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book reviews263 Contrary to the dustjacket blurb, this book is not "ideal for the tourist [or] the student." Civil War scholars will find it a sterling example of historical commercialism diat is neither needed nor desired. James I. Robertson, Jr. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Editors Make War: Southern Newspapers in the Secession Crisis. By Donald E. Reynolds. (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1970. Pp. x, 304. $10.00.) The coming of the Civil War remains one of the most fascinating problems of American history, one which continues to challenge and vex historians . Focusing on the twelve months from the spring of 1860 to 1861, Professor Donald E. Reynolds provides another perspective on the political mind of Dixie from his extensive reading of the editorial pages of the soudiern press. Central to his book is an effort to trace the seemingly inexorable collapse of unionism. The fate of the South seemed to be sealed even before the presidential nominating conventions, for Reynolds indicates that the principal journalistic battles were not fought over fundamental principles but over tactical matters, namely, what constituted a just precipitant for secession. There was clearly a base line of agreement both on the need to preserve slavery as the essential bulwark of the southern society and economy, and on a shared fear of the Republican party (although the author consistently underestimates how genuine a threat to slavery a Republican victory actually was). Secession itself is pictured by Reynolds as the flowering of seeds of racial fears sown for years by radicals. (It is, however, misleading to lump Soutìi Carolina conservative James L. Orr with Rhett and Yancey as a "fire-eater." [pp. 84-85].) Lining up newspapers on a scale from radical to unionist, Reynolds' story is largely concerned with the predictable response of their editors to external events. Those familiar with this story will not be surprised at the rapid disintegration of conservatism in the soudiern press, but Reynolds provides some interesting glimpses into the experiences of courageous unionist editors in the lower South, men who struggled against vicious and often successful pressures to silence their voices. The surface of this political landscape has, nevertheless, already been charted by historians, and it is questionable that Editors Make War adds much to a deeper understanding of that critical year. Of what value is a study wholly confined to newspapers, especially as a published work? Altìiough antebellum newspapers were a leading source of information and opinion, this study offers contradictory evidence of the influence and reliability of press opinion. On the one hand, Reynolds repeatedly denies the power of these newspapers to alter political sentiment; he sees their role mainly as mirrors of local attitudes, or worse, as irresponsible panderers to sectional and racial biases, switch- 264CIVIL WAR HISTORY ing loyalties at the behest of their readership. Yet, he concludes that their influence was important in eroding the fundamental conservatism of the southern people. Nor does the author deal satisfactorily widi the inadequacy of relying almost exclusively upon editorials as indices of mass public opinion. The broadest illustration of this danger is the fact that while unionist newspapers were a small and decreasing portion of the whole, political feeling was much more narrowly divided on secession, even in the lower South. Editors Make War may ultimately prove more useful as a source of newspaper positions and quotations than as a source of insight into the southern mind in the secession crisis. Steven A. Channing The Johns Hopkins University Confederate Shipbuilding. By William N. Still, Jr. (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1969. Pp. xi, 110. $3.00.) Confederate Shipbuilding is a brief but good account of the construction of ships within the bounds of the Confederate States of America. On February 21, 1861, the Confederate Congress created a navy department and shortly thereafter appointed Stephen R. Mallory as Secretary of the Navy. Mallory appears to have been a man willing to permit innovation in the naval service, a necessity for the Confederacy. Early in the war the navy received little support from either Jefferson Davis or the rest of the Confederate government. There was a great shortage of rolling mills and machine shops in the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 263-264
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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