Title Reviewed:
Albert J. Beveridge: American Nationalist

Author Reviewed:
John Braeman

Dewey W. Grantham


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 67, Issue 4, pp 366-367

Article Type:
Book Review

Download Source:

Albert J. Beveridge: American Nationalist. By John Braeman. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1971. Pp. x, 370. Notes, bibliographical notes, index. $12.50.)

Few political leaders from the American past offer the historian and biographer a more rewarding and challenging subject than Indiana's Albert Jeremiah Beveridge. He touched the political culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries at a number of strategic and revealing points–midwestern Republicanism, GOP conservatism, imperialism, Rooseveltian progressivism, insurgency, and the Progressive party of 1912–and to understand the dynamics of his leadership is to understand a great deal of the political history of that epoch. One of the earliest scholarly works to be written on the progressive movement, Claude G. Bowers' Beveridge and the Progressive Era (1932), is a full length study of his career. