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Book Reviews345 Chicago Giant: A Biography of "Long John" Wentworth. By Don E. Fehrenbacher . (Madison, Wisconsin: The American History Research Center. 1957. Pp. vii, 278. $4.50.) in Tins WOBK MB. FEHHENBACHEK has made a substantial contribution to American history, particularly to the history of Chicago and the state of Illinois. For readers of Civil War history, the book will be of special interest in its portrayal of the pressures of conflicting ideas and loyalties upon a northern Democratic Congressman in the years just before the Civil War. John Wentworth arrived in Chicago in 1836—a Chicago of some four thousand people huddled on a marshy plain on the shore of Lake Michigan. Entering the rough and tumble of Chicago politics as the virulent editor of the Chicago Democrat , he managed to buy the paper in July, 1837. In a period marked by vigorous but irresponsible journalists, Wentworth's columns, shrewdly based in fact, made the Democrat a power to be reckoned with in Illinois. Subsequently, Wentworth served as Congressman from 1843 to 1851 and from 1853 to 1855, as Mayor of Chicago from 1857 to 1858 and from 1860 to 1861, and again as Congressman from 1865 to 1867. With two terms as mayor and six terms in the House of Representatives, his political experience attained considerable depth. Always aggressive and controversial, he entered politics as a Jacksonian Democrat, but by 1857 was a reluctant Republican and by 1865 a Radical Republican. It is this shift in party affiliation which will be of greatest interest to Civil War readers. The slavery issue started the pendulum swing of Wentworth's career when he became the only Democrat from Illinois to vote for the Wilmot Proviso. He was the only Illinoisan to vote against the Utah Territory Bill (which neither forbade nor authorized slavery). As Mr. Fehrenbacher notes, Wentworth was subjected to "painfully contradictory pressures from his constituents, on the one hand, and the leaders of the Illinois Democracy, on the other." He castigated Pierce for supporting the "Border Ruffians"; he fought popular sovereignty, and finally attended the anti-Nebraska convention held in Bloomington in 1856, although he denied being a Republican. In February, 1857, however, he was nominated for Mayor of Chicago by the Republican partv, and on March 3 was elected the First Republican Mayor of Chicago. In the Presidential campaign of 1860, Wentworth favored Lincoln, but ardently espoused the abolitionist cause, to the discomfiture of Illinois Republicans, who hardly wished to emphasize this faction of their party. So strong were his pronouncements for "Black Republicanism" that some feared a secret Democratic plot was under way to sabotage the Republican party. When Fort Sumter capitulated, Wentworth was a leader in raising troops and supporting the war effort. But he was not suited either physically or temperamentally for the vigors of army life. He is supposed to have exclaimed: "Great heavens abovel If I had physical courage equal to my moral courage, I would make a splendid commander ." To sum up, Chicago Giant is a well written, thoroughly documented, entertaining biography of a man significant in Illinois history. In many ways, mis 346CIVIL WAB HISTORY study of John Wentworth points out the dilemma of northern Democrats in the years prior to the Civil War; the conflict between party loyalty and personal conviction is admirably set forth. Complete with a comprehensive bibliography and index, Chicago Giant is highly recommended to all students of American history. Clyde C. Walton Springfield, Illinois. Congressman Abraham Lincoln. By Donald W. Riddle. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 1957. Pp. vii, 280. $4.50.) in his PBEFACE t? this Study, Mr. Riddle states that he has "thoroughly investigated " Lincoln's one term in Congress and that "this field is now covered." Undoubtedly the author has made extensive researches into the sources that touched on Lincoln's rather undistinguished single term in the House of Representatives . It appears, however, that Mr. Riddle finds it necessary to extol the virtues and rectitude of President Polk while growing impatient with Lincoln and actually suspecting his motives. The portrait of Congressman Lincoln that emerges from this account is not as fully drawn as one might wish. To the author Lincoln's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 345-346
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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