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266CIVIL WAR HISTORY McElveen's regular correspondence is peppered with such reassurances as "I never wish to deceive" (81) or admissions that "I am troubled very much a bout this matter" as "I have never failed before" (142). Finally, McElveen was unusual, seemingly an honest man in a fraternity of connivers. "They are," he wrote in 1854, "very few men you can rely on" (96). His own forthrightness allows us to see something of the African-Americans themselves. The barely literate trader who never used the word "slave" had to admit some of the laborers were smarter. Many resisted; McElveen seems constantly distracted by their clever deceptions; there were always runaways. Many, he observed, had suffered the lash, and others were to be sold only to distant buyers. The outbreak of the Civil War sealed McElveen's fate. By 1863 he was serving in the state militia; he reenlisted the next year but by the autumn was absent without leave. After the war he attempted farming but never succeeded. Simply put, he was, as a credit investigator reported in 1871, "Broke by the war—old man" (22). With Edmund Drago's superb introduction and careful editing, the collection deservedly emerges as a fascinating addition to the history of slavery. Edward D. C. Campbell, Jr. Virginia State Library and Archives Republicans and Reconstruction in Virginia, 1856-70. By Richard Lowe. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991. Pp. ix, 261. $35.00.) In 1970 Jack P. Maddex, Jr.'s The Virginia Conservatives was published, setting a new and elevated standard for analysis of the Old Dominion's post-Civil War political history. Now—two decades later—Richard Lowe of the University of North Texas has provided a thoroughly researched, clearly written, and convincingly argued account of those who struggled against the state's Conservatives during the Reconstruction years. The result is an authoritative book that stands not only as a worthy companion volume for Maddex's pathbreaking study but also adds significantly to the understanding of the achievements and shortcomings, the promise and the perils, of Reconstruction-era republicanism in the upper South. As Lowe demonstrates, Virginia's Republicans consistently exerted a political influence that exceeded their electoral strength. Gaining a tenuous foothold in the commonwealth's trans-Allegheny region, Republicans polled only 291 votes from Virginians in the 1856 presidential race and a slightly more impressive 1,929 in 1860. Nevertheless, the fledgling party rallied pro-Union sentiment during the secession crisis of 1861; provided leadership for the "restored" (i.e., loyal) state governement that paved the way for the establishment of West Virginia in 1862-63; and BOOK REVIEWS267 maintained a fragile pretense of civil authority for the Lincoln administration in the Union-occupied counties around Alexandria and Norfolk until the guns fell silent at Appomattox. President Johnson's lenient treatment of former Confederates led to a dramatic deterioration of Republican influence in Virginia during the summer and fall of 1865. According to Lowe, however, the state party's leadership cadre of Northern settlers ("carpet baggers") and native-born Unionists ("scalawags") endeavored to regain the initiative by appealing to congressional Republicans for military rule, black suffrage, and political proscription of erstwhile Rebels. Aware of the significance of this struggle, black Virginians added their voices, petitions, and protests to the Radical chorus that culminated in congressional passage of the Reconstruction Acts. With their white-supremacist opponents temporarily demoralized, the state's Republicans mustered the near-unanimous support of the newly enfranchised freedmen, won control of the Virginia constitutional convention of 1867-68, and drafted a new fundamental law for the commonwealth. This so-called "Underwood Constitution" featured revenue reforms, a tax-supported public school system, democratically elected local officials, homestead exemptions for debtors, political equality for blacks and whites, and—most controversially—the exclusion of prominent ex-Confederates from voting and of almost all former Confederates from officeholding. Despite these successes (indeed, to some extent because of them), the Virginia Republicans' grasp on political power began to weaken. Blacks constituted the party's only substantial support in a state that was more than 55 percent white. Politically inexperienced, poorly financed, and fearful of losing control of the Republican organization itself, the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 266-268
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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