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BOOK REVIEWS281 other, associates its leading concepts with the particular gentlemen in whose papers he finds them. Again, was his post-1840 "society in halves"—a respectably self-reliant upper half and a dependent lower one—indeed a production of the previous generation or, rather, the last stage of a medieval tradition with republican echoes? Whatever the origins of Wiebe's metaphorical abstractions, he implicitly reifies them—"neocolonialism" (18), "a new premise of equality" (165), an "assault on comprehensiveness" (234), and especially parallelism—into autonomous causes. But in what sense can "a new conception of the family" be said to have "laid the groundwork for America's democratic society" (265), particularly when it may well have lagged behind its European counterpart? Somehow everything is squeezable into Wiebe's design; that which isn't, like Southern insistence on slavery not merely for the sake of parallel growth but for the "security and peace" (371) of Southern society, he ignores even when it crops up in a quotation. Wiebe rejects both pathological and teleological interpretations of nineteenth-century American society. But there was, not insignificantly, a Civil War at the high point of the often "brutally" developed, "classriven democracy" (xiv, xv) of those island communities toward which his argument once again ineluctably tends. Rowland Berthoff Washington University The Partisan Imperative: The Dynamics ofAmerican Politics Before the Civil War. By Joel H. Silbey. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. Pp. 234. $25.00.) This volume conveniently assembles what would otherwise be the scattered writings of an industrious scholar who has consistently enlarged our understanding of American political history. Although only one of the nine essays here has not previously been published, six date from the past several years, giving this anthology a freshness and vitality often absent in comparable collections. Joel Silbey and other "new political historians" insist that we must know more about the partisan stage on which the drama of political battle has been played. Earlier historians, they contend, tended to see only the major actors on the stage and tended to overlook all issues other than economic and sectional ones. The new political historians have thus labored since 1960 to develop a fresh understanding of the structural underpinnings of American politics. Their work touches all periods of American history, but it has focused primarily on the middle and late nineteenth-century when parties were strong, popular, and "the main agencies ordering the political system" (55). A specialist in the subfield of congressional and legislative behavior, Silbey published his first book, The Shrine of Party, in 1967. In it he studied congressional voting patterns between 1841 and 1852 by apply- 282CIVIL WAR HISTORY ing Guttman scaling technique to roll calls. An essay reprinted here evaluates more recent work of the type Silbey pioneered. The principal substantive finding of his 1967 book was that partisanship divided members of Congress far more consistently than North-South sectionalism . Silbey concluded that party attachments in the antebellum era were more fundamental and durable than most previous scholars had recognized. His interests in the partisan structure that lay beneath the convulsions of the Civil War era led him to write a second book, A Respectable Minority (1977), which analyzes the wounded but still formidable Democratic party during the traumatic decade of the 1860s. Two related essays here sketch that party's history, North and South, in the preceding late antebellum period. Silbey's more recent work touches upon several important themes. Silbey aligns himself squarely with historians such as Paul Kleppner and Lee Benson, who insist that partisan affiliations in the United States during the nineteenth-century sprang more from ethnoreligious values and loyalties than from economic interest grouping or North-South antagonism . But one reservation should be noted. Evidence is rapidly accumulating to suggest that the ethnoreligious paradigm cannot adequately account for the partisan preferences of antebellum Southerners. The South, after all, had substantially less religious and ethnic diversity than the late antebellum North. Harry Watson and Marc Kruman have both shown how differing responses to economic change impelled some North Carolinians to become Whigs and others to become Democrats. Ties of kinship and clientage within the home community also gave Southern voter preferences during...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 281-283
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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