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92CIVIL WAR history dissatisfaction with the "slaveholding aristocracy" and his deep love for the nation. At first an ally of Zebulon Vance in the successful struggle during the war against die Confederate party in North Carolina, Holden broke widi the popular governor to become die leader of perhaps die most powerful peace movement within the Confederacy. One of the recurring themes that Holden emphasized in his clamor for a negotiated peace was that die continuation ofdie war would mean the end ofslavery and thus die ruin of die South's social structure. It is but one of die many ironies in Holden's convoluted career that by the time he had become a Republican in 1867, he, like other Southern white Republicans and even more Northern ones, had become reconciled to the enfranchisement of the blacks. Yet he broke with the Republican party in 1881 after President Garfield refused to reappoint him to die Raleigh postmastership, one ofthe reasons mentioned by Raper is diat Holden had grown disenchanted with the Republican advocacy of "black social equality" (237). Maybe someday some historian can make sense out ofHolden and his career. Roberte Durden Duke University A Good Southerner: The Life ofHenry A. Wise ofVirginia. By Craig M. Simpson. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985. Pp. xviii, 450. $27.95.) Henry A. Wise was unique even among die most colorful politicians of antebellum America. Talented but twisted, he blazed a trail through Virginia politics from the 1830s until the mid-1870s. By Wise's time the Old Dominion had lost its primacy, but he still dreamed of the presidency. Well-educated, hard-working, and highly intelligent , he often succeeded in the short run, but ultimately his frightening eccentricity and instability undermined his great ambitions. He served as aWhig and then a Democrat in Congress where he won a reputation as a dramatic speaker. His vigorous performance at the convention writing a new constitution for his state in 1851 and his powerful denunciations of Know-Nothingism helped him win the governorship of Virginia in 1855. He championed modernization but actually accomplished little in his fouryear administration. He won most fame for rejecting pleas for clemency and directing the execution ofJohn Brown after the raid on Harper's Ferry, but, ironically, he gready admired Brown and had more than a litde sympathy for the old man's opposition to slavery. Tangled in political and personal contradictions, the passionate Wise joined the surging secession movement, and in his fifties he served as a Confederate general during the Civil War. A spotty military record was capped off with courageous combat during the final death agony of Lee's army. After the war Wise refused to seek a pardon and worked hard as a lawyer in order to leave his large family a firm economic foundation. He book reviews93 hailed the end ofslaverybut opposed die freedmen. He often clashedwith the white Conservatives and ended up backing Grant in 1872. When Wise died late in 1876, many different people for many different reasons could exclaim: "What a mani" Craig M. Simpson, associate professor of history at the University of Western Ontario, has produced a mature, valuable biography of a very difficult subject. The research is thorough, and all ofthe standard scholarly procedures are followed, including seventy-five pages of footnotes at the back of the text. The general reader will find this volume tough going at times, but most scholars will find it well written with only occasional lapses into vague or overblown language and a few organizational or chronological disruptions. Simpson's greatest challenge was explaining just what made Wise tick. Certainly his book abounds with critical evaluations: "knew the advantages of lying" (p. 13), "ambivalence and eccentricity" (p. 37), "hair-trigger temper " (p. 75), "arrogance" (p. 85), "bully of near-violent inclinations" (p. 105), "absolutely unscrupulous" (p.114), "rash and impulsive" (p. 115), "jaded and cynical" (p. 132), "nervousness, bad health, and irritability" (p. 150), "ambitious demagogue" (p. 159), "erratic temperament" (p. 170), "mercurial, challenging and contentious" (p. 220), "ridiculous postering" (p. 225). A political enemy's evaluation of Wise on page 85 is especially provocative: ". . . wild as a March hare ... a screw loose somewhere...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 92-93
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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