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book reviews359 letters to Democratic party figures whose own papers are scattered . Included here also are convenient pieces of the Congressional Globe with Davis's speeches on Oregon settlers, Texas debts, and war measures, and citizens' complaints about land claims in numbers that suggest something of the socio-legal confusion of early Mississippi. There are unexpected items of interest in the volume— a few newspaper accounts of Democratic meetings are clever enough to qualify as southwestern humor; the several biting exchanges in the House between Davis and Andrew Johnson, which no doubt Davis later regretted, are witty and revealing of class differences in the Old South. Researchers in Mississippi political history will find the well indexed volume, of special value for the hundreds of secondary personalities identified in it, and for the several editorial notes that help clarify state issues. Mcintosh and his staff have produced what is for the most part a model of exceedingly thorough work. Yet such exceeding thoroughness makes us a bit impatient. The first document in this volume—a brief business message that Davis sent his brother from a steamboat—receives, for example, four pages of somewhat tedious annotation. Elsewhere there are disgressions on lacunae, unnecessarily exhaustive histories of crossroads communities , a blow-by-blow description of a streetlight (p. 252), and abundant information of most value to steamboat buffs. Abbreviated notes in these and similar cases would have satisfied most historians and helped to keep the cost of the volume within bounds. Over three years in preparation, uncovering nothing that will call for a reconsideration of Davis and containing much material that is already published, this volume simply takes too long to do what it does. While these years of first political successes and remarriage are certainly important ones, the best is yet to come. Should it take proportionate scholarly effort to bring us the papers of Davis's later, far more eventful years in public life, historians are in for a long wait. Davis would find the second volume of his collected papers altogether pleasing. But then he was a vain man, who stayed up until two and three at night fussing over details. Robert J. Brugger University of Virginia The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner's Fierce Rebellion. By Stephen B. Oates. (New York: Harper & Row, 1975. Pp. xiii, 189. $7.95.) In 1900 William S. Drewry published the first scholarly account of Nat Turner's rebellion and declared that the abolitionist movement was the chief cause of that tragedy. Drewry relatively ne- 360CIVIL WAR HISTORY glected the other factor stressed by Virginians in 1831: wild, emotional, religious enthusiasm. Today it is a commonplace, as it was not in Drewry's time, that slave rebellions are a characteristic of slavery itself. Negro uprisings punctuated colonial history, before the anti-slavery movement existed. What is unusual about the antebellum period in the United States is that slave rebellions were so scarce; what is especially unusual about Nat Turner is not that he acted on his conviction that slavery was wrong, but that he reduced his already slender chances of success by systematically butchering the families in his immediate neighborhood. Today this might be interpreted as an extreme example of "expressive violence " or "black rage." But Nat Turner's killings were too purposeful and thorough to be an outburst of pathological feelings: he clearly saw himself as an agent of God's wrath, an instrument of Divine Vengeance. Either he was right, or he was one of the most powerful and original religious fanatics in American history. Oates' new book, like those of Drewry and Herbert Aptheker before him, fails adequately to represent the religious, or spiritual dimensions of Nat Turner and his times. Otherwise Oates deserves all praise. His book is accurate, lucid, restrained, sympathetic, and imaginative. Especially useful is his attention to the aftermath of the rebellion: the slaughter of innocent blacks by roving white mobs, the Jeffersonian (but not Jefferson-like) insistence of Governor John Floyd on acting within the strict letter of the laws and constitution of Virginia , the simultaneous passions of white Virginians to find a way out of slavery and to make slavery perfectly secure, their contradictory desires to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 359-360
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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