Destroyers and Keepers

On becoming an historian long ago, I was most attracted to the period of American history from Jefferson to the great conflict of 1861-65.  Were I a young historian today, rather than one well over the hill, I think I would take up instead the Progressive Era—historians’ convenient label for a period covering roughly the last two decades of the 19th century and the first two of the 20th in American history.  This was the fascinating and critical time of “modernization”—another convenient label—that created the American nation we have long known.  And which nation is now fast disappearing into a postmodern multicultural empire.

The triumph of state capitalism, militarism, and moralistic crusading in the Great Unpleasantness put the United States (now the United State) on the road to, and determined the content of, “modernization” and “progress.”  But the principled republicanism of the old Union was so strong and so widely beloved that it could not be uprooted easily.  It took the Progressive Era’s centralization (of society as well as government), industrialization, immigration of new European hordes innocent of American traditions, and World War I to complete the process.

This latest novel from Thomas Moore, author of The Hunt for Confederate Gold, recreates one struggle (among many) in the...

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