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Current editors:
Beth DeFrancis defrancb@georgetown.edu, Editor
John Connolly jpconnolly@crimson.ua.edu, Assistant Editor

Virginia Libraries
Volume 45, Number 4

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Virginia Books

Woody Holton, Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia. Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999. xxi + 231 pp. $39.95 (hardcover), $15.95 (softcover).

Woody Holton, a Virginian who teaches at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, seeks to answer the question, "Why did Virginia participate in the American Revolution?" The standard explanations concentrate on the colony's gentry, confidently speaking for the lesser Virginians, who deferred to their authority. Enslaved Virginians and Indians are little more than spectators. Holton emerges from more than a decade of research in sources here and abroad with a different, larger, and highly persuasive explanation for Virginia's participation in the American Revolution. He does that by looking carefully not only at the gentry, but at all the people who made the American Revolution.

For example, the book begins with the controversy engendered by the British proclamation that restricted Virginians' access to the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains. Holton shows how efforts by Indian leaders to forge an anti-British alliance across tribal lines caused British officials to avoid a costly frontier conflict by thwarting the colonists' designs on the Indians' lands. The restrictions fell hardest on the land speculators, Washington and even Jefferson prominent among them, who often needed to sell their claims quickly to escape their own debts. The settlers pouring into what is today Kentucky, for their part, recognized the British policy as an opportunity to occupy lands without paying the speculators. Their incursions made Indian leaders even more determined to resist.

Holton makes similar complex analyses of all the spiraling conflicts of interest that led to war and independence. Some issues, such as continuation of the British slave trade, divided the gentry, whose opposition to the trade is stated in Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, from the farmers, whose ambitions depended on acquisition of slave labor. Other issues, such as restricting exports of tobacco, unified farmers and the gentry in the interest of higher prices for the staple that they all produced.

Virginia slaves recognized their own opportunity for rebellion in the conflicts between white Virginians. Lord Dunmore, the royal governor, who was desperate to assert his authority in 1775, appropriated that desire for freedom and encouraged slaves to join his forces. His action, however, created greater unity among fearful and outraged whites. The swift move to declare independence and to create a state government in 1776 occurred partly because of support from gentry with loyalist leanings. More than independence, they feared the unsettled conditions in Virginia society, manifested for them by the enthusiasm of the common folk for independence.

A short review cannot do justice to the subtlety of Holton's interpretation and the breadth of his vision. Happily, he is a fine teller of stories, and the narrative is highly readable. The people who made the American Revolution in Virginia-gentry, British officials, merchants, farmers, slaves, debtors, creditors, Indians, and all the others-have their chronicler. This is an important work of scholarship as well as a familiar story made fresh and enthralling.

-reviewed by John T. Kneebone, Director, Publications and Educational Services Division

 

Timothy S. Huebner, The Southern Judicial Tradition: State Judges and Sectional Distinctiveness, 1790-1890. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999. viii + 263 pp. $45.00 (hardcover).

This volume, part of the Studies in the Legal History of the South series, treats several important interpretive themes that currently abound in the literature of southern history. It does so by presenting biographies of six nineteenth-century southern appellate court judges and links them by analyzing their opinions on a series of interrelated topics: federalism and the respective roles and powers of the national and state governments; southern violence; race relations; and economic development. The author considers one judge each from Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas. As the subtitle indicates, one interpretive thread is the old question of whether, or if so to what extent, the South was really different from the rest of the nation.

The book begins with Virginia's Spencer Roane (1762-1822), who served on the Virginia Court of Appeals from 1789 until his death and was during much of that time one of the most famous and influential state judges in the United States. He was the direct opposite in many respects of Virginia's best-known judge, Chief Justice John Marshall. This was most pronounced in the different ways that Roane and Marshall understood the relationship between the state and national governments. Marshall might be said to have been the principal expounder of a political and legal theory that envisioned a large role for the national government, whereas Roane was certainly the most forceful early judicial advocate of the states'-rights philosophy that such Virginians as John Taylor, of Caroline, and John Randolph, of Roanoke, espoused in politics, and that John C. Calhoun and later advocates of Southern nationalism developed further.

Huebner's study, which examines some judges who served until nearly the end of the nineteenth century, suggests that in spite of Roane's great initial influence, the course of southern legal history during the nineteenth century gradually brought the practice of law and the workings of the state judicial systems more into line with national developments. Perhaps this is best symbolized by the odd fact that when the Supreme Court of the United States first ruled on the constitutionality of conscription during World War I, it cited state supreme court cases that southern judges had written during the Civil War to justify the Confederacy's draft law.

