David Lowry Swain
(January 4, 1801 -- August 29,
|Governor David Swain
|Gov. David Swain
David Lowry Swain
David Lowry Swain (1801-1868) was Governor of North Carolina from 1832 to
1835 and President of the University of North Carolina from 1835 until 1868. Original portrait, by William G. Browne, property
of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies Foundation, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Courtesy of the University Library, University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
David Lowry Swain (4 Jan. 1801-29 Aug. 1868), lawyer, governor, and educator, was born in the Beaverdam area near
Asheville in Buncombe County. His father was George Swain, a Massachusetts
native who settled in the Georgia frontier, married, and served in the
legislature and the constitutional convention of 1795 before moving to the North
Carolina mountains for his health. His mother, Caroline Swain, was the daughter of Jesse Lane, member of a well-known North Carolina family,
who moved first to Georgia and then farther
west. Her first husband, by whom she had four children, was David Lowry, who was killed during an Indian raid in Georgia. She and George Swain had seven children, of whom
David Lowry Swain was the youngest.
In North Carolina George
Swain was a small farmer before moving into Asheville to become
postmaster, hat manufacturer, justice of the peace, academy trustee, town commissioner, and self-taught physician. The boy
David was taught by his father until he entered the Newton Academy,
conducted in Asheville by successive Presbyterian ministers.
He was a good student and after completing the course remained at the academy for a time as instructor of Latin. His father,
ambitious though not affluent, encouraged his wish to become a lawyer, and in 1822 David left home to prepare for the bar.
He was examined by the faculty of The University of North Carolina and admitted to the junior class. Older than most of the
students and somewhat disappointed in the university, as well as impatient to complete his studies and reluctant to spend
his family's limited resources unnecessarily, he withdrew after only one week in order to study law in Raleigh at the school
of Chief Justice John Louis Taylor.
In 1823 Swain returned to
Asheville with a law license and the friendship and favorable opinion of some of the state's
leading men, including Taylor, Joseph and Weston Gales of the Raleigh Register,
and Taylor's brother-in-law, the prominent lawyer-politician,
William Gaston. He began to practice in Asheville and the
western circuit and soon became active in the political campaigns of his half brother, James Lowry, who was elected to the
state House of Commons, and of his friend, Dr. Robert Brank Vance, who won a seat in Congress. Party affiliations were determined
chiefly by preferences in the national presidential elections, and Swain followed most of his friends and associates in opposing
the People's ticket, which supported first John C. Calhoun and later Andrew Jackson.
The success of the People's
ticket in North Carolina placed Swain in the minority of
the state and his own county as far as national politics was concerned, and when he ran for a seat in the House of Commons
in 1824, he emphasized local issues and avoided the question of the national president. He was successful; Buncombe County voters sent him to the House
of Commons five times (1824, 1825, 1826, 1828, and 1829). In 1827, when the General Assembly elected him solicitor of the
northeastern circuit, he did not run for the legislature. A year later he resigned as solicitor to return to Asheville because of his father's illness; he then served two more years in the house but
declined to be a candidate for a sixth term in 1830.
In the House of Commons,
Swain became known as a champion of western interests, which in those years concerned mainly efforts to create new western
counties. Also demonstrating his belief in an active government seeking to improve conditions in the state, he initiated or
supported measures related to internal improvements. Both as lawyer and as legislator he tried to protect western settlers
whose land titles were disputed either by Indian claimants or by holders of large speculative land claims, an undertaking
that naturally made him popular in the west. On a number of issues not strictly sectional, however, Swain agreed with a conservative
viewpoint more prevalent in the east. He was a "sound money" man who favored conservative banking practices through privately
controlled banks. Himself a member of a family active in local government, he did not support the movement to increase the
popular election of local officials. His votes on questions related to the control of slaves and free Negroes were in accord
with those of eastern slaveholders. Although recognized as a western leader, Swain was moderate, willing to compromise, and
friendly with persons of all sections. Unsympathetic with the majority that supported Andrew Jackson, he was noncommittal
on national politics.
In February 1826 Swain married
Eleanor White, the daughter of the former secretary of state, William White, and of his wife Anna Caswell, whose father was
the Revolutionary governor Richard Caswell. The marriage strengthened Swain's ties with eastern and central North Carolina. His wife was unhappy in Asheville, and when
the legislature sent Swain to the superior court bench in 1830, she lived in Raleigh
with her sisters and widowed mother while her husband traversed the state on his rotating circuits.
