The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985 Page: 101
NORMAN D. BROWN, Editor
Liberty and Slavery: Southern Politics to 186o. By William J. Cooper,
Jr. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983. Pp. vii+31o. Preface,
acknowledgments, prologue, epilogue, illustrations, maps, notes,
biographical note, index. $17.95.)
In this well-written volume, William J. Cooper of Louisiana State
University reiterates the view, expressed in his earlier volume The
South and the Politics of Slavery, z828-1856 (1978), that "the politics
of slavery formed the cornerstone of southern politics" (p. 2oo). Begin-
ning with the colonial era, Cooper shows that the preservation of
slavery was tied to a southern determination to resist interference
from the outside. By 186o Southerners were convinced that secession
was necessary to preserve their freedom and liberty against a federal
government that wished to limit slavery.
Cooper breaks little new ground in the present work but provides
a synthesis of current historical scholarship for the antebellum period.
He agrees with Winthrop D. Jordan that the process of enslaving
blacks was an "unthinking decision" and that the development of slav-
ery in the colonial South occurred with little real thought. He notes
that southern aristocrats became revolutionaries in the struggle with
Britain because they wished to preserve their liberties. This never
meant liberty for their slaves; "from 1776 to 186o the white celebra-
tion of liberty always included the freedom to preserve black slavery"
Cooper argues that the emphasis upon liberty became an obsession
with nineteenth-century white Southerners. They believed this liberty
was best protected first by the Jeffersonian Republicans and later by
the Jacksonian Democrats. Henry Clay's Whigs made deep inroads in
the South in the late 183os and early 184os but failure to lend un-
equivocal support for the annexation of Texas damaged the party in
the South. Southerners supported Zachary Taylor for president in
1848 not because he was a Whig but because he was a Southerner who
they mistakenly thought would support southern interests in slave
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985, periodical, 1984/1985; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101210/m1/123/ocr/: accessed August 29, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.