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Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  106 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
The Puliter-Prize winning classic and national bestseller returns!
Harvard Professor David Herbert Donald traces Sumner's life in this Pulitzer-Prize winning classic about a nation careening toward Civil War.
ebook, 432 pages
Published March 1st 2009 by Sourcebooks (first published January 1960)
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Land Murphy
I wrote a paper on Charles Sumner during college. (It probably wasn't a very good one.) That and my interest in the Civil War led me to this book. Sumner was an interesting fellow, but I'm not sure that I would have liked him personally. His friendships almost always ended up with Sumner taking offense and severing the friendship. John Adam's grandson was one of those erstwhile friends who found Sumner insufferable.

Sumner was an accidental Senator from Massachussetts who likely would have serve
Sep 29, 2011 Riley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good biography of Charles Sumner of Massachusetts that ends with the firing on Fort Sumter and the beginning of the Civil War. I can remember reading history books in school in which Sumner, though credited as a vocal critic of slavery, was still presented as a less than stellar figure. This account shows both why that is and how right he was.

Here is David Donald's summation of the most famous event of Sumner's life, his beating on the Senate floor by Representative Preston Brooks of Sout
Mar 18, 2015 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Donald, in this volume, has written a brilliant biography of Charles Sumner, a man who deserves much more recognition for his efforts to end slavery than he is usually given in the standard education of Americans. He does not seem to be an enjoyable person to be around. Although Donald does not use the word to describe him, my impression is that he was both dour and haughty. He was prone to exaggerated invective, and believed his position to always be unassailable and, therefore, unapproachable ...more
Gary Hoggatt
Not long ago I read David Herbert Donald's 1996 biography Lincoln and was completely impressed by Donald's work, and his ability to bring Abraham Lincoln to life with his writing. One of the major recurring personalities in Lincoln is Charles Sumner, the abolitionist Senator from Massachusetts. Given all that, and that Donald won the Pulitzer Prize for biography for it, I decided I had to read Donald's 1960 biography, Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War. This is the first volume of a ...more
I sought out this Pulitzer Prize Winner of 1961 because I've always enjoyed studying the Civil War for knowledge as well as the stories told. This biography is fairly reader-friendly. Mr. Sumner was an antislavery Senator from Mass. He was born into a large family with a father who wanted him out and earning as quickly as possible. Charles was intelligent, learned the law and many languages, but had little interest in anything. His one talent was a loquatious (sp?)(big talker) personality, so he ...more
Becky Loader
Mar 26, 2013 Becky Loader rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you have been thinking about reading additional material about the background of the Civil War after seeing the movie, "Lincoln," consider picking up this excellent book on Charles Sumner. Sumner was a personal friend of Mrs. Lincoln and was loyal to her during all the many trials of her life. Donald has written an interesting biography that thoroughly describes his life as it developed in the turbulent political atmosphere of the pre-Civil War United States. Sumner, highly intelligent, enter ...more
Joe Rodeck
Scholarly text. Not much character study, drama, humor. Just the facts. For history teachers and Civil War completists. Would recommend only to people who are extremely interested in Sumner, for the issue of slavery and threat of civil war far outweigh him.

My gripe is that the lay reader might not remember the definitions or significance of the Barn Burners, the Know Nothings, the Fugitive Slave Act. The author freely discusses without laying foundation or footnoting for the ignorant.

Jul 21, 2008 Stuart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Interesting biography of Charles Sumner, one of the greatest of US Senators. This covers his life leading up to the Civil War. Included is the famous incident where US representative Preston S. Brooks beats Sumner over the head repeatedly with his cane, almost to death, on the floor of the US Senate for insulting the honor of South Carolina and his cousin Senator Butler. One of the great lines which got Sumner attacked was Senator Butler "has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and w ...more
May 05, 2010 Rickster623 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charles Sumner is a really interesting character in local and national history. I'm only about 100 pages in (as of April 9) and he's turning out to be an irrascible character in Boston's history. If you are interested in understanding more about the true complexity of early 19th century politics and the dimensionality of the fledgling abolition movement, you will find this interesting and in some ways also relatively timeless. What individuals believe morally but are (or are not) willing to stak ...more
Apr 17, 2009 Eric_W rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
All the discussions of Lincoln and his birthday reminded me of this two volume (2nd volume:Charles Sumner and the Rights of Man) biography of Sumner, notorious for having been beaten up by an ardent segregationist on the floor of the Senate. It was excellent and I should get off the stick and read Donald's biography of Lincoln, too: Lincoln
Nov 20, 2011 Kathleen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathleen by:
I have started the book and am surprised at the life of Charles Sumner. I do not know much about him, but I never would have suspected the truth. Mr. Donald did enormous research and it shows in all the details, including quotes from Sumner and those around him, who ever the notables of the day.

I have put the book aside. While the book gets outstanding reviews, I find it difficult to pick up. Maybe I will be able to get back to it later.
Fredrick Danysh
The American Civil War was not initially about slavery. Major factors included regionalism, diverse economic factors, and a strong belief in states' rights [the federal government could only exercise those powers granted to it in the Consitition, every other power belonging to the state/people]. Sumner was a leading figure in the per-war discussions.
Mar 13, 2013 Naomi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Interesting, though more psychological than I care for in a history. Sumner's character and connections will be of interest to those studying Unitarian Universalist history of the antebellum period.
Fred W.
Jul 06, 2012 Fred W. is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
One of the pivotal personalities in the battle of words that led to the U.S. Civil War.
George King
Enjoyed the Bio and reading about other relationships during this time period.
Apr 25, 2013 Chenoa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable biography. I was not familiar with Charles Sumner until reading a brief reference to him in Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet. It was a nice juxtaposition to go from Brigham Young to Charles Sumner.
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Majoring in history and sociology, Donald earned his bachelor degree from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. He earned his PhD in 1946 under the eminent, leading Lincoln scholar, James G. Randall at the University of Illinois. Randall as a mentor had a big influence on Donald's life and career, and encouraged his protégé to write his dissertation on Lincoln's law partner, William Herndon. T ...more
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