Cover image for Half slave and half free : the roots of Civil War
Half slave and half free : the roots of Civil War
Levine, Bruce C., 1949-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Hill and Wang, Noonday Press, 1992.
Physical Description:
x, 292 pages ; 21 cm.
General Note:
Includes bibliographical references (p. [243]-282) and index.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E459 .L48 1992 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E459 .L48 1992 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Half Slave and Half Free is a powerful treatment of the basic issues and social transformations that precipitated the Civil War. In a succinct, persuasive narrative, Bruce Levine succeeds in showing how a popular basis for the Civil War developed out of the far-reaching and divisive changes in American life after the incomplete Revolution of 1776--changes that stemmed from the development of two very distinct social systems, one based on slavery, the other on free labor, which eventually made sectional differences within the framework of the Union irreconcilable.

Author Notes

Bruce Levine , professor of American history at the University of Cincinnati, is the author of The Spirit of 1848: German Immigrants, Labor Conflict, and the Coming of the Civil War.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In the "first act" of the U.S. democratic revolution, the founding fathers concentrated on commonalities and declined to confront the inherent conflicts between their disparate labor systems. In the seven decades after the Constitution's adoption, Levine argues, North and South changed in response to the demands of their labor systems as well as to specific external influences and internal divisions. These changes increased tension, reorganized political life, and ultimately made democratic revolution's "second act"--the Civil War--inevitable. A professor at the University of Cincinnati, Levine synthesizes recent scholarship about the path from Revolution to Civil War, particularly in terms of "the broader economic, social, cultural, and ideological developments that shaped the lives of the American people." Its thorough discussions of both labor systems, cultural life in both regions, and the development of critical concepts like liberty, abolitionism, the union, free soil, and Republicanism, as well as its detailed bibliographical essay, will make Half Slave and Half Free a useful addition to American history collections. (Reviewed Feb. 15, 1992)0809053527Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this academic but accessible survey of the 80 years preceding the Civil War, historian Levine ( Who Built America: The Place of Labor History and Working People in U.S. History ) synthesizes a vast body of scholarship to show how the country's two different labor systems influenced economics, society, culture and, ultimately, politics. The North's free market nurtured ``free will'' evangelicalism over Calvinist predestination, and that evangelicalism clashed with slavery. In the South the slave system affected the planter class not only in religion but in entertainment and morality. Ironically, slaves ``appropriated both the democratic-republican and evangelical Christian doctrine of the nation that held them captive and reshaped those materials into weapons of liberation.'' Northern unity was for years undermined by differences regarding the ethics of its own free labor system, but the South's demand for increased federal guarantees for slavery--to preserve its own economy--finally forced the North to confront the issue of slavery. That led to increased polarization and war, what black leader Frederick Douglass called ``the inexorable logic of events.'' (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this vigorously argued narrative tracking the causes of the Civil War, Levine tries to explain what drove so many working people to commit themselves to the cause of freedom--Southern slaves by their efforts to resist bondage and Northern farmers, mechanics, and factory laborers by their support for free soil and free labor principles. By Levine's reckoning, the slavery issue overrode ethnic and economic concerns and made sectional differences almost irreconciliable within the framework of the Union. Levine succeeds in giving fresh views of the social lives of immigrants, slaves, and working people generally, but his preoccupation with the politics of slavery overwhelms his social history and makes disunion seem more predestined than it really was. Still, this is an eminently readable, intelligent book recommended for use in college courses and for purchase by college/university libraries.-- Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.