Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Two Claremont Reviews

E. Christian Kopff reviews Victor Davis Hanson, A War Like No Other. Kopff liked the book, but I think even he is too sparing with his praise. A War Like No Other was the best history book I read since Washington's Crossing--just an amazing piece of scholarship.

Also, Allen Guelzo reviews Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy. Guelzo was not impressed by Wilentz's Schlesingerian attempt to rehabilitate the antebellum Democratic party:

What the Democratic Party has most liked to say about itself—that it is the party of the working man, the voice of the oppressed, the tribune of the people—loses some of its strut in the light of a rather long list of inconvenient facts, chiefly having to do with slavery and race. Such facts as these: that the Democrats were the party that championed chattel bondage, backed an expansionist war to expand slavery's realm, and corrupted the Supreme Court in order to open the western territories to the cancer. The party's Southern wing then led the nation into civil war in defense of slavery while its Northern wing did its best to stymie the administration of Abraham Lincoln, widely regarded by the Democrats as an accidental, even illegitimate, president. Thereafter, the party embraced Jim Crow as slavery's next-best substitute, elected a president who imposed segregation on the federal workforce, and remained the chief opponent of racial equality in much of the United States (though with important dissenters) up to the brink of the 1960s. The wonder, however, is not that the Democratic Party survived its six-decades-long infatuation with slavery and its century-long alliance with segregation, but that the party repressed all memory of that infatuation and that alliance so quickly—and made so successfully the argument that it had never ever, in its heart of hearts, been slavery's best friend after all.
Guelzo provides a thorough, thoughtful, and critical review of a book that has received nothing but accolades. Read, read, read.

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