The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987 Page: 216
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
business as bad. Both represent self-interest. The question is how the
results affect society and the political process. A railroad subsidy or tar-
iff schedule may benefit many elements of society, but public per-
ception of special-interest power may negate much of any good that
These issues and reactions are as old as politics, but many new
aspects of these processes emerged after the Civil War. The increased
activities of lobbyists reflected broad changes in a society that was ex-
panding its population and infrastructure and that was passing through
one of the great economic transitions in history. The role of govern-
ment at all levels increased dramatically, as registered in demands for
public buildings and attendant staffs, river and harbor improvements,
roads and post offices, courts and law enforcement agents. There were
also vocal advocates of Indian's and women's rights, civil service reform,
temperance, and numerous other worthy causes. New clienteles, such
as veterans groups, had demands that cut across the arbitrary lines of
districts and states on the political map. Thompson believes that lob-
byists brought to a confused and overloaded legislative process new lev-
els of information and pressure necessary to produce any results. Lob-
bying thus reflected "change-related confusion" (p. 21) rather than
mere corruption. It also testified to the time lag between a period when
congressmen had no staffs and one when they had access to accurate
data. Congressmen generally tried to appoint capable people to offices,
as long as they were friends. After all, bad choices reflected on them.
Thompson does not hold that all lobbying was pure, only that there was
a logic, often with positive results, in the process. Many of the lobbyists'
activities became institutionalized later in bureaucacies.
Thompson develops this and other theses with clarity and verve. She
writes well, though sometimes defensively, and her research is impec-
cable. She has benefited from political-science theory, especially that
dealing with clienteles and the legislative process, but she never lets this
override regard for the facts and historical processes. Her use of the-
ory, quantification, and symbolic charts is sensible and does not detract
from the real story. After a generation of political studies that focused
on the composition of the electorate to the exclusion of political pro-
cesses and that seldom involved actors, it is refreshing to read of real
people doing real things. Thompson has made a major contribution to
the history of the legislative process and of the period. She also re-
minds us of how little we still know of the non-Reconstruction aspects
of the 187os, and of what a fertile field for investigation it remains.
University of Oklahoma
H. WAYNE MORGAN
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987, periodical, 1986/1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/m1/254/: accessed December 14, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.