This rich book illuminates a number of important trends and themes in southern legal and social history.

-reviewed by Brent Tarter, Assistant Director, Publications and Educational Services Division

 

Saul Cornell, The Other Founders: Anti-Federalism & the Dissenting Tradition in America, 1788-1828. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999. x + 327 pp. $55.00 (hardcover), $19.95 (softcover).

Saul Cornell's The Other Founders examines Anti-Federalist rhetoric during the ratification of the federal Constitution and its influence on American political dissent during the next forty years. Dissenters feared that the new national government would arrogate political power into its hands, thereby threatening liberty. Anti-Federalists therefore countered Federalist arguments for a strong national government with their own for a limited central government and a strictly construed constitution. Cornell contends that Anti-Federalist writings are as legitimate sources for constitutional interpretation as Federalist writings and demonstrates how the Democratic-Republican opposition to the Federalist party in power in the 1790s reinterpreted the Federalist Papers as a strict constructionist document.

In the first two-thirds of the work, Cornell presents a wide array of mainly northern Anti-Federalist thought, from elitist through middling democratic and populist to radical localism. Disparate advocates of localism offered a wide variety of arguments, first against the constitution, and then for its strict interpretation. As the new national government expanded its authority in the 1790s, culminating in the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, these strands of Anti-Federalism coalesced into the Democratic-Republican opposition, resulting in the first American party system.

The last third of the Other Founders addresses southern Anti-Federalism and dissent and their evolution into states' rights. Cornell also details how this southern dissent complemented and contrasted with northern dissent during constitutional crises between 1800 and 1828. Lastly, he examines how the Anti-Federalist tradition of dissent remained alive in the American political spirit even when historians and political scientists dismissed its rhetoric. Cornell concludes that the Anti-Federalist tradition of political dissent is as strong as ever.

-reviewed by Trenton Hizer, Private Papers Archivist, Description Services

 

Stephen Cushman, Bloody Promenade: Reflections on a Civil War Battle. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999. xiv + 320 pp. $29.95 hardcover.

Early in May 1864, Ulysses S. Grant began his assault against Robert E. Lee in the scarred battleground between Fredericksburg and Richmond. Beginning with the Battle of the Wilderness on 5 and 6 May, their armies fought each other without ceasing for forty days, At the end of the campaign, Grant had failed to crush Lee's army or capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, but in the process both armies had lost about forty-five percent of their strength. Some of the worst fighting came at the Wilderness. Grant lost fifteen percent of his army and Lee twelve percent of his.

Stephen Cushman, a critic, poet, and professor of English at the University of Virginia, resides near the Wilderness battleground. Like another author, Peter Svenson, who lived at a farm on the Cross Keys battlefield, Cushman was emotionally affected by his proximity to the scene of so much carnage. Unlike Svenson, who wrote Battlefield: Farming a Civil War Battleground, Cushman has explored the various ways that people before him have written about the battle. Examining not only contemporary newspapers, diaries, letters, periodicals, and memoirs, Cushman also delves into fictional accounts, poems, and the approaches to reinterpretation that modern-day reenactors and Civil War buffs (a term he explores) take.

At the same time, however, Cushman has inserted himself into the writing, so that he could "balance subjectivity with objectivity, engagement with detachment." What he calls the "unapproachable" nature of some of his sources also compelled him to use the first person. "If I were a novelist or a better writer," he explains, "I might have found a way to introduce subjectivity apart from myself." The approach leads him to, among other things, compare what he learned about the conflict as a child with what his young son is absorbing from Virginia's standards of learning. He also ponders historical preservation: "It's much easier to persuade someone young of the importance of May 1864 when you're both standing in the quiet woods along the Mill Branch of Wilderness Run than it is when you're shouting at each other to be heard above six lanes of traffic roaring past Salem Church." He ends his musings with a few of his own poems.

As Cushman weaves together his new perspective on the Wilderness, he gives readers familiar with the battle "another approach to what they already know." For those with no knowledge of the event, he includes a brief description of the battle so that they will appreciate the significance of that cataclysmic event.

-reviewed by Emily Salmon, Senior Copy Editor

 

Robert Francis Engs, Educating the Disfranchised and Disinherited: Samuel Chapman Armstrong and Hampton Institute, 1839-1893. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999. xx + 207 pp. $32.50 (hardcover).

