This dense but pleasantly readable study of Reconstruction and the Republican Party not only has the merit of some striking reinterpretations, but it provides in addition brief, sharp reviews of other historians' approaches to the subject, and draws the reader into the reflective process. Benedict first spells out the familiar thesis that the Radical Republicans were either victimizers of the South or libertarian heroes, but in any event a united and powerful force. It turns out that the true ""radicals"" in the party -- those who favored real land reform in the South, for example -- were an uphill minority in a party whose grand spokesmen, like Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner, acknowledged their own failure to consummate a real reconstruction. Between them and the rank-and-file, who also wanted implementation of equal rights, stood an array of practical politicians. Benedict runs down the party divisions and pressures -- which, he says, as early as October 1865 had defeated the radical offensive. The crises ranged over such matters as the granting of the ballot to Negroes, in actuality a ""minimum settlement,"" to the constant desire of the Republican majority not to unsettle Andrew Johnson decisively. Benedict hedges on the question of why a real industrial development of the backward South, with its concomitant ""radical"" political changes, was never forcefully pushed by the Northern majority. But there is a wealth of intelligently rendered, historiographically self-aware material here.