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This was an extremely interesting book that discusses a time period (between the Gold Rush and the outbreak of the Civil War) in California history that is typically not covered in any depth.
The book opens with a 1859 dual in San Francisco between David Broderick, California's US Senator, and David Terry, a former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court over slavery-related politics in which Broderick was mortally wounded. It then moves back in time to the discovery of Gold in the Mother Lode and the increasing value of California to the nation. From that point, Richards then demonstrates how political and social tensions became so fierce in California in the 1850's.
The book provides an nice overview of the history of the Gold Rush and then illustrates the surpising number of cross-influences between California and the growing sectional conflict in the nation. It discusses in some detail early California politics in the 1850's and how much it was affected by activist pro-slavery and abolitionist forces.
For example, I was quite surprised the number of times that they proposed dividing California in two - a free Northern half and a pro-slavery Southern half. In fact, a proposal to do just that was approved by both the California Assembly and Senate and signed by the Governor in the late 1850's. Only James Buchanan's relcutance to push it forward to avoid antagonizing an increasingly polarized congress stopped it for good.
This is a great book for people interested in California history or people interested in the build up to the Civil War on a national stage. Readers interested in both topics will be especially delighted. The narrator was very good and the pacing was quick.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful
If you think you have read everything about the Civil War this book will probably give you a new point of view. Serious students of the Civil War realize that the Gordian Knot of Antebellum politics was not slavery, only a handful of extremist questioned the right of southerners to own slaves, but the expansion of slaves into the territories, however this is the first book that I know of that looks at the question through the eyes of westerners. That is really what makes this book worth reading, because it makes it clear just how complicated the problem really was.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful