Ohio History Journal

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Book Reviews

Book Reviews





From Hayes to McKinley: National Party

Politics, 1877-1896. By H. WAYNE MORGAN.

(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1969.

x + 618p.; illustrations, bibliographical es-

say, notes, and index. $12.95.)


Professor Morgan is widely recognized as a

leader in the revisionist interpretation of the

Gilded Age which began to appear in the

work of younger scholars about a decade

ago. Author of several valuable books, par-

ticularly William McKinley and His Amer-

ica (1963) and Unity and Culture (1971),

and the editor of a series of fine articles, The

Gilded Age; A Reappraisal (1963, 1970),

Morgan is a very able political historian.

His style is lively, his content is abreast of

recent scholarship, and his historical anec-

dotes give color and human interest to his


From Hayes to McKinley is a solid book

handsomely printed, richly illustrated, and

well documented. The index, however, is

too brief for such a detailed history. Mor-

gan's best writing is found in the many bio-

graphical vignettes scattered throughout his

twelve chapters. Generally speaking he is

more sympathetic to Republicans than Dem-

ocrats. Hayes and Garfield, and even Ar-

thur, gain stature in his treatment, while

Grover Cleveland loses some of the aura

that progressive historians have traditionally

accorded to the only Democratic president

of the period.

The difficulty faced today by any one

scholar bold enough to write a comprehen-

sive history covering more than a single dec-

ade is illustrated by the small factual errors

which inevitably creep in from older sec-

ondary works despite an author's dedicated

research and careful readings of his manu-

script by colleagues and editors. The Ruth-

erford B. Hayes Library is correctly identi-

fied in Morgan's preface but improperly

called by its former name, the Hayes Me-

morial Library, in the chapter notes. Hayes

was not "just under six feet" tall; he was

five feet eight inches in height. Full-length

pictures showing the President wearing a

Prince Albert coat probably account for this

commonly mistaken impression of his ap-

pearance. Hayes practiced law primarily in

Cincinnati, not Fremont. Also, he did not

acquire the Spiegel Grove estate at Fremont

until 1874. He was wounded in the arm,

not leg and arm as Morgan states, at the

battle of South Mountain. Some omis-

sions in the Hayes story are conspicuous.

Hayes' record in Congress and as governor

merit more attention. The role of Mrs.

Hayes as first lady is overlooked. Congres-

sional leadership in the Hayes era is not dis-

cussed. Except for such details, readers will

find an excellent reappraisal of Hayes and

Garfield in this book. Morgan, for example,

handles the question of the abandonment of

the Negro by the Republicans very well.

Hayes' great personal tragedy was that he

became unjustly identified with this sad

event when he had, in fact, a long public

record of opposition to racial injustice.

Morgan portrays the intricate workings

of Gilded Age party politics, especially

convention and campaign maneuvers, with

great skill. Like many other writers, how-

ever, he misses a major point in his discus-

sion of the 1884 Republican convention

which nominated James G. Blaine in lieu

of President Arthur. The clue to Arthur's

failure to win the nomination as well as the

key to his surprisingly successful presidency

following the death of Garfield is that he

was informed by his physicians shortly after

he entered the White House that he was a

dying man. This secret was shared with only

a few political associates at the time, and

it has eluded historians until very recently.

The volume is exceptionally well illus-

trated with seventy-eight photographs and

cartoons of the period. With the almost

simultaneous publication of John Garraty's

The New Commonwealth, 1877-1890, we

now have two outstanding reinterpretations

of an often maligned era. What is needed