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l88CIVIL WAR HISTORY 385-406). Both women represented regionally prominent families. Both came from slave-owning families and watched with dismay the dissolution of a familiar institution. Both enjoyed the benefit of fathers in public office and hence an early awareness of politics and public life. Both give evidence of a sound education and an understanding of the enormity of the events swirling around them. Elizabeth Lee, though well connected to political insiders, was, however, further removed than Mary Chesnut from the seat of power. There is, moreover, a qualitative difference in their writings. Mary Chesnut was the better writer; her extensive knowledge of literature (from biblical scripture to romantic novel) and her keen analytical abilities make her diary the more memorable account. Mary Chesnut wrote to record; Elizabeth Lee wrote to report. Lee's letters to her husband are full of newsy items that offer a picture of domestic intimacy but which make for difficult reading. The problem of following the little-known details of the letters is made more cumbersome by the book's structure. Explanatory notes, rather than appearing at the bottom of the page, follow each letter, sometimes two pages later. Text and notes, which are reliably complete, intermingle on the pages, offering a bewildering chase for identification of person or event. No glossary of family and friends' names is provided to aid the reader. Despite the difficulties , these valuable letters are now accessible to historians, and, happily, the editor has written an excellent overall introduction plus seventeen introductory summations of the contents of each chapter. Elizabeth Hayes Turner University of Houston-Downtown Samuel Joseph May and the Dilemma of the Liberal Persuasion. By Donald Yacovone. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 199 1. Pp. ix, 262. $39-95) A modern biography of Samuel Joseph May answers a longstanding need. May's reform career was as long as it was multifaceted, originating in the Unitarian revolt against Calvinism in the 1820s, coalescing within the Garrisonian wing of New England abolitionism during the 1830s, and concluding with efforts to assist the freedpeople at the conclusion of the Civil War. During his busy life, May collaborated closely with an impressive variety of associates, among them William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Horace Mann, Gerrit Smith, and Wendell Phillips. As a result. May also became deeply enmeshed in abolitionism's most significant moments and trends: the founding of the American Anti-Slavery Society ; the struggles for racial integration of the 1830s and 1840s; the debates over women's rights, perfectionism, and political action; the crusade to defeat the fugitive slave law; the politics of the coming of the Civil War. Yacovone, in some respects, renders May's life in standard biographical form, and when so doing, conveys the substance of his subject clearly and BOOK REVIEWS1 89 plausibly. Early chapters, for example, explore with considerable sensitivity May's Bostonian upbringing and its complex relationship to his later embracé of Unitarianism and the reforms he associated with this dissident creed. May's years from childhood to young adulthood were shaped by such diverse and conflicting forces as the death of a beloved younger brother, the patriarchical legacies of ancestors and parents, religious self-doubt, vocational dilemmas , and, finally, the decision to minister in the name of Unitarianism to the implacable Calviniste of rural Connecticut. Once installed as pastor of the small and balky congregation of Brooklyn, Connecticut, May rapidly developed into a theological perfectionist and advocate of immediate abolition, giving his allegiance to Garrison and his zeal to the cause of Prudence Crandall 's school for young black women. While explaining these matters with considerable sensitivity, Yacovone also leads his readers into a revealing analysis of the ongoing tensions that developed between Unitarianism and social reform, especially abolitionism. Building on the work of Daniel Walker Howe, Douglas Stange, and others, Yacovone develops May's relationship to what is termed a "liberal persuasion " that encompassed an extremely broad range of democratic dissent, from transcendentalism and communitarianism to feminism, pacifism, and labor activism. Working in this framework primarily as May's intellectual biographer , Yacovone ably traces May's various struggles to lead Unitarianism toward abolitionism, to reconcile his abolitionist commitment with the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 188-190
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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