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276CIVIL WAR HISTORY continue beyond 1980 is problematic, but for now revivalism is gaining respect among scholars as well as among politicians and churchmen. Robert P. Swierenga Kent State University Antishvery Reconsidered: New Perspectives on the Abolitionists. Edited by Lewis Perry and Michael Fellman. (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1979. Pp. xvi, 348. $20.00.) In their introduction to Antishvery Reconsidered, Lewis Perry and Michael Fellman note that antislavery studies have long served presentisi concerns. In the 1970's, however, scholars, though not oblivious to current issues, seemed more ready to examine the complex and multiple relationships of abolition to its own time. Thus, the editors conclude, "it seems likely that forthcoming antislavery scholarship will reach toward the core of fascinating changes in nineteenth-century American life" (p. xvi). The fourteen essays which make up this collection reflect that shift in emphasis over the past decade. In the opening essay, Ronald Walters admonishes us to break away from traditional, restricted interpretations which limit our understanding of the whole. We must, he says, "ask the commonsensical question of what antislavery men and women had in common and what brought them all to a crusade against an old, well-established institution." (p. 19) Yet nothing in this volume suggests an answer to that question; for, as this writer suggested a decade ago, a rich and varied mosaic of complexity still defines the nature of antislavery. That is nowhere better illustrated than in the three best contributions to the volume under review. James Stewart, in a polished essay, eschews the chic overlay of psychohistory and pseudo-analysis, yet persuasively demonstrates that Wendell Phillips was a man finely balanced between impulse and selfcontrol . This arch-Garrisonian carefully tailored his intense antislavery commitment to the constraints imposed by ordered society as he curbed his flair for action to meet the restrictive demands of an invalid wife. Stewart probes the paradox of a Boston Brahmin who argued for law, order, and paternalism yet applauded Elijah Lovejoy as "the agent of civilized order in a wild, half-formed, frontier society" (p. 183); and the John Brown of Harper's Ferry as a "representative of law, of government , of right, of justice, [and] of religion" (p. 189). William Wiecek addresses a similar tension between moral commitment and an ordered society in his analysis of just and unjust law. Sensitively discussing the 1842 Latimer case he raises a series of questions central not only to understanding antislaverybut fundamental to an appreciation of the role of law itself. Can resistence to unjust law be, as Jonathan Mayhew insisted, "a duty, not a crime" (p. 220)? Can the public law of the majority accommodate the private conscience of the BOOK REVIEWS277 individual? Does social order demand that all people obey all laws at all times? Can bad laws be twisted to serve good ends? What is the responsibility of judges (and juries) confronted with conflict between moral imperative and Statutory obligation? Though he provides no categorical answers, Wiecek is clearly on the side of conscience. Finally, Bertram Wyatt-Brown confronts that constandy perplexing question, How really different were Northerners and Southerners? Focussing on antislavery intellectual leaders and proslavery literary and intellectual spokesmen, he concludes mat similar socio-intellectual values bound them closely togedier. "As intellectuals andreformers, the antislavery leaders preserved their special identity. . . . [T]heir education, background, manners, aspirations, and religious interests bound them to die established ranks of culture and power" (p. 319) . But so, too, with "[James] Hammond's literary colleagues [, who] were scarcely less socially self-aware than their northern counterparts" (p. 319). The two groups shared "mutual social and intellectual assumptions " (p. 333) . The degree to which diey did so Wyatt-Brown illustrates by an analysis of the lengthy epistolary debate between Lewis Tappan and Hammond. Ultimately, Wyatt-Brown concludes, the antislavery intellectuals had the advantage, learning—as their Southern counterparts did not learn—to address all classes, to secularize their cause. What is arresting, of course, is not that ultimately Tappan and Hammond separated; that finally even intellectual discourse broke down; that perforce war came; but that thoughtful people, North and South, shared "a sense of common membership in a secular world," that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 276-277
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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