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BOOK REVIEWS83 in a frequent emphasis on die failure of political leaders to create "statesmanlike" solutions to "basic questions about national purpose and character" (p. 340). Brock has done more, however, than restate an earlier interpretation. This book is a synthesis of old and new points of view, of the secondary literature and of Brock's own selective reading in primary sources. If one stays with it, there are many fresh insights to be encountered along die way. Brock locates the eventual breakup of the Whig-Democratic party system in the original source of its vitality: "political conscience,"which he defines at its most general as people supporting a party "because they believe it has better policies, a better grasp of the long-term interests of the country, and more correct attitudes toward public responsibility" (pp. ix-x). Unfortunately, Brock does not always adhere to this definition. At times "political conscience" seems to mean a manifestation of a moral approach to politics and specifically an antislavery tendency. Brock's insistence on taking seriously the relation between party policy and constituency loyalty is well taken, but his explanation of die "roots of party loyalty" is really only part of the picture. To say that "people support a party because they believe it has better policies, etc." is to ignore the rather crucial matter of why they believe what they believe, and why particular groups throughout our history have shown a radier striking preference for certain beliefs. But Brock is certainly free to emphasize, as he has chosen here, the area of manifest and professed policy. More limiting is Brock's insufficient attention to recent studies of party loyalty in Congress, of the institutional development of Congress, and of the national government generally. Given this thesis, an explicit consideration of levels of party institutionalization within the executive and especially die legislative branches would seem to have been a necessity. In short, his strategy of making his argument through lengthy and discursive narrative exposition was not entirely suited to his larger purpose. Ronald P. Formisano Clark University Retreat From Reconstruction, 1869-1879. By William Gillette. (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1979. Pp. xiv, 463. $27.50.) Winner of the Jules F. Landry Award, Gillette's book is the first comprehensive study of Reconstruction politics during the 1870s. His primary frame of reference is Reconstruction viewed as national policy: the Southern policy of Presidents Grant and Hayes, the presidential elections of 1872 and 1876, the congressional election of 1874 and the Civil Rights Act of 1875. 84CIVIL WAR HISTORY Gillette characterizes his work as "postrevisionist." "Postrevisionism," he writes, "does not reject revisionism." Postrevisionism "does seek to replace the tendency of certain neorevisionist historians to overestimate the accomplishments of reconstruction and provide apologies for its shortcomings." In short, the postrevisionist approach "attempts to provide a fresh view with which to analyze die limits of legislation and manifest failures of reconstruction." To my knowledge, Gillette is the first historian to utilize the term "postrevisionist" but clearly he is not the first to come to grips with many of the shortcomings and failures of the Reconstruction era. He correctly observes diat far more has been written on the early Reconstruction years than die decade of the 1870s. The 1870s, however, was hardly a scholarly wasteland prior to the appearance of Gillette's provocative and more comprehensive study. A short review, unfortunately, precludes extended analysis. In brief, I found Gillette at his best in his discussions of Grant's southern policy; the Congressional elections of 1874; the disputed election of 1876 (in which Grant played a critical role in assuring Hayes's election); and President Hayes's pathetic attempt to play die role of "The Great Pacificator," a role which Hayes believed would ensure him a place in history nearly as great as Lincoln's. Gillette's analysis of Hayes's southern policy clearly exemplifies how human beings often live by dieir perceptions (or misperceptions) of reality radier than a capacity for detached, illusionfree analysis. I fully concur with Gillette's conclusion that most earlier historians have exaggerated the importance of the disputed presidential election of 1876 and its aftermath. "In the perspective of retreat...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 83-85
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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