"SenGupta's book adds to the understanding of the interplay of evangelism and entrepreneurship in territorial Kansas. Her research is thorough, her knowledge of the appropriate literature impressive, and her style felicitous."
—James A. Rawley, Civil War History
At the same time, the book analyzes the ideology and dynamics of proslavery activism in Kansas, demonstrating how clashing conceptions of republicanism and capitalism helped frame the terms of debate over slavery. It pays special attention to the discrepancy between the strident optimism of proslavery rhetoric on the one hand, and the actual operation of the "peculiar institution" in the territory on the other--a discussion that incorporates a detailed study of Kansas slavery not found elsewhere.
Finally, the book argues that the sharp polarities of slavery discourse in Kansas obscured a more ambiguous reality. Southerners resorted to fraudulent voting, and appealed to anti-abolitionism, nativism, and racism to battle not only northern elements but to score points over their proslavery whiggish rivals as well. Schisms within a competitive, business-minded pro-southern elite contained the seeds of Mammon's triumph over political ideology in some proslavery circles, and facilitated a sectional truce at the African American's expense even before the slavery question had faded from the political horizon of the territory.
This work is unique in antebellum Kansas literature in that it employs census data in an attempt to reconstruct the reality of the rank-and-file lives--both slave and free, northern and southern, native-born and foreign--that lay behind the stirring public images conjured by "Bleeding Kansas."
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