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252CIVIL WAR HISTORY Charles Sumner and the Conscience of the North. By Frederick J. Blue. (Arlington Heights, Dl.: Harlan Davidson Inc., 1994. Pp. xii, 232. $1 1.95.) In his monumental, two-volume biography of Charles Sumner (pubUshed in i960 and 1970), David H. Donald attributed the Massachusetts senator's poUtical ideals less to moral opposition to slavery and more to the status crisis of a socially displaced elite from which abolitionists and their allies such as Sumner hailed. In this concise volume written for the American Biographical History Series, Frederick Blue basically agrees with those who have criticized Donald's interpretation as reductionist and unappreciative of Sumner's genuine moral courage. Blue chronicles Sumner's Ufe, tracing the intellectual influences of his formative years, his evolution as an antislavery pacifist, the development of the Free-Soil party and his break with the conservative Boston Whig elite, Preston Brooks's famous physical attack on him in the Senate, his devotion to emancipation and equaUty for African Americans, his pivotal role in Anglo-American relations during and after the Civil War, and his dispute with President Ulysses S. Grant over the issue of annexing Santo Domingo. Blue maintains that Sumner was as principled and independent-minded as any nineteenth-century partisan poUtician could have been; only rarely did he temper his beUefs for the sake of expediency. In favoring the integration of Boston's pubUc schools in the 1840s, standing nearly alone in opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act in 1852, demanding as early as 1861 that Lincoln emancipate slaves on the grounds of miUtary necessity, and in sponsoring, throughout the late 1860s and early 1870s, civil rights legislation to ban racial discrimination in pubUc places, Sumner was ahead of his time. More ambiguous is Blue's analysis of the influences on Sumner's ideals and of his personal Ufe. Blue credits Sumner's Unitarian upbringing, his father's sympathy with fugitive slaves, his study of history and social injustices, and an eye-opening tour of Europe in the late 1830s for his philosophic development. On the other hand, and in a manner not dissimilar to Donald, Blue also attributes the timing of Sumner's involvement with antislavery and pacifism to personal and professional frustrations. The death of his sibUngs, bis failed relationships with women, and his distaste for the practice of law all seemingly led him to embrace reform as bis niche in Ufe. Perhaps that is why Sumner, as Blue admits, was so insufferably self-righteous about his poUtical causes— even at the expense of long-held friendships. Most curious about Sumner was his simultaneous capacity for combativeness and charity, and Blue thinks highly of his forgiveness of Brooks and his successful efforts to obtain a pension for the nearly destitute Mary Todd Lincoln. One wishes that Blue, who has written extensively about the free soilers, could have probed deeper into Sumner's attitudes toward economic egalitarianism, but the book's synoptic style and lack ofannotation are principally functions ofthe series for which it was written. BOOK REVIEWS253 StiU, Blue has provided us with a balanced treatment of a politician who understood the injustices of his time more than most and who was wiUing (more than most) to risk popularity to eradicate them. Lex Renda University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle ofthe Life ofaNation. By Robert E. Denney. (New York: Sterling PubUshing Company, Inc., 1992. Pp. 606. $24-95) This imposing volume is a useful record of the war years, a daily history beginning in January 1861 and ending in May 1865. Robert E. Denney, aretired veteran of two wars, has provided a quick reference tool comparable in scope to the two most popular Civil War almanacs: E. B. Long, The Civil WarDay by Day (1972), and John S. Bowman, The Civil War Almanac (1982). Denney's chronological range is more similar to that of Long, who begins his work with the election of Abraham Lincoln in November i860 and essentially concludes in May 1865. Long then provides a few dates through August 1866, when the rebellion officially ended in Texas. Denney limits his volume to the war years, although his epilogue...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 252-253
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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