March 2020 Book Club Book: The Field of Blood by Joanne B. Freeman

Discussion in 'TMB Book Club' started by RegimentML, Mar 2, 2020.

  1. RegimentML

    RegimentML Well-Known Member
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    In The Field of Blood, Joanne Freeman recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, Freeman shows that the Capitol was rife with conflict in the decades before the Civil War. Legislative sessions often were punctuated with mortal threats, canings, flipped desks, and all-out slugfests. When debate broke down, congressmen drew pistols and waved Bowie knives. One representative even killed another in a duel. Many were beaten and bullied in an attempt to intimidate them into compliance, particularly on the issue of slavery.

    These fights didn't happen in a vacuum. Freeman's dramatic accounts of brawls and thrashings tell a larger story of how fisticuffs and journalism, and the powerful emotions they elicited, raised tensions between North and South and led toward war. In the process, she brings the antebellum Congress to life, revealing its rough realities--the feel, sense, and sound of it--as well as its nation-shaping import. Funny, tragic, and rivetingly told, The Field of Blood offers a front-row view of congressional mayhem, and sheds new light on the careers of John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and other luminaries, as well as introducing a host of lesser-known but no less fascinating men. The result is a fresh understanding of the workings of American democracy and the bonds of Union on the eve of their greatest peril.
     
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  2. Tangman

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    Started this last night, 45 pages in. Freeman is an engaging historian. Enjoyed learning about Henry Wise's congressional shenanigans.
     
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  3. RegimentML

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    Looks like I may have killed the book club with this suggestion.

    I finished this last week but hadn't gotten around to posting my thoughts.

    I enjoyed Freeman's description of the lead-up to the Civil War. It definitely gives good insight regarding the mindset and mind-games politicians were playing in that time period. The doughfaces description was something I didn't really know about (at least not the term). It also just drives home the amazing insecurities a lot of these guys had (have). What a gold mine the diary was for running commentary all the way through. From thoughts on Franklin Pierce to specific information on mundane things, you'd have to think a historian would be giddy whenever they get access to something like that.

    Nothing felt too revelatory, as far as the information presented. It really just emphasized how so many of these guys were ready to fight and posture, even when they didn't really want to, in order to preserve appearances. Interesting book.
     
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  4. CBH

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    I want to read this but haven't been able to find it at either of the libraries I use for my kindle. Working on moving and trying not to buy new books but it looks really interesting
     
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  5. The Blackfish

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    Just busy and still listening to a door stopper history of the French Revolution. If I couldn’t kill the book club with Crossers I doubt you’ll succeed here.
     
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  6. RegimentML

    RegimentML Well-Known Member
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    What is dead may never die
     
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  7. Tangman

    Tangman Well-Known Member
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    Not like anyone else was suggesting a book. I'm enjoying it either way.
     
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  8. Truman

    Truman Well-Known Member
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    I'll be starting this weekend
     
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  9. Truman

    Truman Well-Known Member
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    I don’t have any specific comments but all this shit being normal, and expected from constituents is crazy
     
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  10. Tangman

    Tangman Well-Known Member
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    Never knew the word bunk came from "Buncombe speeches"
     
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  11. CBH

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    Ordered this and should get it on Thursday
     
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  12. Tangman

    Tangman Well-Known Member
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    Finished, 8/10

    Enjoyed this one a lot. Going in, I didn't realize how much of this was based on French's diary/life but I found it an interesting organizational strategy.

    Another thing that I found illuminating was Freeman's focus on the changes brought on by the telegraph and the growth of independent press coverage within DC. She noted how much this changed the relationship between representatives and their constituents. Hard not to consider how much we are seeing this play out in our lifetimes with the internet and instantaneous information.

    Some real colorful personalities in this one. As mentioned above, Wise was quite the character. Anyway, this was worth the read for sure. Thanks RegimentML for the suggestion.
     
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  13. Truman

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    Finished. 7/10 Tangman did a great job recapping I dont have much to add, other than the just the general ridiculousness of the expected behavior on the floors of congress.

    I still cant get over the HoR carpet/floor being soaked in dip spit because no one cared to hit the spitoons :blech:
     
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