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against slavery and against national oppression led humankind onto an increasingly progressive path” (p. 137).
Garrison and Mazzini were not without their differences, however. On the one hand, Garrison was committed to nonviolence. He also scorned those who worked within the political framework of the slaveholding American republic to promote antislavery causes. On the other hand, Mazzini advocated for violent upheavals against Italy’s overlords. And his goal of creating a republic was inherently political. Despite these differences, Garrison and Mazzini were equally steadfast in adhering to their principles, even against pressure from fellow reformers. Garrison’s abolitionist movement splintered into competing factions, with some former allies engaging in politics and others encouraging armed resistance against slaveholders. Meanwhile, Mazzini was often forced into exile for refusing to compromise. He was therefore physically and politically marginalized when others who did not share his commitment to democracy unified the peninsula.
Parallel lines never cross. But parallel lives can intersect. Garrison and Mazzini met twice, in 1846 and 1867. Dal Lago claims that the two formed “a lifelong friendship” (p. 116). However, he never shows that Garrison and Mazzini were more than acquaintances with similar views and mutual respect. Not that it matters; they clearly supported one another’s causes. In 1849 Garrison endorsed the short-lived Roman Republic, which elected Mazzini to its executive triumvirate. He also printed Mazzini’s abolitionist essays and authored an introduction to a posthumous collection of Mazzini’s autobiographical writings. Curiously, Dal Lago cites few of these presumably rich sources. Moreover, other sources he includes suggest a more interesting narrative—one with London as the center of gravity in the Atlantic’s galaxy of reformers, with foreign stars like Garrison and Mazzini orbiting around British sympathizers. After all, it was the British politician William Henry Ashurst who introduced Garrison and Mazzini. And it was Ashurst’s daugh ter, Emily Ashurst-Venturi, who arranged for Garrison to provide the intro duction to Mazzini’s autobiography.
Comparative biography is a tricky genre. Dal Lago does an admirable job of focusing on the similarities between abolitionism and democratic nation alism, despite alternating between Garrison and Mazzini. But was a compar ative biography of two leaders the best vehicle for conducting such a study? Happily, Garrison got to witness the abolition of slavery. In contrast, Mazzini, the fierce republican, was hardly satisfied when the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861. Let’s just say that this book leaves its readers feeling more like Mazzini than Garrison.
Princeton University C raig B. H ollander
To Raise Up a Nation: John Brown, Frederick Douglass, and the Making of a Free Country. By William S. King. (Yardley, Pa.: Westholme Publishing, 2013. Pp. xiv, 679. $35.00, ISBN 978-1-59416-191-9.)
William S. King’s superbly written narrative fits within a growing body of scholarship that expands wartime violence to the years immediately before the Civil War. King skillfully marshals the logistic and strategic details of
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John Brown’s national trajectory from Bleeding Kansas to its denouement at Harper’s Ferry (King includes the apostrophe). By tracking Brown’s exten sive travels for fund-raising, assembling networks of support, and gamering amts, King reveals Brown’s meticulous and passionate planning. Brown seems to have always been on the move—indeed, movement is an effective leitmotif first for Brown and later for the Union army. Brown’s ability to strike and escape despite the efforts of local, state, and federal law enforce ment and military forces evinced a strategic brilliance as well as a nearly fanatical commitment to his cause.
Characterizing Brown as nearly fanatical is an important qualifier, as Brown’s mental health has been disputed for over 150 years. Since Stephen B. Oates’s To Purge This Land with Blood: A Biography of John Brown (New York, 1970), most historians have adjudged Brown as rational, though some recent work, through psychological analysis, still questions Brown’s rationality. King counters perceptions of Brown as a reactionary, mentally unstable terrorist. Brown’s plan was not unreasonable or doomed to fail. The debacle it became has been attributed to the slaves’ failure to rally in huge numbers, to Brown’s supposedly indecisive tarrying, and to abandonment by his abolitionist supporters. However, King notes that Brown’s humanity allowed one train to leave Harper’s Ferry, which permitted passengers to provide early warnings that resulted in state and federal officials responding quicker than Brown had anticipated. Additionally, a few of Brown’s key men did not execute their role in delivering arms. And while Brown planned to arm some slaves, he did not expect to be inundated with thousands of black men ready to fight; rather, he “was staging a demonstration . . . of armed blacks openly defending their liberty in a slaveholding community” (p. 225). King is consistent here with most scholars, who now see Brown’s primary intent as what David S. Reynolds, in John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Sla’ei~y, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights (New York, 2005), describes as providing a spark for a war of emancipation.
