A Yale University history professor recovers the long-lost story of physical violence—from fist-fights to murderous duels—among U.S. Congressional representatives and on the floor of Congress itself, drawing on primary sources such as Congressional records, newspapers, and a witness's personal diary.
Joanne B. Freeman, a professor of history at Yale, is one of the most talented decoders of the 'rules' and rhythms of early U.S. politics ... Leavened by the author’s wry wit, the book is a page turning triumph of narrative history, deeply researched and persuasively argued. It explains, more lucidly than ever before, 'the wrenching experience of plotting a political path in a nation behind torn in two' ... this is a study that scholars and popular audiences alike need to digest. By charting the long history of political combat and popular misgivings about Congress, the book lends essential context to our own, current moment ... by reminding us that years of violence in Congress yielded to civil warfare that drenched the nation in rivers of blood, the book issues an important caution.
Why do people vote against their own self-interest? ... Joanne B. Freeman helps explain why, in a fascinating book on a seemingly different subject ... The duelists, bullies and brawlers of Ms. Freeman’s tale aren’t figures from the margins of society; they occupy its very center: the Congress of the United States ... Ms. Freeman’s book goes far toward explaining why there was a Civil War. She doesn’t put it so directly, but her evidence makes clear that by the time the war came, its causes transcended slavery. They also transcended states’ rights ... Ms. Freeman’s book is a good-news, bad-news story. The good news is that America survived a period of greater polarization than we experience today. The bad news is that the means of survival included the most destructive war in our nation’s history.
In her absorbing, scrupulously researched book The Field of Blood, Joanne B. Freeman uncovers the brawls, stabbings, pummelings and duel threats that occurred among United States congressmen during the three decades just before the Civil War ... Like other good historical works, The Field of Blood casts fresh light on the period it examines while leading us to think about our own time. Although incidents like the Sumner caning and the Cilley duel are familiar, the contexts in which Freeman places them are not. Nor are the new details she supplies. She enriches what we already know and tells us a lot about what we don’t know.