The Reconstruction Presidents
Author: Brooks D Simpson
During and after the Civil War, four presidents faced the challenge of reuniting the nation and of providing justice for black Americans - and of achieving a balance between those goals. This first book to collectively examine the Reconstruction policies of Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Rutherford B. Hayes reveals how they confronted and responded to the complex issues presented during that contested era in American politics. Brooks Simpson examines the policies of each administration in depth and evaluates them in terms of their political, social, and institutional contexts. Simpson explains what was politically possible at a time when federal authority and presidential power were more limited than they are now. He compares these four leaders' handling of similar challenges - such as the retention of political support and the need to build a southern base for their policies - in different ways and under different circumstances, and he discusses both their use of executive power and the impact of their personal beliefs on their actions.
Comparative studies of presidents inevitably introduce "the rating game." In this case, the Reconstruction presidential quartet is evaluated by the prolific historian and young author of Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction (LJ 10/15/91) and found to be dissonant. Lincoln epitomizes the ultimate democratic political leader--flexible as he struggled to preserve the last best hope of humankind while working toward a racial justice and active when necessary. His successor, however, proved to be the most dangerous kind of politician in a republic: an active, inflexible one. Although Johnson moved far beyond his past, unlike his predecessor he couldn't overcome it--especially his racism and hatred. The author allows for the best historical context to justify Grant and Hayes, well-intentioned passives whose excessive dependence on others spawned an environment that ultimately ruined reputations. A fine comparative study; recommended for all presidential collections.--William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport
In a first-time collective assessment of the Reconstruction polices of Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, and Hayes, Simpson (history, humanities; Arizona State U.) presents the challenges they faced in maintaining political support while seeking to provide justice for black Americans and reunite the country after the Civil War. The author contends that constraints on Federal action determined policies more than personal views on race. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
The historian Eric Foner has presented the Reconstruction as a failed opportunity to achieve emancipation and equality for black Americans. Here, Simpson (History/Arizona State Univ., Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, not reviewed) persuasively argues that, given their circumstances, the four Reconstruction presidents generally did as well as they could. The Reconstruction has always been controversial. For decades, scholars believed that the postwar policies of the Republicans were unduly vindictive and punitive. Yet some in recent years have charged that Congress was pusillanimous, half-hearted, and ineffectual in ensuring the equality of the South's ex-slaves. Such judgments, Simpson observes, fallaciously attribute the perspectives of the present to the past, "as if critics are seeking some sort of validation for their own views on race." He shows that, despite attitudes afloat that would be considered racist today, the Reconstruction presidents (with the exception of Johnson) were generally sincere in assisting African-Americans in overcoming the legacy of slavery, but were constrained by the 19th-century understanding of the presidency as an office of limited powers. Lincoln's priorities were winning the Civil War and preserving the Union; though he truly hated slavery, his emancipation policy was intended as a means to another end. Johnson, who shared white Southern antagonism toward African-Americans, sought a return to Jacksonian democracy of the past, but became bogged down in internecine disputes with Congress. Ulysses Grant, the author contends, was a pragmatist who balanced competing goals of restoring harmony to the formerConfederate states and realizing black citizenship, yet was driven by circumstances beyond his control. Though sharing the goals of Reconstruction, Rutherford Hayes, in a final bow to political necessity, withdrew federal troops from the South, unwittingly ensuring decades of second-class citizenship for African-Americans. A powerful analysis of a darkly formative period in American history. (History Book Club selection)
Table of Contents:
|Pt. 1||Abraham Lincoln|
|1||"Broken Eggs Cannot Be Mended"||9|
|2||"Much Good Work Is Already Done"||36|
|Pt. 2||Andrew Johnson|
|3||"There Is No Such Thing As Reconstruction"||67|
|Pt. 3||Ulysses S. Grant|
|5||"Let Us Have Peace"||133|
|6||"Unwhipped of Justice"||163|
|Pt. 4||Rutherford B. Hayes|
|7||"The Great Pacificator"||199|
Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity
Author: Liah Greenfeld
Nationalism is a movement and a state of mind that brings together national identity, consciousness, and collectivities. It accomplished the great transformation from the old order to modernity; it placed imagination above production, distribution, and exchange; and it altered the nature of power over people and territories that shapes and directs the social and political world. A five-country study that spans five hundred years, this historically oriented work in sociology bids well to replace all previous works on the subject. The theme, simple yet complex, suggests that England was the front-runner, with its earliest sense of self-conscious nationalism and its pragmatic ways; it utilized existing institutions while transforming itself. The Americans followed, with no formed institutions to impede them. France, Germany, and Russia took the same, now marked, path, modifying nationalism in the process.
Nationalism is based on empirical data in four languageslegal documents; period dictionaries; memoirs; correspondence; literary works; theological, political, and philosophical writings; biographies; statistics; and histories. Nowhere else is the complex interaction of structural, cultural, and psychological factors so thoroughly explained. Nowhere else are concepts like identity, anomie, and elites brought so refreshingly to life.
Premised on the belief that nationalism lies at the basis of the modern world, Greenfeld's (social sciences, Harvard U.) study addresses the specific questions of why and how nationalism emerged, why and how it was transformed in the process of transfer from one society to another, and why and how different forms of national identity and consciousness became translated into institutional practices and patterns of culture, molding the social and political structures of societies which defined themselves as nations. To answer these questions, Greenfeld focuses on five major societies: England, France, Russia, Germany, and the US. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)