Samuel Chapman Armstrong, son of white missionaries, was the first principal of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, which opened in Virginia in 1868 to educate African Americans. In this first scholarly examination of Armstrong, Robert Francis Engs, author of Freedom's First Generation: Black Hampton, Virginia, 1861-1890, assesses Armstrong's successes and failures with critical but even-handed analysis. Armstrong was a man of his time, committed to educating African Americans after the Civil War but also a believer in the superiority of white people. His missionary upbringing and his childhood in the multiethnic, predominantly non-European society of Hawaii were the defining attributes of his vision for Hampton. Armstrong led black troops during the Civil War and served with the Freedmen's Bureau in Virginia, two experiences that convinced him of his role in guiding black southerners in the postbellum South.

Industrial education was central to Armstrong's philosophy, the origins of which Engs traces to his father, Richard, who established missionary schools in Hawaii before 1860. For Armstrong, the method promoted self-discipline and self-sufficiency and, in the case of Hampton students, provided a means of support in addition to teaching. He believed that the "normal school graduate of the South should be of the people-above them yet of them-in order to make natural or probable a life-long service in their behalf."

Engs conveys Armstrong's utter commitment to his institution. He achieved his goal of preparing teachers who spread his philosophy throughout the South. Booker T. Washington, his prot�g� and perhaps the best-known alumnus, joined the Hampton staff several years after graduating. Armstrong later recommended Washington as principal of a normal school at Tuskegee, Alabama, and the younger man often turned to his mentor for advice.

Engs also ably divulges the truth about the propaganda Armstrong promoted. The emphasis on industrial education and his failure to espouse full equality for blacks made him a target for later generations of African American writers and historians, who perceived his programs as accommodationist. Engs is careful to explain that what industrial education meant by 1900 was not what Armstrong intended in 1868.

-reviewed by Barbara Batson, Exhibits Coordinator

 

Robert A. Hohner, Prohibition and Politics: The Life of Bishop James Cannon, Jr. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999. xiv + 454 pp. $45.00.

During the first half of the twentieth century, Methodist bishop James Cannon was probably the most famous Virginian in the country. He led the state and national campaigns for prohibition of alcohol. In opposition to prominent church leaders, he championed social reform work within the Methodist Church and advocated unification of the northern and southern branches of the church that had split apart over the issue of slavery in the 1840s. Cannon traveled widely in the United States, Europe, Africa, and in South America on behalf of Methodist missions. He campaigned vigorously against the 1928 Democratic Party presidential candidate, Alfred E. Smith, on the twin grounds that Smith was opposed to prohibition and that he was a Catholic. Cannon denounced the Catholic Church as inimical to American freedoms. At the same time, Cannon was an early advocate of ecumenical cooperation among American Christian denominations. He also figured in sensational investigations of his stock market trading and his personal life, including an accusation of adultery.

This excellent biography, the result of more than thirty years of research, treats all aspects of Cannon's fascinating career. He had a strong sense of moral self-righteousness and was a combative person, so in almost every one of his many campaigns, he antagonized as many powerful people as he energized. Although Cannon was often perceived as deeply conservative, he was a reformer on many matters, which often put him in conflict with the more conservative leadership of the southern Methodist church. Even among those with whom he was in general agreement, there were reservations about his overtly political leadership in the fight for prohibition and in the 1928 campaign.

This new biography is an important addition to the literature on twentieth-century Virginia history, as well as southern history, the history of moral reform movements in the United States, and the religious and church history of the modern South.

-reviewed by Brent Tarter, Assistant Director, Publications and Educational Services Division

 

Elisabeth and Wayne Dementi, comps. and eds., and Corrine Hudgins, Celebrate Richmond: The Dementi Family of Photographers. Richmond: Dietz Press, 1999. xv + 184 pp. $29.95 hardcover.

For seventy-five years, the Dementi family of photographers has chronicled the lives of Richmonders and the changing face of the city that Douglas Southall Freeman called "the Riviera of the South." This collection of images from the Dementi archives reflects the community, its special occasions, its visitors, and its ever-changing skyline and streetscapes. Dr. Freeman's city is charmingly recalled by one of Richmond's most famous literary sons, Tom Wolfe, in his foreword to Celebrate Richmond. Wolfe uses the lens of the Dementi Studio to recall the elegantly dressed gentlemen of his youth who stood on Fourth Street to follow the World Series, or who gazed admiringly across the hood of Jack Dempsey's touring car as the boxer posed outside Broad Street Station. Wolfe's meditation on Richmond in the 1930s and 1940s is an apt accompaniment to the photographs of the city as it was and of the metropolis that now stands along the James River.

