Monday, June 26, 2006

Finished reading Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men yesterday. Not much to say about it - I had encountered Foner's notions of the centrality of free labor ideology in the early Republican Party before, in his book on Reconstruction. This book is more of a useful taxonomy of early Republicanism than a comprehensive history of the party like Holt's Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, but as a taxonomy it is fairly engaging. His section on what he called "Democratic-Republicans" was particularly informative, and his description of the geographic organization of the various strains of Republicanism was interesting, and I could wish for more on the subject.

The more I read about antebellum politics, the more I see the familial patterns, and the more striking how important certain clans were. Most striking has been the Washburnes, the Blairs, and the Sherman/Ewings. I wonder if this is just an artifact of my reading, or possibly emergent from scholars using the surviving archives of certain prominent families? Would we care as much about John Sherman if his brother hadn't been the mad general? Would I have ever have heard of Elihu Washhburne if he hadn't been Grant's patron? Dimitri Rotov & the political-military school would have it that I've only heard of the generals *because* of their political sponsors.

While we're on the subject of sponsorship, the more I hear of Dennison & Chase, the less I understand how it is that the Whiggish-conservative McClellan got his leg up by their backing. Chase especially seems to be the exact sort of political animal which the Webster-worshipping McClellan would just as soon see drowned like a cat in a sack.

Saw a new biography of Chase on the shelf at Websters along with the rest of that ACW collection. Maybe I'll stop by next month & see if it's still there. Meanwhile, on to the Simpson biography of Grant.

No comments: