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America'sWar of National UnificationNewPerspectives ? JohnBarnwell.Love of Order: South Carolina's first Secession Crisis. Chapel Hill: The University ofNorthCarolina Press, 1982.258 + x pp. PaulH.Bergeron.Antebellum Politics in Tennessee. Lexington: TheUniversityPress of Kentucky, 1982.208 +xii pp. RichardM. McMurray.John Bell Hood and the War/or SouthernIndependence. Lexington: The University PressofKentucky, 1982.239 +xi pp. JamesM.McPherson. Ordeal by Fire: The Civil Warand Reconstmction. NewYork: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982.694 + Ipp. Phillip ShawPaludan. Victims: A True Story of the CivilWar.Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press,1981.144+ xvipp. GeorgeC. Rable. But There WasNo Peace: The Role of Violencein the Politics of Reconstruction. Athens: TheUniversityof Georgia Press, 1984.257 + xiiipp. Laurence Shore HenryAdams worried about his ability to write "drama with what is essentially undramatic" when he set about the task of composing his autobiography. Readers of The Education know that he had little reason to worry. Adams' skillsas a historian enabled to him to recreate vividly a nineteenth-century American consciousness struggling to come to terms with modernity. But modern historians of the central event of Adams' nineteenth-century world -the Civil War-have good reason to ponder the converse of Adams' concern : can they prevent themselves from making the dramatic undramatic? Tobe sure, from the 1940sto the 1960s,study of the causes, course and consequencesof the war occasionally resulted in works that Henry Adams would havebeen proud to author. Allan Nevins, Kenneth Stampp, John Hope Franklin, WillieLee Rose, William Freehling and a fewothers produced compelling interpretations and exciting narratives of South Carolina radicalism, of secession, ofwar and Confederate collapse, and of Reconstruction and "Redemption." Theymade drama of drama, and several of them continue to do so. Because the issues they dealt with were so complex and important, however, their achievementscould not "close'' the field. The proliferation of new methodologiesin the 1960sand the inevitable accretion of information about 1830s-1870s Americaensured new efforts to broaden our understanding of enduring issues. Unfortunately, zeal for information-gathering and social science methodologyhas not only obliterated dramatic narrative, but also has rarely provided Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 17,Number2, Summer 1986,219-234 220 Laurence Shore better answers to keyquestions. Indeed, in a 1974essay Eric Foner complained that the burgeoning "ethno-cultural" literature on antebellum Northern politics made Northerners one-dimensional and failed to enhance our understanding of the coming of war. Although no one would want to curl up with Foner's own 1970 book on antebellum Republicanism, it at least preserved some good qualities of earlier masterpieces of political history. Keen analytical insights, mastery of primary sources, and above all a sense of "problem" -a sense of what demands extended inquiry-largely compensated for dramatic failings.Henry Adams would have approved, with reservations. Foner, however, had little company in the 1970s.Moreover, if pallid studies of the North upset Foner a decade ago, consideration of some 1980sbooks on the Southern side provide a harsh reminder that scholars often advance into dead ends. John Barnwell's Love of Order: South Carolina's First Secession Crisisand Paul Bergeron's Antebellum Politics in Tennessee fit squarely into the no drama/more information style of political history. Barnwell's basic problem is that he conceives of his task as gap-filling: superb studies exist of South Carolina's nullification and 1860secession movements, but there is no recent book on South Carolina radicals' secessionist effort of 1850-51.Like all gapfillers , Barnwell relies too heavily upon previous historians to frame the contours of his approach. The result is,in Bamwell's own depressingly accurate description, a fuller "chronicle" than ever before of the 1850-51 episode. Bergeron's basic problem is both organizational and conceptual. On the one hand, he never adequately controls a mass of voting data; the reader is overloadedwith numbers. On the other hand, the conclusions that his numbers allow him to reach shed little light on larger questions concerning upper South moderatism and sectional conflict. Neither the South Carolina chronicle nor the Tennessee compilation, then, throws the path of secession into sharper relief. Barnwell tries to make his chronicle appealing. Love of Order opens with epigraphsfrom Troilusand Cressidaand The Tempest and with a two-sentence description of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 219-234
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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