Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dead Meat

Roy Franklin Nichols relates that by mid-1860 James Buchanan's detractors held him in such low esteem that they were referring to "Old Buck" as "Old Venison."

Contemporary politicos should be so creative.


  1. Sean Nalty8:12 PM

    Hi Elektratig,

    Glad to see that you have gotten into Nichols. He is one of my personal favorites as a historian. It is my belief (influenced in no small part by Nichols) that historians have undervalued the role of corruption in displacing the Democrats from power in 1860. The "outsider" parties (Constitutional Union and Republican) made a huge issue of Buchanan's cronyism and bribery with the Kansas issue, take for instance the findings of the Covode Committee. Just as this year might turn on popular disgust with the ruling party in the White House, so too do I believe that voters rejected the Democrats as much for their financial improprieties as their supposed pro-slavery leanings. What do you think?


  2. Sean,

    I'm enjoying Nichols tremendously. Thanks so much for recommending it. As I said before, I had never focused on him and would not have read the book but for your lead.

    I've been taking it slow, since it's so dense, and I'm trying to absorb as much as I can. As you say, the corruption issue loomed large. In that connection, what has stood out for me was that the politicized nature of the civil service (particularly the customs houses, post office and printing contracts) was critically important.

    As for this year, we'll have to see. The Democratic Congress's approval ratings are in the teens, and the Democrats are going to have a tough time convincing a lot of people that they are the anti-corruption party.

    Looking ahead, what's your next recommendation?

  3. Sean Nalty12:23 PM

    Hi Elektratig,

    On the antebellum front, have you read Mark Stegmaier's Texas, New Mexico, and the Compromise of 1850 (1996)? It tweaks Holman Hamilton's argument a bit about the significance of the boundary dispute. You might also enjoy Mark Wahlgren Summers "Party Games," (2000) which is a highly entertaining discussion of political wheeling and dealing during the Gilded Age. Finally, in the Civil War period, there is a good book from Michael Vorenberg that you probably have alredy read: Final Freedom (2001), a work detailing the process of creating and ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment.

    One particularly good work that surveys the entire "Party Period" is:

    Joel Silbey, The American Political Nation, 1838-1893 (1991)


    P.S. An excellent guide to Civil War Era historiography is a book entitled Writing the Civil War: The Quest to Understand (eds. James McPherson and William Cooper, 1998) and for the Recontruction period is Reconstructions (ed. Thomas J. Brown, 2006)

  4. Sean,

    I would have thanked you earlier, but as you may have experienced yourself, there was a problem with Blogger. In my case, I was locked out of my own blog!

    I'm going to turn to the Stegmaier first. Am I the only person in the world who found Holman Hamilton's book disappointing?

  5. I very much like your blog and it is very imformative. I just used one of your post in a entry I did

    Was the South the Bastion of Limited Government Against the Yankees


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