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review 2019-01-17 16:02
A revisionist account of a pivotal election
The Election of 1860: "A Campaign Fraught with Consequences" - Michael F. Holt

The presidential election of 1860 was unlike any other in American history. The product of the contentious and often violent politics of the 1850s, it saw no less than four candidates contesting for the White House. With the fracturing of the Democratic Party over the issue of slavery, the Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln was able to win with a only a plurality of the vote, thanks to the majority he won in the electoral college through his near sweep of the populous states of the northern United States. In response to his victory, seven southern states sought to break away from the Union, an action that led to the bloodiest war in the nation's history and the eventual abolition of slavery in the country.

 

Given its dramatic nature and the momentous events that followed, the 1860 campaign has never wanted for attention from historians. Yet Michael F. Holt argues that a number of misconceptions have accumulated around the election which have skewed our perception of it. His book offers a revisionist account of the campaign that highlights these obscured or distorted elements in an effort to gain a better understanding of the issues that defined it for the voters who participated. Foremost among them, he argues, is the idea that the election was primarily about slavery, which he sees as the view of the southerners who would subsequently seek to break away from the union. For most voters, though, the main issue was the corruption of the Buchanan administration. Holt shows how Republicans highlighted this in the months leading up to the election, making the case that what was needed was a clean sweep of the executive branch. As he explains this also played a key role in the selection of "Honest Abe" as the nominee, as Lincoln's profile was one better suited to make the case for the Republicans than that of his main competitors, William Seward and the corrupt Simon Cameron.

 

While the Republicans sharpened their arguments about Democratic corruption in advance of the election, the Democratic Party was plagued with infighting between the president, James Buchanan, and Stephen Douglas. Holt traces the origins of this to Douglas's refusal to admit Kansas as a state under the proslavery Lecompton constitution. As Holt points out, this coupled with Douglas's qualified acceptance of the Dred Scott decision also alienated him from the southern Democrats who increasingly dominated the party, setting the stage for the party convention in Charleston in 1860 at which the Democrats fractured into pro- and anti-Douglas factions. With a victory by the (at that point undecided) Republican candidate increasingly likely, a group of politicians organized a conservative alternative to Republicans in the form of the Constitutional Union Party, who selected the elder statesman John Bell as their presidential contender. With the nomination of Douglas and Vice President John Breckinridge by the separate Democratic factions, the stage was set for a chaotic contest.

 

In covering the campaign that followed, Holt pushes back against the traditionally narrow view of it as separate contests between Lincoln and Douglas in the north and Breckinridge versus Bell in the south. Though Breckinridge, and Bell both refrained from electioneering, their campaigns sent speakers and mounted rallies in the northern states as well as the southern ones, while Republicans distributed ballots in the border slave states as well. Most dramatically Douglas undertook the then-unusual step of personally campaigning by making speeches in both the northern and southern states. Holt's chapter on the campaign itself is the best in the book, as he describes the myriad activities the parties adopted to turn out the vote. In this respect the Republican effort proved the most successful, as the dramatic appeals to young voters with the "Wide Awake" clubs and criticisms of Democratic corruption delivering them the victories they needed in the key swing states. As Holt points out, slavery was a salient issue only in the south, where arguments that Republicans were seeking outright abolition were so disconnected from Republican campaign goals that Republicans failed to take seriously the threats of secession by many southerners —a delusion that would quickly be dispelled in the weeks following Lincoln's victory.

 

As a longtime scholar of antebellum politics, Holt brings a lifetime's worth of learning to his subject. Yet he wears this lightly, providing an accessible description of the election while making arguments that go far towards shaking up the traditional interpretation of the 1860 election. Yet Holt oversells the revisionist nature of his account. Though he performs a valuable service in highlighting aspects of the campaign that were obscured by subsequent events, as Holt himself acknowledges at the end, perceptions of Democratic corruption and "misrule" in the north were as much tied to the perception of the party's excessive deference to southerners' anxieties about slavery as it was the buying of votes or the favoring of Democrats in awarding contracts. Moreover, his account of the election itself only qualifies somewhat the view of it as separate contests, suggesting the misconception is more one of emphasis than detail. Yet in the end these are criticisms of degree rather than of substance. Overall, Holt's reexamination of the 1860 election offers a refreshing reexamination of one of the truly pivotal moments in American history, and is necessary reading for anyone seeking to understand the election and how it led to the devastating conflict that followed.

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review 2019-01-16 21:02
Book Blitz: Girl with all the Pain by Michael Herman with Giveaway

Girl with all the Pain
Michael Herman

(Aliens, Tequila & Us #4)

Publication date: February 23rd 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult

Sometimes an ugly duckling becomes more than just a swan.

In the streets of Santiago, Chile, a young homeless girl named Isabel screams a scream of rage that is the last sound the gang tormenting her ever hears.

Deep within the city, a family feels her cry and sets out to find her for their sake as well as hers.

Never straying far from Isabel, Skunk Mountain, a homeless pile of walking filth, visible to only the neighborhood kids, maintains a guardian presence that is key to her survival in a world where, beneath the very ground they walk, a dark ancient intelligent entity prepares to unleash forces that will devastate Chile.

Sometimes that swan has claws and teeth. 
_______________________________________

Girl with all the Pain is the first of the Global Invasion Chronicles.

The Aliens, Tequila & Us series is prologue to Girl with all the Pain
_______________________________________

If you are interested in mass extinction events, Chinchorro mummies, alien creatures, tequila, Pisco Sours, Very Large Telescopes, foreign tongues, evolution theories, witchcraft beliefs, Santiago Chile, underground caves, vineyards, million dollar concept bikes, interstellar space travel, abandoned mines, the Atacama Desert, Russian ATVs, Himmler’s Nazis Lebensborn, predictions of future times, earthquakes, orchids, avatars, and people with mutant powers, then this is the book for you.

Kind reviews go far and help keep up the spirit while I work to bring the second Global Invasion Chronicle to life.

 
 
EXCERPT
 
When the woman strokes Isabel’s black fur, Isabel purrs loudly and makes clicking sounds. She knows she rests between friends who will not allow the ones below the base of the statue to harm her. The woman looks down at Isabel and says, “At long last, I have found you. You have not been forgotten. You and your people will return. We will end your long-suffering. You will no longer be alone.”
 
Isabel looks up at her with her black cat yellow eyes, and purrs. But below her feet, the ground trembles with the might of her enemy. The woman acknowledges the terrible presence beneath them and stoops to Isabel and says, “Only you can restore order. Only you can save them. Only you can end this. When your knowledge of yourself matures and you flower to your destiny, you will fulfill yourself and your time will be complete. We will join you and make it happen. Do you understand?”
Isabel snarls in response and lets out a mighty roar.

Then she is back on the daylight street holding hands with the mirror version of herself. She looks into the mirror self’s eyes and a shudder ripples through her body. The mirror version releases her hands, smiles, looks to Ángel and says, “All is well.”

 

Author Bio
When he isn't doing construction or creating 3D simulations for the AEC industry, Michael Herman writes from his small urban hillside farm in California where he types away to the sounds of chickens, coyotes, the occasional fox and his household pets.


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text 2019-01-16 20:23
Reading progress update: I've read 50 out of 272 pages.
The Election of 1860: "A Campaign Fraught with Consequences" - Michael F. Holt

As great an admirer as I am of Michael Holt's scholarship, I'm having some serious problems with this book. In the preface, Holt explains that his quest to say something new about the presidential election of 1860 has led him to identify two aspects of the conventional narrative that are "misleading": that the election was primarily about slavery (which he identifies as the view of the southern secessionists) and that it was two separate campaigns defined by geography. Until now he has been addressing the first of these, and while he makes quite a few good points I'm still not entirely convinced by it. For while the issue for northerners may have been less slavery and more about "ousting Democrats from power and restoring honesty to the federal government," there's plenty of literature demonstrating that a big factor behind these anti-Democratic views was the perception of the party's domination by southerners and the excessive catering to their anxieties about slavery. So far Holt seems unwilling to address this, though.

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review 2019-01-10 02:52
Notes from a Public Typewriter
Notes From A Public Typewriter - Michael Gustafson,Oliver Uberti

When Literati Books opened in Ann Arbor Michigan, the owner put an old typewriter out in the stacks, with a sheet of paper in it, curious about what might happen.  In his wildest dreams, he imagined a sort of never ending story, where each patron would pick up where the last one left off; a true community built novel. Pragmatically, he figured he'd end up with a lot of nonsense or jokes about bodily functions.

 

What he got was something totally different and totally special.  People wrote some silly stuff, but they also wrote poems, posed philosophical questions, proposed, broke up, and otherwise bared their souls.  After several years of collecting the daily contributions, Gustafson was convinced to collect his favourites into what became this book.

 

Notes from a Public Typewriter is short, I think I read the whole thing in about an hour.  It's almost purely a collection of what Gustafson considered the best, the funniest, the most touching.  There are photos of the shop and patrons throughout, and every few pages, Gustafson writes a short essay-type piece to introduce context to some of the inclusions.

 

The 5 stars is because this book, for all its simplicity, moved me.  By the end, it was hard to stay dry-eyed, to be honest.  I'm sure Gustafson has collected a LOT of dreck over the years, but the simple lines he included here were honest, heart-felt, and sometimes raw.  

 

I don't go looking for books that reveal what goes on beneath the surface, so I'm really no judge, but this one worked for me.  What is on the face of it an anonymous, ever changing, mass of humanity going in and out the doors of one shop, is revealed in this short volume to be instead the very definition of a community.

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review 2019-01-09 23:45
Outdated Part 2 (DNF)
The Future Factor: The Five Forces Transforming Our Lives and Shaping Human Destiny - Michael G. Zey

The Future Factor: The Five Forces Transforming our Lives and Shaping Human Destiny by Michael G. Zey talks about the advent of social, economic, and technological innovations which have shaped us as a species and how these and others will continue to help us evolve.The problem was that it is so outdated that there was little point in me reading beyond page 20. This book was written in 2000 but from the first page made reference to events and situations which considering how fast technology changes made this book (and its many references) obsolete. That's the problem with books about the future...once you reach a certain point they hold no relevance or accuracy beyond a certain window of time.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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