The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 17, July 1913 - April, 1914

Reviews and Notices

The Life of Thaddeus Stevens, by James Albert Woodburn, Ph. D.,
Professor of American History and Politics in Indiana Univer-
sity. (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1913. Pp..
For the greater part of the most momentous decade of our
history the figure of "old Thad Stevens" moved conspicuous in
the very thickest of political strife. Gifted as few men have been
with the powers that make for parliamentary leadership, he im-
pressed his radical views and cynical personality upon nearly all
the important policies and legislation of the years 1861 to 1868.
There seems to be material in abundance for an adequate bio-
graphy, and there has long been a need of something more com-
prehensive than the little volume by McCall in the "American
Statesmen" series.
Professor Woodburn disclaims any intention of writing a defini-
tive biography, but has tried to "enable Stevens to speak more fully
for himself than he has been allowed to do by others who have
treated in a more limited way his principles and policies." The
greater part of the volume is in fact drawn directly from the
speeches of Stevens on the important subjects of slavery, war
finances, and reconstruction policies. This side of the work is
well done and the book will be very helpful to the student who,
wishes to get at Stevens's real views without the toil of exhuming
them from the Congressional Globe. Beyond this, however, the-
work is disappointing. The author seems to have drawn his
knowledge of the period from a very narrow range of reading; he
has fallen completely under the spell of Stevens's brilliant speeches,.
and betrays not the slightest element of that sympathetic under--
standing of all sides of great controversies which is so essential to,
the historian. In this respect he shows far less of balanced and'
discriminative judgment than McCall whose book is itself not
without defects of this sort.
Professor Woodburn seems wholly unable to understand the
point of view of the southern men in Congress in the decade pre-
ceding the war, but tacitly assumes that Stevens's view of the.
situation was the correct one. The only other explanation is that

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 17, July 1913 - April, 1914. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed November 27, 2014.