Seeding Civil War

Kansas in the National News, 1854-1858

Craig Miner

Kansas Notable Book

Following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Kansas Territory was a national issue that dominated America's press, not to mention three sessions of Congress. Hundreds of thousands of articles and editorials—4,500 in the New York Herald alone—were published about Bleeding Kansas during those four tumultuous years leading up to the Lecompton Constitution. Craig Miner now offers the first in-depth study of national media coverage devoted to the beleaguered territory, unearthing new examples of what Americans were saying about Kansas and showing how those words affected the course of national events.

“Miner’s book is an especially timely one, with implications beyond the issue of Civil War causality. . . . By providing a wealth of insights on antebellum journalistic standards and practices, Miner provides much-needed guidelines for interpreting such sources.”

Reviews in American History

“[A] readable, thought provoking book. We watch the developing positions, the hardening of attitudes and the demonizing of the other side as it occurs. This is not a pretty picture but provides food for thought about what happens when all accommodation and restraint is lost. . . . This is an invaluable book for students of events leading to the Civil War, students of Bleeding Kansas and anyone interested in the role of the press in national events.”

TOCWOC - A Civil War Blog
See all reviews...

Miner draws on dozens of newspapers and magazines from all parts of the country and of all political persuasions: a trove of rich quotations and unvarnished epithets, nearly all of them published here for the first time. He reveals how the heated, polarizing rhetoric widened the sectional rift, weakened chances of accommodation, and contributed more to the onset of civil war than has been previously recognized.

Miner shows what a tremendous obsession Kansas was for the nation-a whipping boy for sectional and political emotions-and how thoroughly it dominated the press in cities large and small, North and South. He argues convincingly that the endless, seemingly fruitless debate was important more because of the way events were discussed than because of the significance of the events themselves and that it contributed to the cynicism that made war inevitable-for some, even desirable. Along the way, he addresses such topics as the vagaries of voting as a democratic solution to moral divisions, the Kansas issue as a religious debate, the media creation of martyrs, and Kansas governors as examples of leadership, for good or ill.

After reading Seeding Civil War, Kansans will never be able to regard Lawrence and Lecompton the same way again, while national readers will gain surprising insights about their own towns during this critical time—and experience firsthand the unfolding of a national disaster.

About the Author

Craig Miner, the "dean of Kansas history," is Willard Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History at Wichita State University and author of West of Wichita: Settling the High Plains of Kansas; Kansas: The History of the Sunflower State, 1854-2000; and, most recently, Next Year Country: Dust to Dust in Western Kansas.