This introductory chapter sets out the book’s main argument that the political ideology of the Republican Party, the antislavery organization that proved so wildly popular in the North during the 1850s, was fundamentally agrarian. Similar to Thomas Jefferson, whose party served as their namesake, Republicans believed that wise land management was inseparable from the ideal society. Republicans believed that tilling the soil for multiple generations on small farms produced a strong nation. In contrast, the use of slave labor promoted waste, barbarism, and disunion. By necessity, this book focuses on the links between antislavery politics, Civil War policy, national parks, and Reconstruction. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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