Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, DC. His writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, National Review Online, The Washington Examiner, The Chicago Tribune, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, Christianity Today, World, and Gettysburg. He writes regularly for The American Spectator and The Weekly Standard and lives outside of northern Virginia.
About The Book
A narrative history of the 1861 Washington Peace Conference, the bipartisan, last-ditch effort to prevent the Civil War, an effort that nearly averted the carnage that followed.
In February 1861, many of America's great statesmen—including a former president, dozens of current and former senators, Supreme Court justices, governors, and congressmen—came together at the historic Willard Hotel in a desperate attempt to stave off Civil War.
Seven southern states had already seceded, and the conferees battled against time to craft a compromise to protect slavery and thus preserve the union and prevent war. Participants included former President John Tyler, General William Sherman's Catholic step-father, General Winfield Scott, and Lincoln's future Treasury Secretary, Salmon Chase—and from a room upstairs at the hotel, Lincoln himself. Revelatory and definitive, The Peace That Almost Was demonstrates that slavery was the main issue of the conference—and thus of the war itself—and that no matter the shared faith, family, and friendships of the participants, ultimately no compromise could be reached.
"The Peace That Almost Was" is a thoroughly
researched and engagingly written history of a
crucial but mostly forgotten moment in American
history, one that serves as a vivid reminder of
how dangerous compromise can sometimes be."
John Bicknell , Author of America 1844
"A truly neglected subject, too long overlooked,
has now inspired a well-researched, evocatively
recounted history. No one can possibly appreciate
the drama that preceded and provoked the American
Civil War without understanding the idea, and failure,
of the Washington Peace Conference. The event and
the author have finally met. The result is highly recommended."
Harold Holzer, Winner of the Lincoln Prize
"Hurrah for Mark Tooley! In The Peace
That Almost Was he guides us skillfully through
a forgotten peace initiative in the Secession
Winter of 1861. I most appreciated his numerous
insights into the roles that Christian ministers and churches
played in the struggle between war and peace.
Faith matters—and Tooley lifts up this often overlooked
dimension of America's struggle for its soul."
Ronald C. White, Jr. is the author of A. Lincoln: A Biography and Lincoln's
Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural.
"In The Peace That Almost Was, Mark Tooley
tells the fascinating story of the 1861 Peace Congress
in Washington, D.C., the last-gasp effort to prevent
the Civil War. Tooley brings to life a fascinating cast
of characters, from politicians to ministers to socialites,
who prayed for peace but could find no way to avert
the sectional clash over slavery."
Thomas S. Kidd, Professor of History, Baylor University
"Of all the pathetic attempts to avoid the plunge into civil war in 1861,
the Washington Peace Conference was the most pathetic. Despite a former
president in the chair and the wisdom of 131 men, some of whom had fought
as long ago as the War of 1812 for their country, the Conference ended
with a set of perfectly useless recommendations. Sometimes, we see, political
bi-partisanship only strengthens the partisans. Mark Tooley's swift, direct narrative of
the Conference illuminates this last pause before the deluge with a rare
combination of pathos and nobility."
Dr. Allen C. Guelzo
"A delightful story revisited, of personalities, politicians and political
failure to prevent the American Civil War. A "must" read for
understanding peace processes, negotiation hurdles and intractable issues
faced by leaders in any time or place."
B.F. Cooling, Author of Symbol, Sword and Shield; Defending
Washington During the Civil War
"The Peace that Almost Was uncovers a most interesting episode of
Civil War history before the Civil War actually began. It explains how
a peace conference took place in Washington, D.C. in February 1861,
only weeks before the bombardment of Fort Sumter; what the
organizers of the conference hoped to accomplish; why the conference failed;
but also what can be learned from that attempt about other efforts also aimed
at talking instead of shooting. The book's treatment of sectional politics,
political maneuvering, and religious influences bearing on the
process make it an unusually insightful historical study that speaks also to the present."
Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor at the University of Notre Dame, is the author of The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.
For press inquiries regarding The Peace That Almost Was please contact Tiffany
Sawyer at Tiffany.Sawyer@harpercollins.com