In December 1832 the General
Assembly tapped Swain to serve a one-year term as governor of North Carolina.
His election was a surprise to most people, for he had not been mentioned in the preelection speculation. He was chosen by
a coalition of westerners, National Republicans, and advocates of states' rights who were united only by their opposition
to the leading candidate, a prominent eastern Democrat. Swain thus had no hope of effective party support during his term.
The governor's powers and
duties were slight, and he was expected to be largely a social figurehead. Even for that limited position Swain seemed poorly
endowed, for his face was long and homely, his slender figure was ill shaped and ungainly, and his movements were awkward.
His advantages were an imposing height of six feet two inches, a kindly and intelligent face, and a courteous, genial, and
witty personality that made him a welcome companion. In addition, he was considered a well-prepared, persuasive debater and
By custom the governor could
make recommendations in an annual message and other special communications, but the all-powerful legislature was free to ignore
them. Without strong party support, Swain would need great personal influence if he were to accomplish anything, and here
he proved to be extremely effective, excelling at careful management and negotiation to achieve his objectives. By the end
of his year in office, he was highly popular and some informed leaders thought him the most influential man in North Carolina.
During the second half of
1833 Swain led an unprecedented popular campaign on behalf of state aid to railroad construction. He served as president of
an internal improvements convention held in Raleigh in July
and during the following months traveled throughout the state to speak for the movement at local conventions. In his annual
message to the legislature in December 1833, he threw out a challenge for improvement and reform in many areas of state government.
He proposed the revision and codification of state laws, practical banking charters, the drainage of swamplands belonging
to the Literary Fund and their sale for the benefit of a public school program, and tax reform, including revised assessment
laws, a decrease in the poll tax, the adoption of an income tax, and increased revenue to support constructive activity. The
message emphasized the need for railroad construction. It was soon followed by the recommendations of a second internal improvements
convention, over which Swain presided and by the report of the Board for Internal Improvements, which he wrote as chairman.
In all of these proposals Swain advocated state construction of two basic lines: the central east-west line and a north-south
line that would bisect the central line, with feeder lines and canals to be built by private companies in which the state
would buy stock. During the legislative session Swain also forwarded with a strong recommendation a western proposal for constitutional
The General Assembly reelected
Swain as governor for another year without opposition; passed two measures he had initiated as a legislator, the creation
of a new western county from Buncombe and Burke and the establishment of a commission to revise and codify state laws; and
adopted the banking system he advocated. These actions were gratifying, but more important needs were ignored. Nothing was
done for a state system of railroads, tax revision, public education, or constitutional reform. Concluding that increased
legislative power for the underrepresented and dissatisfied west must precede any far-reaching reform, Swain and his supporters
made constitutional revision their major aim in 1834. The campaign strategy differed from that of 1833 in that Swain was less
openly active, but he and other proponents of change worked all year to win the necessary eastern votes.
In the meantime, the opponents
of Andrew Jackson were trying to form a new national Whig party, and in North Carolina
the diverse elements of nationalist and states' rights leaders set as their goal the defeat of staunch Jacksonian Bedford
Brown for reelection to the U.S. Senate. Swain, their chosen candidate, wanted the office but feared that he would lose. By
the time the legislature met, he had correctly assessed its membership as dominated by Democrats; he did not oppose Brown,
who was easily reelected.
Swain's message of 1834
reiterated his proposals of 1833 but was notable chiefly for its persuasive argument for constitutional reform. In addition,
calling attention to a national issue previously little noticed in North Carolina, he endorsed
the policy of distributing to the states the proceeds of national land sales, with North
Carolina's share to be used for internal improvements and public schools. This became a Whig policy
popular in North Carolina.
The more partisan Democrats
endorsed a well-liked eastern Democrat to oppose Swain's candidacy for a third gubernatorial term, and Swain was reelected
by a slim majority after three ballots. He in turn abandoned his noncommittal attitude and openly affiliated with the new
Whig party even though it was a divided minority. Party feelings ran high as the Democrats used their power to pass resolutions
instructing Senator Willie P. Mangum how to vote.
