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Henry Adams in the Secession Crisis

Dispatches to the Boston Daily Advertiser, December 1860-March 1861

256 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / no illustrations

ebook available

Civil War

  Hardcover / 9780807143513 / April 2012

During the Secession Winter session of Congress, twenty-two-year-old Henry Adams worked as private secretary to his father, Representative Charles Francis Adams. Henry wrote four accounts of these crucial months in Washington—an essay, letters to his brother, a segment in his famous autobiography, and twenty-one unsigned letters that Adams composed as a novice correspondent for the Boston Daily Advertiser. Henry Adams in the Secession Crisis presents the Advertiser letters for the first time since their original publication between 1860 and 1861.

During the months prior to the Civil War, Adams provided unusual insights into the development of the secession crisis and the attempts of Congress to resolve it peacefully. Since his father and Senator William H. Seward of New York led the efforts of more moderate Republicans to reach a compromise that would at least hold the border slave states in the Union, Adams’s letters emphasize and illuminate their efforts and those of their Unionist allies in the upper South. While praising their endeavors—and particularly the statesmanship of Seward—Adams attacked southern secessionists and, in several letters, critically analyzed and condemned the famous Crittenden Compromise as a measure impossible for any Republican to support. 
Fully annotated by historian Mark Stegmaier, the Advertiser letters illuminate the politics of the secession crisis while showcasing the youthful work of a man who would become one of the most famous American writers of the late nineteenth century.

Mark J. Stegmaier is professor of history at Cameron University and author of Texas, New Mexico, and the Compromise of 1850: Boundary Dispute and Sectional Crisis, which won the Coral H. Tullis Prize of the Texas State Historical Association and the Gaspar Perez de Villagrá Award of the Historical Society of New Mexico.

Advance Praise for Henry Adams in the Secession Crisis

“Long before he became a pioneering historian, Henry Adams had a ringside seat for one of the most dramatic and consequential watersheds in American political history. The son of Massachusetts Congressman Charles Francis Adams, Henry Adams worked as his father’s private secretary in Washington between December 1860 and March 1861. It was a grim winter—the Union was unraveling and war loomed. Young Adams moonlighted by writing a series of unsigned letters for the Boston Advertiser. Here for the first time, Mark Stegmaier has gathered and annotated these key documents, so that modern readers may appreciate their significance.”—Daniel W. Crofts, author of A Secession Crisis Enigma: William Henry Hurlbert and “The Diary of a Public Man”

“These dispatches make available to students of secession a long overlooked, but most valuable, resource. We are in Stegmaier’s debt.”—Michael F. Holt, author of Franklin Pierce

“Anonymity cloaked much of the best reporting from nineteenth-century Washington, but historian Mark J. Stegmaier has painstakingly uncovered one of those reporters’ identities. His astute analysis of Henry Adams’s unsigned dispatches—covering how Congress grappled with the secession of the Southern states—links a journalist’s immediate perspective on unfolding events with a historian’s hindsight and abundant documentary resources on those events and their consequences.”—Donald A. Ritchie, author of Reporting from Washington: The History of the Washington Press Corps

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