A Strife of Tongues book cover

Dr. Stephen Maizlish investigates the ideological roots of the American Civil War

Published this month by the University of Virginia Press, Dr. Stephen Maizlish's new monograph sheds light on the Compromise of 1850, the domestic agreement that attempted to defuse confrontation between slave and free states regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War by establishing which would be free, which would allow slavery, and how the Fugitive Slave Law would be enacted.

A Strife of Tongues: The Compromise of 1850 and the Ideological Foundations of the American Civil War tells the cultural and intellectual history of this pivotal political event through the lens of language, revealing the complex context of northern and southern ideological opposition within which the Civil War occurred a decade later. Deftly drawing on extensive records, from public discourse to private letters, the book animates the most famous political characters of the age in their own words. This novel account reveals a telling irony—that the Compromise debates of 1850 only made obvious the hardening of sectional division of ideology, which led to a breakdown in the spirit of compromise in the antebellum period and laid the foundations of the U.S. Civil War.