Three new books on the underground railroad

Over at The New Republic historian Eric Herschthal reviews:

Jonathan Daniel Wells, The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War; John Harris, The Last Slave Ships: New York and the End of the Middle Passage; and Alice Baumgartner, South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War.

Here is a taste:

South to Freedom does far more than establish numbers. It is primarily concerned with understanding why the U.S. failed to stop slavery’s expansion, why Mexico did, and using that knowledge to cast the coming of the Civil War in a new light. Baumgartner argues that Mexico’s anti-slavery policies led the South to try to conquer the nation, partly achieving that goal through the U.S.-Mexican War, which lasted from 1846 to 1848. But the South miscalculated. It hoped to reestablish slavery in the territory it acquired from Mexico after the war (what became California, Utah, and the Southwest) but instead fueled an anti-slavery backlash. The Republican Party, established in 1854, refused to allow slavery to expand into Western territories, especially where it had already been abolished—including those seized from Mexico. In this way, Lincoln’s anti-slavery Republican Party, and the abolitionist war it ultimately fought, was partly an outgrowth of Mexican emancipation policies enacted decades earlier.

Read the entire piece here.