The first section of Celebrate Richmond, entitled "Same Scene: Then and Now," provides the most graphic of these comparisons. By pairing images taken by the Dementi cameras over the decades, the evolution of an American city's built environment is stunningly illustrated. This process can be a source of civic pride, as seen in the views of a hardscrabble commercial block at Sixth and Grace in the 1920s giving way to the incomparable Loew's Theatre of the 1930s and to its present-day incarnation as the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts. In contrast, a pair of photographs tells a cautionary tale of changing architectural styles by illustrating the stately American National Bank Building at Tenth and Main streets-as it was built in 1912 and then after suffering a brutal remodeling in the 1960s and 1970s. Chapter 2, "Change and Growth: Then and Now," chronicles dramatic alterations in Richmond, as depicted in the photographs of a small hangar at Byrd Field proudly labeled "Central Airport," accompanied by a shot of the now-sprawling Richmond International Airport.

Many of Richmond's oldest family enterprises (including the Dementi family of photographers) go back several generations, as illustrated in the section of Celebrate Richmond called "A Century or More of Service." The sections entitled "Special Moments" and "Memories" provide a panorama of Richmond scenes and history, from quiet private times to grand public events. These views include the now-vanished Tobacco Festival parades, raucous military parades, and sunny storefronts where 1948 Packards gleam in showroom windows. The excitement of gubernatorial inaugurations is captured as is the anticipation of students at the Richmond Barber School, who wait beside their chairs for customers to come in the door from Broad Street.

For native Richmonders, the photographs in Celebrate Richmond recall many scenes that have passed into memory. For newcomers, this volume illuminates the literal and cultural foundation of the city that exists today.

-reviewed by Selden Richardson Plans and Drawings Archivist, Description Services

 

Virginia Bookends

Two Virginians have issued collections of poetry through Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge. David Huddle is a native of Virginia, though a resident of Vermont. His Summer Lake: New and Selected Poems (1999. 172 pp. $26.95 hardcover, $19.95 softcover) contains verse on a range of subjects, including "Things I Know, Things I Don't": "Virginia in early October/is a soft countryside, color not yet/in the trees but the leaves' green going pale,/the sunlight's angle sharp,/the birds about/to move." Dabney Stuart, professor of English at Washington and Lee, collects his poems in Settlers (1999. 75 pp. $19.95 hardcover, $12.95 softcover). His territory extends as far as New Mexico, but he also writes about "Appalachian Spring": "Space is outer, everywhere./Its intimate, indifferent/Music fiddles and cajoles./People ride their buckboards toward it./Life is leaving again, and they are/Enabled by the promise being kept."

Elizabeth and Charlie Skinner will take you Bicycling the Blue Ridge: A Guide to the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway (Birmingham, AL: Menasha Ridge Press, 1999, third edition. 65 pp. $12.95 softcover). They apparently know what they are talking about: "If we have learned nothing else in our thousands of miles logged on the Parkway and the Skyline Drive, it is that cycling is much more enjoyable if you can somehow manage to suspend all worry about elevation and just take it as it comes."

Robert Isbell profiles makers of furniture, players of banjos, and tellers of stories in The Keepers: Mountain Folk Holding on to Old Skills and Talents (Winston Salem, NC: John F. Blair, Publisher, 1999. xi + 129 pp. $16.95 softcover). Arthur Tilley contributes warm photographs of the keepers themselves, who live in North Carolina and Virginia. "Authentic skills of bygone days still exist," writes Isbell. "Hidden in the coves and valleys of the Appalachians are diminishing numbers of artists and artisans who still conform to the teachings of their forebears."

Robert K. Headley Jr. has reprinted a book of interest to researchers of family history, Genealogical Abstracts from 18th-Century Virginia Newspapers (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987; reprint 1999. xxii + 470 pp. $35.00 hardcover). Headley works on a large scale, carving out material from seven thousand issues of eighty Virginia newspapers of the eighteenth century, ending up with abstracts of some ten thousand tidbits and an index to ten thousand people. "If you've hit a dead end in your Virginia research," says the descriptive flyer, "this may be the way out."

Luckily for readers and for posterity, Catherine Blake Hathaway succumbed to the blandishments of her grandsons and wrote When Dabba Was Young: Growing Up in a Fine Little Town Called Kilmarnock (P.O. Box 2276, Kilmarnock, VA 22482: Kilmarnock Museum, Inc., 1999. xi + 219 pp. $14.95 softcover). "Knowing that my happy childhood and growing-up years made such an impression on them," Hathaway writes in the foreword, "I had a great desire to tell them about the old days when life was more relaxed, and the pace far from hectic." Proceeds from the sale of her book go to the Kilmarnock Museum.

-reviewed by Julie A. Campbell

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