In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

172CIVIL WAR HISTORY pretation of American history which would be oriented toward the future. Bancroft and others provided such an interpretation with the history of emergent democracy. On the other hand, Melville's disquieting observations provide Somkin with the evidence that such determined optimism was not universally shared. Similar ambiguities were apparent in the American response to their great and unique possession—the land. The land was the symbol of freedom, but in the act of appropriating it the American felt himself to be disloyal to the pieties of place and tradition. If Unquiet Eagle is less effective and persuasive than its predecessors it is doubtless because its scope is wider, and its sources more scattered and often chosen to make the author's point. Somkin quotes C. S. Peirce as saying "it is the belief men betray and not that which they parade which has to be studied." Peirce plus Freud plus the culture anthropologists add up to a new school of intellectual history. The prime assumption of this school is that language is a complex and delicate cultural artifact which often reveals more of the writer than he himself may be intending to say. The distinction between beliefs paraded and betrayed may be a version of the anthropological distinction between overt and covert culture, but the latter involves consideration of the interplay between words and behavior which does not come within the scope of Somkin's work. Because he confines himself wholly to the beliefs betrayed by words rather than deeds, Somkin possesses a degree of manipulative control over his material which may leave the reader uneasy. With our currently fashionable mood of despair it is somehow consoling to be told that Americans a century ago betrayed a similar crisis of identity. This is nevertheless an important work, both for its substance and for the questions of method which it poses. Stow Persons University of Iowa The Politics of the Universe: Edward Beecher, Abolition, and Orthdoxy . By Robert Merideth. (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1968. Pp. Xu, 274. $5.95.) The Reverend Edward Beecher (1803-1895) is known to historians, if at all, as the author of the Narrative of the Riots at Alton (1838), one of the principal accounts of the episode that culminated in the murder of abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy in 1837. To Merideth, this son of Lyman Beecher and brother of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe was much more than that; he was a "refractive . . . center for the exploration of [the] culture and consciousness" of his society. It is "through Beecher," he contends, that "we may see the dilemmas of his generation as felt ideas, and that the special dilemmas of his gener- BOOK REVIEWS173 ation were temporarily resolved by politicizing theology and—if I may use the word only once—theologizing politics."( " ) Intellectual biography poses a special challenge. Perry Miller met it by segregating Jonathan Edward's "external biography" in four minichapters ; Henry Steele Commager met it by presenting Theodore Parker 's "external biography" impressionistically through Parker's own eyes, thus merging the external and internal. Merideth has met it not at all. Several passages tediously list Beecher's activities and publications , as though the author felt he must include them but wished to return as quickly as he could to the main business at hand. The reader cannot help concurring. The analysis of Beecher's theological speculations, of his attempts to relate theology to politioal and social questions, and of his major books are valuable contributions to our understanding of the mind of a nineteenth-century Protestant caught between equally unacceptable Orthodox and Unitarian doctrines , trying to work out both a satisfactory theology and a way of reconciling it with the urge—also common in his time and class—to make society over. Beecher solved the theological problem with a theory of the "pre-existence of souls" and of a "suffering God." The former avoided the injustice of eternal punishment for sins committed by innately depraved men, by explaining that this world is a "moral hospital" for souls that had sinned in a previous existence. The latter saw God as sovereign in the material sphere but limited in the moral sphere...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 172-174
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.