In the second half of the book, covering the war years, King demonstrates the symbiotic relationship of military and political maneuvering by shifting smoothly back and forth between them. Though not explicit, the weight of the narrative emphasizes the roles played by circumstances, abolitionists—in particular, Frederick Douglass and Wendell Phillips—and black soldiers in pushing Abraham Lincoln toward making abolition a primary purpose of the war alongside the Union’s preservation. To Raise Up a Nation: John Brown, Frederick Douglass, and the Making of a Free Country is not, therefore, in accordance with recent work such as James Oakes’s Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 (New York, 2013) that posits Lincoln and the Republicans as gunning for abolition from the start, or even preceding the formal commencement of war.
Scholars of John Brown and of the war’s military and political campaigns will probably not find a great deal new in To Raise Up a Nation. King does not significantly engage recent Civil War scholarship or use methodologies that may have analyzed his sources. For example, King accepts at face value nearly all primary sources. Conversations supposedly recalled verbatim by John Brown’s contemporaries twenty or even forty years after his death are
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presumed to be entirely accurate without consideration for how the vagaries of memory and the political and social contexts of the postwar decades may have shaped such retellings. This kind of uncritical approach affects other aspects of what could have been an emphatic gauntlet thrown into historio graphical duels about John Brown and the Civil War. That said, To Raise Up a Nation is an impressively informative and eminently readable work appro priate for undergraduates and lay readers.
Gettysburg College S c o t t H a n c o c k
De Bow’s Review: The Antebellum Vision of a New South. By John F. Kvach. New Directions in Southern History. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2013. Pp. [viii], 270. $50.00, ISBN 978-0-8131-4420-7.)
John F. Kvach, in an impressively researched and compelling new book, joins recent scholars in exploring the ethos of capitalism in the nineteenth- century South. These historians have opened readers’ eyes to the origins of the South’s middle class, to the social and economic significance of the region’s merchants, manufacturers, and railroad developers, and to the ways these ambitious sorts defended slavery, forged bonds with slaveholding planters, and sought to marshal the financial capital that slaves represented to underwrite their own success. Kvach argues that postbellum boosters, Lost Cause mythmakers, and earlier generations of historians who touted the South’s supposed “premodem” characteristics have obscured J. D. B. De Bow’s role in crafting and disseminating a vision before the Civil War of a diverse and prosperous southern economy (p. 3). In the eponymous De Bow’s Review, this hopeful prophet chronicled and advocated for slavery’s expansion, infrastructural and industrial development, and strong commercial ties with the West, dreaming all the while of what his beloved region might become.
Kvach has used multiple methodologies to research and write a very rich and insightful book. It is a biography that examines a life defined both by geographical movement and personal sorrow. De Bow was bom in Charleston, South Carolina, moved as an adult to New Orleans, Louisiana, and Nashville, Tennessee, and ranged far and wide in his duties as the editor and publisher of a successful commercial publication. The untimely deaths of his parents and first wife, moreover, shaped his early education and business decisions. De Bow’s Review: The Antebellum Vision o f a New South is also much more than a biography. Kvach has done painstaking research in census records and archival manuscripts to construct a sample of almost 1,500 southern land holders, professionals, and businessmen who subscribed to the Review, and he has laid out their geographic locations, occupations, and considerable wealth in a helpful appendix. Historians often struggle to understand the ways ideas circulated from authors to readers and back again. To help answer this thorny question, Kvach has tracked the Review’s readers in other sources. Although their biographies do not emerge with the same precise delineation as De Bow’s, Kvach’s persistent archival digging reveals that these readers were in the vanguard of economic innovation. It is hard to say who led the charge. Clearly, De Bow responded in editorials to readers’
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