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Drew Faust

“A Strife of Tongues:” Civil War Historiography and American Intellectual History

In February 1850, as congress desperately debated the last national compromise over slavery before the Civil War, Massachusetts congressman Robert Winthrop called the drama he witnessed in Washington “a strife of tongues.” Winthrop’s metaphor draws attention to the ideological origins of the Civil War, a conflict expressed in words before experienced in wounds. As Drew Faust argues in This Republic of Suffering (2008), the words that gave meaning to the conflict over slavery were ultimately subsumed in blood, and death became the all-encompassing meaning of the war. Yet the contest for meaning resumed, according to David Blight, who demonstrates in Read more