In the mid-1800s, Charleston, South Carolina, embodied the combustible spirit of the slave South. No city was more fervently attached to slavery, and no city was seen by the North as a greater threat of rebellion. And so, in 1860, with Abraham Lincoln’s election looming, Charleston’s leaders faced a climactic decision: they could submit to abolition-or they could drive South Carolina out of the Union and hope that the rest of the South would follow.Madness Rules the Hour tells the story of how Charleston succumbed to war fever as its leaders demanded secession and its white masses joined in the uprising with a wild excitement. Through in-depth research and vibrant storytelling, Paul Starobin brings to life the city’s propagandists, politicians, populists, and pro-slavery pastor to chart the relentless progress of the contagion. The result is a portrait of a culture in crisis and an insightful investigation into the folly that fractured the Union and started the Civil War-with echoes in our raucous politics today.