THOSE TERRIBLE CARPETBAGGERS by Richard Nelson Current

THOSE TERRIBLE CARPETBAGGERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A microcosmic history of a select group of ""carpetbaggers""--Northerners who headed South after the Civil War to run the governments of the outcast States--by venerable historian Current (Three Carpetbag Governors, 1968; Speaking of Abraham Lincoln, 1983; etc.). Current interweaves the stories of ten carpetbaggers here, trying to demonstrate that, despite their reputation for inexperience, waste, corruption, and greed, they were basically decent human beings--and that, by extension, carpetbaggers as a whole have received a bad press. He offers detailed examples of unselfish acts, such as when Reed sold off homes to freed slaves at drastically reduced prices (one house, worth $3,500, was let go for a mere $25); or the ostracism that many of them faced by their advocacy of Negro suffrage--a stance that enraged most Southerners. Current also debunks the image of carpetbaggers as ignorant and illiterate. ""In fact, seven of out ten. . .had a college education or the equivalent. . ."" But there is nothing new in the implication that carpetbaggers had some fine achievements-enlightened constitutions, equalized tax loads, rebuilt roads and levees, new public schools, guaranteed rights for blacks. What is new--and problematic--is Current's assumption that the good works of ten particular carpetbaggers can debunk a reputation gained from the works--both good and evil--of hundreds. History that's more intriguing than persuasive.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press