The Cacophony of Politics charts the trajectory of the Democratic Party as the party of opposition in the North during the Civil War. A comprehensive overview, this book reveals the myriad complications and contingencies of political life in the Northern states and explains the objectives of the nearly half of eligible Northern voters who cast a ballot against Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

The party’s famous slogan "The Union as it was, the Constitution as it is" was meant to have broad appeal and promote solidarity among Northern Democrats by invoking their core ideological commitments to nationalism, law and order, tradition, and strict construction. But, as J. Matthew Gallman shows, the slogan was a poor reflection of the volatile, fluid, messy, and improvisational reality of political life for men and women, across the public and private spheres. Democrats experienced the war as a cascading series of dilemmas, for which their slogan did not always offer guidance or resolution. Offering a definitive account of the Democratic Party in the North, The Cacophony of Politics shows the limits of ideology and the ways the Civil War—and the nature of nineteenth-century political culture—confounded the Democrats’ self-image and exacerbated their divisions, especially over the central issue of slavery.

A Nation Divided: Studies in the Civil War Era

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