Gienapp is open to further criticism when he discusses the decline of the Whig party and rise of the Republican party.
As a new political historian, he stresses temperance, nativism, and the rise of the American (Know-Nothing) party as central to the downfall of the Whigs and thus the second party system.
Yet it was put to rest when Vernon Volpe showed conclusively that Liberty votes had little impact on the New York outcome ("The Liberty Party and Polk's Election, 1844," 53 [Summer 1991]: 691–710).
Gienapp also engages in the kind of speculation that historians are taught to avoid when he suggests that a Clay election would have meant no Texas boundary dispute and therefore no Mexican War and Wilmot Proviso (229n. With many Americans more interested in California than in a Rio Grande border, it is hard to imagine that even as president, Clay could have stopped the urge to seize more westerly Mexican territories.
Because of the sexual abuse slave women faced from white male southerners, women felt they had a special stake in the crusade against slavery.
Beginning with Lydia Maria Child's (1833) and continuing with the role of Abby Kelley, Frances Harper, and Sojourner Truth, women brought a greater moral urgency and religious fervor to the movement. Sanitary Commission's work and added their voices to the demands that Lincoln accept emancipation.So too did the slave narratives, which revealed their yearning for a future other than slavery.Blight adds that a study of slave culture is a study of resistance and of religious vision of deliverance both immediate and in a hereafter.As abolitionists, they were more pragmatic than their often theoretical white brethren and gave a new spirit to antislavery resistance.Many took hope in the political antislavery of the Liberty, Free Soil, and Republican parties and in antislavery interpretations of the Constitution.As feelings intensified so did extremism and the rise of third parties that, says Gienapp, helped undermine political stability.Here he is on more controversial ground when he suggests that third parties allowed extremists to agitate sectional issues, an interpretation implying that even those committed only to limiting the spread of slavery (like the Free Soilers) might better have been silenced had the two-party system operated more effectively.That the political system should have been open to moral dissenters on slavery seems to have been less important than political stability.Gienapp also subscribes to the old myth that Liberty party votes in New York in 1844 caused Henry Clay to lose that state and made James K. This belief was initiated by the Whigs themselves, and most historians have accepted it ever since.As spectators in courtrooms, they sometimes unnerved pro-slavery jurists and attorneys. As active supporters of war and emancipation, women, argues Matthews convincingly, played a far more central role than is usually recognized.Denied an actual decision-making role, they nonetheless directly influenced those who did control events. Blight, the author of (1989), accents the central role blacks played before and during the war in "They Knew What Time It Was: African Americans and the Coming of the Civil War." To slaves and free blacks, says Blight, the war would test whether or not they had a future in the United States, for many, like Douglass, feared a peaceful disunion with slavery left in tact.