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BOOK REVIEWS279 may subtly alter the way that many scholars view the political culture of nineteenth-century America. Robert D. Marcus State University of New York at Stony Brook Napoleon III and Mexico: American Triumph Over Monarchy. By Alfred Jackson Hanna and Kathryn Abbey Hanna. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1971. Pp. xxii, 350. $11.25.) "Placed between catastrophe if he persisted, and humiliation, if he retreated . . . [Napoleon III] resigned himself to humiliation (p. 274)." Americans of the 1970's are all too familiar with this excruciating dilemma , and they may well study with interest and sympathy the French intervention in Mexico of the 1860's. The authors of this new account have put the whole story in a nutshell: 'The French army attempted a goal beyond its capacity in the name of a foreign monarch unfitted by temperament and experience to rule. When the going grew rough, each blamed the other for the liabilities of both (p. 137)." To some extent the French intervention was the aftermath of a bloody Mexican struggle between Conservatives and Liberals (the War of Reform) over fundamental Mexican economic and social questions. Mainly, however, it grew from personal ambition—of individuals such as Napoleon, Maximilian, and Charlotte (Carlota) and of groups such as French nationalists and Mexican Conservative exiles. Its results were more important than either its causes or the dismal fate of the Archduke . Through its expenses and failure the French Intervention struck a shattering blow at the foundations of Napoleon Ill's Second Empire. The ordeal by fire and the steadfastness of Benito Juárez gave Mexicans a new sense of nationhood, although they still had far to go before achieving a measure of economic independence and political and social stability. For Americans the intervention wove a fascinating counterpoint with their own Civil War. In the short run it confronted the Lincoln administration with an extremely delicate problem of foreign-policy strategy and timing, which Secretary of State William H. Seward handled brilliantly . In the long run it placed the Monroe Doctrine beyond challenge by Americans and so vividly demonstrated the dangers of largescale military intervention in the New World that Europeans never tried it again. Alfred J. and Kathryn A. Hanna have worked on Napoleon III and Mexico for over twenty-five years. They have produced a good, readable book which will satisfy most nonspecialists and many specialists and will be a staple of college reading lists for years to come. They have done extensive research in French, Mexican, American, and other source materials (in about that order of priority) and have assimilated most of the existing secondary studies. While the authors do not bring forth 280CIVIL war history any startlingly new conclusions, they emphasize some matters more than their predecessors, such as the role of the Marquis de Radepont in helping to draw up Napoleon's "Grand Design ' and the essentially liberal nature of that program for ruling Mexico. As the Hannas' title and subtitle indicate, writers on the French intervention are confronted with a motif and a eountermotif—the French push into Mexico and the American response. Some accounts, such as Count Corti's Maximilian and Charlotte of Mexico or Dexter Perkins' The Monroe Doctrine, 1826-1867, are devoted almost exclusively to one or the other. The Hannas have tried to combine the two, a laudable aim but not wholly realized. In the first half of the book the French background obscures the American Civil War, and the reader never fully understands the precarious balance in American politics and diplomacy which forced Seward into a cautious, not to say deceptive, policy over Mexico. His equivocal relations with the Juarist Mexican minister, Matías Romero, are seen mainly through the prolific reports of Romero, who thought him pro-French. Significantly, although the Hannas used the extensive collection of Seward papers, they cite only the correspondence with General Henry S. Sanford, an American agent in Europe. As a result of this approach, the magnitude of Seward's accomplishment (which they recognize in the end) comes as something of a surprise . For a survey account such as this one, a few subjects seem to be emphasized a little out of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 279-280
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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