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The Cacophony of Politics

Northern Democrats and the American Civil War
J. Matthew Gallman

BUY Cloth · 432 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813946566 · $35.00 · Oct 2021
BUY Ebook · 432 pp. · ISBN 9780813946573 · $35.00 · Oct 2021

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


The Cacophony of Politics is an invigorating dive into the hearts and minds of a wide range of Northern Democrats during the Civil War and brings a compelling new perspective to a familiar topic. By sampling the thoughts and actions of Democratic partisans across the country, J. Matthew Gallman highlights the delicate balancing act required of the formerly dominant party that struggled to define itself as the loyal opposition while contending with treasonous elements within its ranks. A great read!

Joan Waugh, UCLA, president of the Society of Civil War Historians and author of U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth

About the Author(s): 

J. Matthew Gallman is Professor of History at the University of Florida and author of the award-winning Defining Duty in the Civil War: Personal Choice, Popular Culture, and the Union Home Front, among other works.

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