Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/369

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
351
Memoirs

Union which had made secession possible was given able and sympathetic defence by Alexander H. Stephens in his War Between the States (1868), by Jefferson Davis in the Rise and Fall of the Confederate States (1881), and by Bernard J. Sage's Republic of Republics (1865).

One of the characteristics of literature in America since the war has been the increasing number of personal narratives, autobiographies, memoirs, and diaries. Many of these arise from a desire to tell one's relation, however humble, to the great conflict and its heroes—a desire which possessed all classes and conditions from the commanders of armies to Mrs. Keckley, the coloured serving woman of Mrs. Lincoln. Others have an aim primarily political, to recount policies and movements in which the authors participated. In the latter class a few have preeminence. Hugh McCulloch's Men and Measures of Half a Century (1888) is invaluable for financial history and its sketches of conditions in the West. John Sherman's Recollections of Forty Years (1895) is likewise important for financial measures, and is also an uncommonly good revelation of political opportunism. S. S. Cox's Three Decades of Federal Legislation (1885) is notable for a lengthy account of reconstruction in the Southern states, which was written by Daniel Reaves Goodloe and inserted without explanation of authorship. G. S. Boutwell's Sixty Years in Public Affairs (1902) is entertaining for its sketches of public men, and is also illustrative of the limitations of mind and training in the average American politician. Inimitable are the Reminiscences of Benjamin Perley Poore, with their intimate sketches of men and events around Washington for half a century. The Autobiography of G. F. Hoar (1903) reveals a blind devotion to party in a soul of unquestioned integrity. Surpassing all other narratives by contemporaries is the Diary of Gideon Welles (1911), Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln, rich for the light it throws on personalities and animosities in the cabinet and on political conditions in 1866, and revolutionary in its interpretation of Andrew Johnson.

While Northern politicians vied with each other to tell their story, the leaders of the South, with the exception of the military men, were singularly silent, Alexander H. Stephens's Prison Diary and John H. Reagan's Memoirs (1906) being the only intimately personal accounts by the political leaders of the Con-