted Senator Beveridge. From it the reader can gain a vivid impression of the ideas and emotions which filled the minds and hearts of Southerners during the momentous days immediately before the Civil War began. It consists of 183 editorials taken from the newspapers of the slave states in the period between January 6, 1860, and May 9, 1861. A little more than a third of them appeared before the election of 1860 and relate in one way or another to that event. The remainder cover many phases of the highly complex and rapidly changing situation which the election of Lincoln precipitated. In general the editorial work has been admirably done. The editor is entitled to strong commendation for giving all of the articles in full. Many recent document books have suffered from too much editorial elision. The difficult task of selection has been well handled. Every section of the South and almost every important phase of opinion finds some expression, yet to the reviewer it seems that New Orleans is overrepresented. The newspapers of that city were decidedly above the general level, but they did not wield an influence wide enough to warrant alloting them sixty-six out of 183 places. It is also regrettable that no selections were made from weekly newspapers located in the small towns. Such papers exerted a potent influence in the South of 1860–1861.

Will the reading of these editorials produce to-day anything in the way of a uniform impression about the South of 1860–1861? It would perhaps be hazardous to reply in the affirmative. But it seems safe to believe that if any such impression is produced it will be one of surprise at the diversity of opinion prevailing in the South on the eve of the Civil War. The South was a unit in believing that the election of Lincoln portended an invasion of Southern rights and that there must be firm resistance. But there was remarkable diversity of opinion as to the manner in which those rights should be defended. The editorials here reproduced exhibit this diversity in striking fashion. They do not serve so well to show how and why diversity gave place to unity during the course of the crisis. It would take another and larger group to show that aspect.

The Secession Movement, 1860–1861, is a short monograph upon a big subject. It deals both with the election of 1860 and the crisis which followed that event. It does not attempt a narrative of what happened, but is concerned mainly with analysis and explanation in regard to certain matters of capital importance for the period. A great deal of attention is given to the Charleston and Baltimore conventions and to the activities of the commissioners sent by the seceding states to the other Southern states which had not yet seceded. The most distinctive and most valuable feature of the book, in the opinion of the reviewer, is to be found in its delineation of the positions assumed at various times by important Southern groups. The passage on pages 121–132, dealing with the cooperationists, is a striking example. It puts into small compass the essence of a large amount of material not easily mastered.

It is probably quite impossible and perhaps not really desirable that a book of this description should abstain entirely from expressing the personal sympathies of its author. To the reviewer it seems manifest that he has pronounced sympathy with the standpoint of the Breckinridge Democrats and that it has colored his interpretation to a considerable degree. His point of view appears to be that, as the South was determined to defend its institutions against the danger which would come with the election of Lincoln, the logical and proper course was that taken by the Breckinridge Democrats. The author also exhibits a decided antipathy to Douglas. The book suffers considerably from the focusing of attention almost entirely upon the South.

Frank Maloy Anderson, Dartmouth College

American Historical Review, Volume 48, Issue 3, 1 April 1943

Northern Editorials on Secession. Edited by Howard Cecil PerkinsBradley Polytechnic Institute. [The American Historical Association.] Two volumes. (New York: D. Appleton-Century Company. 1942.)

These two fat volumes contain 495 editorials selected from the files of 800 newspapers scattered among 140 libraries and newspaper offices in seventeen Northern states and the District of Columbia. The editorials reproduced here were culled from approximately five thousand editorials which in turn were chosen from the one hundred thousand editorials originally examined. All were taken exclusively from the English language press. Trade, professional, and religious papers have been excluded. Moreover, with the exception of a single editorial from a rare issue of James Redpath’s Pine and Palm, nothing was selected from out-and-out abolitionist sheets.

In the process of selection Dr. Perkins wisely endeavored to obtain as representative a cross section of public opinion as was possible of a time when personal journalism was in its heyday. Not only has he drawn his material from the editorial columns of large urban papers but from those of lesser communities, which in all probability were more representative of the United States of 1860 than the large metropolitan dailies. In fact, the editorials here presented are, with few exceptions, apportioned among the states on the basis of distribution of population as indicated by the census of 1860 and among parties in the ratio of distribution of the popular vote in the presidential election of that year. The overrepresentation of the Breckinridge press at the expense of the Douglas press is accounted for by the situation that prevailed in the New York metropolitan area. In this connection it is worth noting, as the editor points out, that during the secession months, September, 1860-June, 1861, the Republican journals in the Northern states outnumbered those of the combined opposition.

The editorials are arranged chronologically under twenty-seven subjects or titles, such as “The Campaign of 1860,” “Secession: Right or Revolution?” “Measures for Peace,” “The Everlasting Negro,” “Post-Sumter Pleas for Peace,” “Objects of the War,” etcetera. Instead of introducing each subject with a brief summary statement the editor has chosen—and again wisely it seems to this reviewer—to gather these summations together in the concluding pages of his very helpful introduction, in which he discusses the politics of the secession crisis and describes the Northern press of the period. Every effort has been made to present the editorials as they appeared originally. Consequently, older forms of spelling and punctuation have been retained. Where the editor has deemed it necessary, explanatory footnotes have been inserted. The usefulness of this publication is enhanced by the inclusion of a newspaper index which lists geographically the editorials selected and gives the names of the editors and other persons associated with each paper at the time. Information on name changes, mergers, and suspensions within the period is also included in this index.

No one can scan these editorials without realizing that many of them were purely propagandistic and that those who wrote them were apparently motivated more by emotion than by reason and clear-headedness.

Like its companion, Southern Editorials on Secession, this book is published under the auspices of the Beveridge Memorial Fund of the American Historical Association. It is a worthy addition to its predecessors, and Dr. Perkins has placed every student of American civilization and particularly those interested in the struggle between the North and the South in his debt.

Harry J. Carman, Columbia University