Author: Michael E. Woods

Politics of the English Language: Views from 1850

Politics of the English Language: Views from 1850

As a practical tool and a badge of belonging, language is central to our sense of self. The United States has no official language, but the status of its dominant tongue shapes many contemporary conflicts over immigration and national identity. In the name of unity and assimilation, supporters of the ...
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Was There a Plot to Kill Stephen Douglas?

Was There a Plot to Kill Stephen Douglas?

Stephen A. Douglas’s return to the Senate in early 1859 should have been triumphant. He had just been re-elected after a tough campaign against Abraham Lincoln, and he was already anticipating a presidential bid in 1860. But after a meandering journey from Chicago through Memphis, New Orleans, Havana, New York, ...
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Standing portrait of Jefferson Davis

The Dark Underbelly of Jefferson Davis’s Camels

Aside from his truncated term as Confederate president, Jefferson Davis might best be known for his camel experiment: the importation of some seventy-five camels for military testing in Texas and the southwest in the late 1850s. He launched the offbeat operation while serving as secretary of war under President Franklin ...
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Political cartoon illustrating a woman being taken into custody

States’ Rights and Antislavery Activism

Michael E. Woods, associate professor of history at Marshall University, has joined our team of Muster correspondents. He is the author of two books and several articles about politics in the antebellum period. Here he offers his first Field Dispatch. Let us know what you think in the comments! The ...
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Fraud, Violence, and ‘Rigged’ Elections: A Warning from Bleeding Kansas

Fraud, Violence, and ‘Rigged’ Elections: A Warning from Bleeding Kansas

Democracy is fragile. One whiff of dishonesty, real or imagined, can undermine our dedication to democratic procedures. Even the wildest accusations about an opponent’s unethical or illegal behavior can help us justify rewriting the rules, or ignoring them altogether, in the name of victory. Allegations of electoral trickery are not ...
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