By James M. McPherson, Bruce Catton


Here is Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Bruce Catton's unsurpassed account of the Civil struggle, essentially the most relocating chapters in American history.

Introduced via Pulitzer Prize-winner James M. McPherson, the booklet vividly lines the epic fight among the Blue and grey, from the early department among the North and South to the ultimate give up of accomplice troops.

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From the outset, however, this commitment has been riven by an irresolvable tension. As with Luther and Calvin themselves, it was one thing to demand respect for the private conscience when facing perse15 W H AT I F S ? O F A M E R I C A N H I S T O R Y cution by a majority; it was quite another to permit what one reformer called “private paths to hell”—that is, dissent—when those who were certain of the road to salvation were in a position to require conformity. Hence the intolerance and retribution that punished Thomas Morton, Mary Dyer, Anne Hutchinson, and the Salem witches, products of a blinkered and aggressive rectitude that was captured by Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter and retains its force even in the twenty-first century.

Pitt’s influence was felt less and less in the Commons as well as among the people, not only because he was ill, but because he was serving in the remove of the far more arcane House of Lords, which undercut or at least mitigated his credibility as the Great Commoner, and the tide began to run increasingly against his reforms. For every tax repealed, a new slate seemed to appear, and war between Britain and the thirteen colonies seemed to become inevitable. Just before it broke out, one of the younger generation of great British statesmen in favor of conciliation with the colonies, Edmund Burke, warned the Commons that “an Englishman is the unfittest person on earth to argue another Englishman into slavery.

22 William Pitt the Elder and the Avoidance of the American Revolution From the colonies, London took such raw materials as were to be had or cultivated; in exchange, the colonies received goods manufactured in Britain’s proto-industrial cities. There were blemishes on the system, without doubt, the most obvious and obscene being the import of African slaves into the colonies to perform the sorts of manual and service labor that whites and natives either could not or would not do. But unlike her European imperial competitors, most of whom were even more slave-dependent than she was, Britain once again had the advantage of her rich constitutional history: from the beginning slavery sat very uncomfortably with an empire steeped in common law, particularly in the mother country, where regulations were passed that confined slavery to the colonies.

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