Swain worked with advocates
of constitutional reform from both parties and both sections to put together a compromise bill that would allay eastern fears
while granting some of the western demands, and the bill calling for a constitutional convention was adopted. After the convention
was endorsed by popular vote, Swain was elected a delegate from Buncombe
County and was thus able to play a leading role in the convention of
1835. His two major goals at the conference were to achieve for the west the maximum representation that the convention act
permitted and to remove from the constitution all religious disqualifications for office holding. After a powerful speech
in which he abandoned his usual moderation to threaten revolution, he won his first point. Swain only partially achieved his
second goal; the convention retained the religious test but removed the disqualifications for Roman Catholics. Believing that
the west owed a debt to the boroughs for their support of the convention movement and that the borough representatives had
been leaders in advocating constructive legislation, he strongly opposed the convention's decision to eliminate borough representation.
In spite of his disappointments, Swain endorsed the amendments as a whole because he thought the change in representation
was essential to progress in the state.
Governor Swain spent the
last few months of his term working with Mangum to win support for the Whig party, but with the Whig strength in the west
underrepresented they could not overcome the Democratic lead in the legislature. The General Assembly of 1835, the last under
the old system of representation, was hostile to Swain and quickly chose as his successor the Democrat he had defeated in
1832. Even less attention than formerly was paid to Swain's recommendations for constructive action. Nevertheless, he left
office with hope for the future, for one of his last official acts as governor was to proclaim the amendment of the constitution
by majority vote in the statewide referendum.
In December 1831 the General
Assembly elected Swain a member of the board of trustees of The University of North Carolina, an appointment that could last
for life if the incumbent remained active. The next year, as governor, Swain became ex officio chairman of the board. He took
his duties as trustee seriously and worked with others to improve the institution, which was unpopular, was inadequately financed,
and had a small and declining student body. Several effective measures were implemented: the organization of an executive
committee of the board improved efficiency; the sale of university-owned land in Tennessee provided the capital for a small but regular income, and
standards were raised by new admission requirements. Joseph Caldwell, the university's respected longtime president, died
in 1835, and the position was not filled for most of the year. Swain, needing employment as his gubernatorial term ended and
reluctant to return to the practice of law on the western circuit, sought the post. He was hardly the "distinguished literary
gentleman" the board had hoped to employ, but influential trustees concluded that the institution's real need was for a good
manager who could improve its popularity and effectiveness, and Swain was elected.
In January 1836 Swain moved
to Chapel Hill to assume his new duties. He thus withdrew from the political field, for he
was aware that the university needed bipartisan support and should not be embroiled in political rivalry. His sympathies remained
with the Whig party, and he probably intended to return to politics at a later opportunity. Occasionally his friends considered
nominating him as a candidate for governor or U.S.
senator, but such proposals came to nothing, and Swain remained at the university for the remainder of his life, filling the
longest term of any university president.
Most of the faculty, although
naturally surprised, even affronted, that their new head was not to be the scholar they expected, soon accepted Swain and
came to respect him. The little institution had no place for a president who was solely an administrator, and Swain became
professor of national and constitutional law, instructing the seniors in legal and constitutional history, legal and political
theory, and ethics, which he called "moral science." Critics charged that under his administration standards of scholarship
were low, the institution emphasized the preparation for public life rather than sound education, the library was neglected,
laboratory work in the sciences was deficient, the curriculum was old-fashioned and superficial rather than intensive and
thorough, and discipline was too restrictive and juvenile in theory and too lax in practice. Yet many of the same critics
also thought Swain was efficient, admired him personally, and were fond of him. His administration and renewed prosperity
for the university and the state did produce the popularity and growth that the board wanted. By the end of the antebellum
period enrollment stood at nearly five hundred, the largest of any southern institution, with students drawn from throughout
the South. New buildings were erected, one of them designed by a nationally acclaimed architect; the campus was improved;
both curriculum and faculty were enlarged; and the university's loyal alumni filled the most important state offices.
Such scholarly interests
as Swain had were in history, where he concentrated on the study of North Carolina
and the collection of source materials for the history of the state. He established at the university the North Carolina Historical
Society, with the faculty as officers and himself as the moving spirit, and collected important newspapers and manuscripts
in the society's name. It was long his intention to visit England to acquire
copies of documents related to North Carolina, a plan endorsed
by the General Assembly. However, he was unusually dilatory in beginning the project, and with the onset of the Civil War
it was forgotten.
