The Atlantic

The Atlantic Civil War Reader

A look back at how the magazine covered the conflict as it unfolded
Source: AP

In 1857, after decades of legislative compromises, slave rebellions, and sectional squabbles, the United States stood poised on a knife’s edge. That year, the Supreme Court ruled in the notorious case that black people were not, and could never become, citizens, and that the national government lacked the authority to ban slavery in federal territories. Abolitionists and pro-slavery groups were waging a violent struggle over slavery in Kansas. And the Republican Party, founded and supported in part by anti-slavery activists, had just run its first official candidate for the presidency in 1856 and was preparing to challenge the Democrats’ federal power and—many Democrats feared—the institution of slavery

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