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BOOK REVIEWS345 vision. Although Conolly's exciting story is worth telling, An Irishman in Dixie promises more than it is able to deliver. John R. Reese US Air Force Academy The Decline ofPopular Politics: The American North, 1865-1928. By Michael E. McGerr. (New York: Oxford UP, 1986. Pp. xi, 307. $24.95.) Civil War era politics involved massive outpourings of popular involvement in the system. Not only did 80 or 90 percent ofthe men vote, but they thronged to rallies, hurrahed at speeches, stuffed themselves at party barbecues , and talked politics at every opportunity. Dedicated baseball fans today know scarcely more about their sport than typical partisans did a century ago. Yet twentieth-century politics is more like professional soccer. The press gives it modest coverage, and a small coterie of fans follows the sport. Interest is obviously higher in many foreign lands. Ifevery four years the promoters spent one billion dollars to stir up interest, perhaps as many people would watch soccer as now vote in American elections. To describe what happened, Michael McGerr relies largely on the work of Walter Dean Burnham, Paul Kleppner, Robert Marcus, and this reviewer . He does not himself investigate the patterns of voter turnout that are at issue, or study the actual workings of the parties, or evaluate the explanations that scholars have put forward. Rather he hypothesizes that certain reformers—the mugwumps—wishing to weaken parties, came up with a new campaign style, the "campaign of education." Spread by editors , and after 1900 vulgarized into modern advertising, it undercut the old "army" system. Without armies to drill their minds and march their bodies, poorer, less educated citizens just stayed home. McGerr's descriptions—based on editorials and letters—are colorful. The book would make good supplementary reading for the United States survey. His conspiracy explanation is not convincing. The new political historians would identify states where the new campaign techniques were introduced first, or were most heavily used, and see if turnout fell fastest there. No one who confines the evidence merely to daily editorials and occasional letters is likely to spot the subtle patterns of change that emerged from millions of people in thousands of precincts over scores of years. An adequate explanation of changing levels and mode of interest must focus on the interaction between the parties and the voters, rather than on the media in between. The ethnocultural model suggests that politicians in the mid-nineteenth century realized the need to attach tight-knit ethnic communities to their parties. They thereforeapproached the communities personally, broadened 346civil war history this list ofnominees and appointees, and, most importantly, attuned party ideology to the value systems of what now became voting blocks. Americans were excited about politics because very deep values were involved, notably, loyalty to a man's primary group (race, religion, ethnic group, or, forwhite southerners, region/ nation). This also explains why turnout is so high in Europe today (and in our racially troubled cities). However, after 1 896 the politicians realized that ethnocultural politics was dangerous to the nation and risky for the parties. Nor was it any longer necessary. In 1 896 McKinley came up with a new formula for winning: pluralism, submersion ofethnocultural conflicts, and economic prosperity as the central issue. Teddy Roosevelt soon added a stress on personality. Voting no longer was a necessary measure ofgroup protection. It became instead an expression of broad civic responsibility. In place of the conspiracy that McGee blames, I suggest that deeper social forces, and the shrewd leadership ofsavvy politicians, can account for changes in campaigns and turnout in America. Richard Jensen University of Illinois, Chicago Capitalism andAntislavery: British Mobilization in Comparative Perspective . By Seymour Drescher. (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. Pp. xv, 300. $19.95.) Seymour Drescher's Capitalism and Antislavery, originally presented as the Roger T. Anstey Memorial Lectures at the University of Kent, is a welcome addition to the growing literature on the British antislavery movement from the 1780s to the 1830s. In this slim volume, which focuses on the role ofpopularmobilization in British abolitionism, the authorchallenges long-standing interpretations ofthe forces that shaped British antislavery as well as the relationship between the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 345-346
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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