Over the past few decades, influenced by the anti-American sentiments of the New Left, it has become fashionable - a sort of expected contrarianism - to reduce the American Civil War to an episode of power politics in which the North was attempting to retain the Union against a rebellious South. In this view, the destruction of slavery on American soil was a mere unintended consequence of a cynical play by Abraham Lincoln to secure manpower for the Union army. Of course, the question of maintaining the Union of states played a central role in the outbreak of civil war. But as recent scholarship, such as Freedom National by James Oakes, shows, the question of slave emancipation for many in the North was an issue inextricably linked to concerns over maintaining the Union.
History makers: Thaddeus Stevens
This week in history makers, we look at radical Republican and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens: a man for whom the Civil War was as much about freeing slaves as crushing the Southern rebellion.
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