Although personally tolerant
of opposing political and religious opinions, Swain was anxious to keep the university free from the controversies of the
day. Accordingly, with the full support of the board of trustees he insisted that students and faculty alike refrain from
public endorsement of controversial political and religious views. When Benjamin S. Hedrick, a faculty member he liked and
had aided as a youth, admitted and defended in the newspapers his preference for the Free Soil party in 1856, Swain not only
disagreed with the opinion but also disapproved of the expression of it. Although he legalistically protested that the executive
committee, in dismissing Hedrick, usurped authority belonging only to the full board and remained friendly with Hedrick then
and later, he did not champion, perhaps was not even familiar with, the principle of academic freedom.
As an old-time Whig with
Unionist attitudes, Swain was hopeful until the last that secession and civil war might be prevented, and in February 1861
he led a delegation sent by the legislature to meet with representatives of the seceded states in Montgomery, Ala., in order to seek a reconciliation through
compromise. By the time the delegation reached Montgomery
the Confederacy had been formed, and instead of discussing reconciliation the Confederates tried to win over the commissioners
to the Southern cause. The delegation returned home to report failure. During the Civil War Swain was a loyal though reluctant
supporter of his state and region and a trusted adviser of his friend and protégé, Zebulon B. Vance, but he devoted most of his efforts to keeping the university alive, seeking exemption from conscription for university students
and refusing to cease operations despite hardships. Most of the students left for the war, as did the younger faculty members,
and Swain and the older professors remained to teach a few students too young to enlist, exempt because of ill health, or
discharged because of war injuries. Through his determination, the university remained open and held commencement exercises
every year of the war.
As William T. Sherman's
army reached the center of North Carolina, it was Swain
and his old friend William A. Graham who met with the general as representatives of Governor Vance to request protection for Raleigh and the university. Sherman was conciliatory to the two
old Unionists; Raleigh was not destroyed, and the university
was not vandalized.
Swain, always the negotiator
and compromiser, expected that Southerners willing to accept the failure of secession and the end of slavery would join with
Northerners to restore peace to the warring country. At the invitation of President Andrew Johnson, he went to Washington as one of several consultants on Reconstruction policy, but he opposed Johnson's plan to replace the
elected Vance with an appointed governor and could not accept the leadership of William W. Holden, the former Democratic fire-eater
who had reversed his position late in the antebellum period to oppose secession and lead the wartime movement for a separate
Even so, Swain hoped for
reconciliation with a minimum of difficulty. He attempted to make up for the loss of the university's endowment by securing
aid from the state's share of the Morrill Land Grant fund, and he worked well with Jonathan Worth, another former Whig, who
was elected governor during presidential Reconstruction. Swain underestimated the force of political extremism. In spite of
the largely Unionist board and faculty, the students had been overwhelmingly Southern in sympathy and the Republicans considered
the university a hotbed of Secessionists. Many North Carolinians, on the other hand, felt that the university had given little
support to the Confederacy; they thought Swain's readiness for peace, his acceptance of a horse as a gift from Sherman, his
giving his daughter a wedding to Illinois general Smith D. Atkins, who commanded the troops occupying Chapel Hill, and his
invitation of President Johnson to the commencement of 1867 to be betrayals of the South.
Bankrupt, with no effective
political support, only a few students, and a handful of loyal but aging professors, the university was in great danger. Some
of its trustees and alumni, concluding that a thorough change in the plan of education was required, recommended an elective
system based on a number of different schools modeled after the organization of the University
of Virginia. Swain and the other faculty members tendered their resignations
to facilitate the new plan; the board adopted it, effective in the fall of 1868; and the faculty was asked to remain until
replaced or reelected. These efforts to save the university by a change in educational policy were ineffective, for political
control proved to be more important. Under congressional, or radical, Reconstruction, a new state constitution was adopted,
providing that the old board would be replaced by a new one chosen by the Board of Education. The old board, at its last meeting
in June 1868, reelected the old faculty. The new board, at a meeting in July attended by Swain, heard reports of the old officials
courteously but met again the next day without them and accepted the faculty resignations despite their withdrawal.
