The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975

Book Reviews

The answer is that this book has long been needed. The Connecticut edi-
tor-politician had such an important role in Civil War developments that
to let his reputation rest on previous works would do him an injustice. It
would likewise constitute a failure to recreate significant northern-war-effort
and Lincolnian dimensions. For, as John Niven points out, Welles--and
not Gustavus Vasa Fox-did run the Navy Department. And in several
ways Secretary and Mrs. Welles were closer than any other cabinet couple
to Abraham and Mary Lincoln.
In limited terms of sentences and paragraphs, Niven writes engagingly.
More consequential is the literary craftsmanship that enabled him to con-
struct a well-organized and attractive book from what at times must have
seemed an appalling sprawl of source materials. While flashbacks are some-
times employed in the pre-I86i coverage, most of it is straightforward and
sustained. Treatment of the cabinet period could be called episodic had
the author not been remarkably artistic in terms of selectivity and presenta-
tion. Thus not only persons fascinated by "The War" but appreciators of
fine biography in any era have a treat to savor.
Welles was less anticipatory than Confederate Secretary of the Navy
Stephen R. Mallory when it came to ironclads in 1861 and early 1862.
He made comparatively few other mistakes of omission and commission,
while accounting for many major achievements. He lacked the prewar
prominence of a Seward, the impressive presence of a Chase, the drive and
cunning and (seemingly) the stamina of a Stanton. Yet, neither a zealot
nor a timeserver nor a presidential aspirant, Welles proved an extraordi-
narily sound adviser during numerous crises. He served Andrew Johnson as
intelligently and as loyally as he had previously served Lincoln.
Relevant secondary contributions of the volume include (I) Niven's
assessment of Connecticut life and politics for over half a century; (2)
analyses of long- and short-range national developments from Welles-Niven
points of view, and (3) scholarly integrations of Washington-Hartford gov-
ernmental concerns. Far outweighing other assets is the authentic and valu-
able Niven version of Lincoln's bewigged and bearded "Neptune," who
personified fidelity and conscientiousness in a testing time.
University of Kentucky HOLMAN HAMILTON
The Whig Party of Louisiana. By William H. Adams. (Lafayette: Univer-
sity of Southwestern Louisiana Press, 1973. Pp. viii+305. Illustrations,
index. $6.)
The Whig party has been the subject of dozens of articles and books in

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed July 25, 2014.