The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 386
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
huge state debts, levied punitive taxes upon planters, and converted
millions of dollars in public funds to private use. Worst of all, the car-
petbaggers "incited the blacks to such extremes of self-assertion as to
destroy the harmonious relations that would otherwise have prevailed
between the former masters and the former slaves."5
It is to explode this stereotype-created during Reconstruction by
the Democratic-controlled Southern press, blindly embraced by the
Northern press and public, and institutionalized by late nineteenth-
century historians like Dixon, Rhodes, and Dunning-that Current has
written Those Terrible Carpetbaggers: A Reinterpretation. For this task,
he offers a collective biography of ten of the breed's most renowned
members (Henry Clay Warmoth, Harrison Reed, George E. Spencer,
Willard Warner, Albert Morgan, Robert K. Scott, Albion Tourgee,
Daniel H. Chamberlain, Adelbert Ames, and Powell Clayton), inter-
twining their individual stories with a "revisionist" history of Recon-
Contrary to the stereotype that enjoyed both historical and popu-
lar favor into the 196os, the vast majority of Current's carpetbaggers
served honorably in the Union army. Significantly, most were finan-
cially well off before they moved South. Naturally, all hoped to improve
their fortunes, but few tried to "rob" the Southern people, and even
fewer conspired with Northern capitalists to restructure the Southern
economy into "colonial" subservience to the North. Rather, they pro-
moted economic and infrastructural developments that not only bene-
fited the South but also largely continued antebellum beginnings. Equally
important, many carpetbaggers, like Albion Tourgee and George E.
Spencer, possessed a genuine humanitarian and libertarian concern
for the freedmen and worked zealously to secure their natural and con-
stitutional rights. Most carpetbaggers, however, were not Republican
radicals, and many, like Willard Warner and Harrison Reed, were even
faithful Johnson men. Finally, Current shows that Southern black
officeholders and constitutional and political party delegates never
equalled the percentage of blacks in the general population. In other
words, the notion of a carpetbagger-imposed "Negro rule" in the South
is utterly false.
As he demolishes the carpetbagger stereotype, Current coinciden-
tally offers an interpretation of the failure of Reconstruction itself. In
the closing chapters of the book, where he describes Albion Tourgee's
own explication of Reconstruction in the South-his 1879 best-seller, A
Fool's Errand-Current tempts his readers to stretch the analogy fur-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/m1/442/: accessed April 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.