Swain, troubled by deafness,
less politically astute than previously, and unable to gauge political animosities so foreign to his own temperament, was
shocked and hurt by an outcome he had not foreseen. He wrote a long legalistic protest but was ignored. An accident cut short
any further effort at resistance and prevented his forcible ouster. On 11 August he was thrown from a buggy pulled by his
"Sherman" horse, severely shaken up, and confined to bed with
shock and weakness. He seemed to be recovering and sat up briefly on the twenty-ninth but died shortly after returning to
Swain's funeral sermon was
preached by his old friend and former pupil, Dr. Charles Phillips, professor of mathematics and minister of the Presbyterian
church of which Swain was a member. He was buried in the garden of his home in Chapel Hill but was later reinterred in Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh,
survived by his wife, his daughter Eleanor Swain Atkins, and his son Richard Caswell Swain, a physician. Two infant sons and
his oldest child, Anna, who died in 1867, had predeceased him. Swain, who had always been a careful manager, had invested
his savings and his small inheritance wisely, and had been successful in land purchases, left his widow a substantial estate
for his day, valued at approximately $60,000. To his state he left a legacy of constructive political achievements and of
devotion to the university and kindliness to its students that earned for him a warm place in the memories of alumni as they
struggled to rebuild the university in the years that followed. There are two portraits of Swain at the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Bibliography: Kemp P. Battle,
History of the University of North Carolina, vol. 1 (1907); Battle Family Papers, William
A. Graham Papers, and David L. Swain Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill); "Epistolary
Correspondence of David L. Swain," 5 vols. (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill); Legislative
Papers, Governors Letter Books, Governors Papers, David L. Swain Papers, and Walter Clark Papers (North Carolina State Archives,
Raleigh); Carolyn A. Wallace, "David Lowry Swain, 1801-1835" (Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1954)
and "David Lowry Swain: The First Whig Governor of North Carolina," James Sprunt Studies in History
and Political Science, vol. 39 (1957), DICTIONARY
OF NORTH CAROLINA BIOGRAPHY edited by William S. Powell (Copyright (c) 1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press.
Used by permission of the publisher www.uncpress.unc.edu)
Submitted by Carolyn A. Wallace
Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Hardcover: 1328 pages) (The University of North Carolina Press), Description: The first single-volume reference to the events, institutions,
and cultural forces that have defined the state, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina is a landmark publication that will serve
those who love and live in North Carolina for generations to come. Editor William S. Powell, whom the Raleigh News
& Observer described as a "living repository of information on all things North Carolinian," spent fifteen years developing
this volume. With contributions by more than 550 volunteer writers—including scholars, librarians, journalists, and
many others—it is a true "people's encyclopedia" of North Carolina.
includes more than 2,000 entries, presented alphabetically, consisting of longer essays on major subjects, briefer entries,
and short summaries and definitions. Most entries include suggestions for further reading. Centered on history and the humanities,
topics covered include agriculture; arts and architecture; business and industry; the Civil War; culture and customs; education;
geography; geology, mining, and archaeology; government, politics, and law; media; medicine, science, and technology; military
history; natural environment; organizations, clubs, and foundations; people, languages, and immigration; places and historic
preservation; precolonial and colonial history; recreation and tourism; religion; and transportation. An informative and engaging
compendium, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina is abundantly illustrated with 400 photographs and maps. It is both a celebration
and a gift—from the citizens of North Carolina, to the citizens of North Carolina.
"Truly an exhaustive and exciting view of every aspect of the Old
Recommended Reading: The Tar
Heel State: A History of North Carolina (Hardcover). Description: The Tar Heel State:
A History of North Carolina constitutes the most comprehensive and inclusive single-volume chronicle of the state’s
storied past to date, culminating with an attentive look at recent events that have transformed North Carolina into a southern megastate. Integrating tales of famous pioneers, statesmen,
soldiers, farmers, captains of industry, activists, and community leaders with more marginalized voices, including those of
Native Americans, African Americans, and women, Milton Ready gives readers a view of North Carolina that encompasses perspectives
and personalities from the coast, "tobacco road," the Piedmont, and the mountains in this sweeping history of the Tar Heel
State. The first such volume in more than two decades, Ready’s work offers a distinctive view of the state’s history
built from myriad stories and episodes. The Tar Heel State is enhanced by one hundred and ninety illustrations and five maps.
