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Response to Review of Apostle of Union: A Political Biography of Edward Everett

I am grateful to Reviews in History asking such a distinguished scholar as Dan Crofts to review my book, and to Dan for writing such a generous and thought-provoking review. I have zero to complain about, but do want to take advantage of the Reviews in History format to offer a brief response based on some of the thoughts Dan’s review provoked in me.

Thought one is that Dan is entirely right (in note seven) that I do not 'self-identify as a new- or neo-revisionist' in Civil War causation historiography. I confess that until reading Dan’s review I gave zero thought to where my interpretation of Everett’s experience and influence falls within various schools of that literature. I do want to contribute to that discussion, of course, with this book.  But my conscious intent was to contribute the idea that the coming of secession and the Civil War was a three-way rather than a two-way struggle, and ask students of the period to take that third, Unionist side seriously. Dan may very well be right that this makes me a neo-revisionist, but I’m not sure that’s a club that would admit me.

My second thought is to agree with Dan that 'Everett’s career invites comparison' with other Northern conservatives, with the proviso that it also invites contrast. The project that turned into this biography on Everett began as a study of the 'doughfaces' as a group, and the variety within that broad group of sectional conservatives was one thing that struck me from the outset. One difference that made Whigs like Everett more interesting to me than Democrats like Cushing was their overall attitude towards what Dan Howe has identified as the ethic of Improvement. Northern Democrats struck me as less interesting because they were more consistent in their hostility to do-gooders across the board. Everett, on the other hand, was an enthusiastic supporter of the Benevolent Empire of moral reforms, as well as the full Whig program of internal improvements, plus educational reform, etc. The fascinating twists and turns of a long career seeking to balance that commitment to reform with a conservative brand of antislavery and an immoderate attachment to the Union is a running theme in Everett’s life that I don’t see in the careers of most conservative Democrats. So I hope Dan Crofts accepts this paragraph as a friendly amendment to his discussion of comparisons, and at any rate his discussion allowed me to respond by highlighting this theme of reform, which to my mind is a very important  theme in the book.