Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 – James Oakes

The best thing about this book, which in my mind definitively proves the Civil War was one fought over slavery, is when Oakes makes the point that, whereas the Union’s PURPOSE may have been to reunite the Union, the CAUSE of the war was due to increasingly untenable conflicts over the institution of slavery. The North elected a president whose goal was to strangle slavery to death in the South, so the South seceded in order to preserve their class and labor system, based around slavery, and the political importance of its extension into the territories.

Oakes gives a detailed but completely understandable and very legible account of the laws that went into forming slave policy in the Union, including critical constitutional debates over the meaning of property and the way war powers granted by the Constitution allowed the Union to confiscate property. He traces the evolution of emancipation laws into abolition laws and ultimately the Thirteenth Amendment, navigating the labyrinth of policy without losing the reader along the way.

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