with a study of the state’s geography and then invites readers to revisit dramatic struggles of the American Revolution
and Civil War, the early history of Cherokees, the impact of slavery as an institution, the rise of industrial mills, and
the changes wrought by modern information-based technologies since 1970. Mixing spirited anecdotes and illustrative statistics,
Ready describes the rich Native American culture found by John White in 1585, the chartered chaos of North Carolina’s
proprietary settlement, and the chronic distrust of government that grew out of settlement patterns and the colony’s
early political economy. He challenges the perception of relaxed intellectualism attributed to the "Rip van Winkle" state,
the notion that slavery was a relatively benign institution in North Carolina,
and the commonly accepted interpretation of Reconstruction in the state. Ready also discusses how the woman suffrage movement
pushed North Carolina into a hesitant twentieth-century
progressivism. In perhaps his most significant contribution to North Carolina’s
historical record, Ready continues his narrative past the benchmark of World War II and into the twenty-first century. From
the civil rights struggle to the building of research triangles, triads, and parks, Ready recounts the events that have fueled
North Carolina’s accelerated development in recent years and the many challenges that have accompanied such rapid growth,
especially those of population change and environmental degradation.
Reading: North Carolinians in the Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction (The University of North Carolina Press). Description: Although North Carolina
was a "home front" state rather than a battlefield state for most of the Civil War, it was heavily involved in the Confederate
war effort and experienced many conflicts as a result. North Carolinians were divided over
the issue of secession, and changes in race and gender relations brought new controversy. Blacks fought for freedom, women
sought greater independence, and their aspirations for change stimulated fierce resistance from more privileged groups. Republicans
and Democrats fought over power during Reconstruction and for decades thereafter disagreed over the meaning of the war and
Reconstruction. Continued below...
by well-known historians as well as talented younger scholars, this volume offers new insights into all the key issues of
the Civil War era that played out in pronounced ways in the Tar Heel State.
In nine fascinating essays composed specifically for this volume, contributors address themes such as ambivalent whites, freed
blacks, the political establishment, racial hopes and fears, postwar ideology, and North Carolina women. These issues of the
Civil War and Reconstruction eras were so powerful that they continue to agitate North Carolinians today.
Reading: Bluecoats and Tar Heels: Soldiers and Civilians
in Reconstruction North Carolina (New Directions
in Southern History) (Hardcover). Description: In Bluecoats and Tar Heels: Soldiers and Civilians in Reconstruction
North Carolina, Mark L. Bradley examines the complex relationship between U.S. Army soldiers and North Carolina civilians
after the Civil War. Continued below..
Postwar violence and political instability led the federal government to deploy elements of the U.S. Army
in the Tar Heel State,
but their twelve-year occupation was marked by uneven success: it proved more adept at conciliating white ex-Confederates
than at protecting the civil and political rights of black Carolinians. Bluecoats and Tar Heels is the first book to focus
on the army’s role as post-bellum conciliator, providing readers the opportunity to discover a rich but neglected chapter
in Reconstruction history.
Reading: The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861
(Paperback), by David M. Potter. Review: Professor Potter treats an incredibly complicated and misinterpreted
time period with unparalleled objectivity and insight. Potter masterfully explains the climatic events that led to Southern
secession – a greatly divided nation – and the Civil War: the social, political and ideological conflicts;
culture; American expansionism, sectionalism and popular sovereignty; economic and tariff systems; and slavery. In other words, Potter places under the microscope the root causes and origins of the Civil War.
He conveys the subjects in easy to understand language to edify the reader's understanding (it's
not like reading some dry old history book). Delving beyond
surface meanings and interpretations, this book analyzes not only the history, but the historiography of the time period as
well. Continued below…
rejects the historian's tendency to review the period with all the benefits of hindsight. He simply traces the events, allowing
the reader a step-by-step walk through time, the various views, and contemplates the interpretations of contemporaries and
other historians. Potter then moves forward with his analysis. The Impending Crisis is the absolute gold-standard of historical
writing… This simply is the book by which, not only other antebellum era books, but all history books should be judged.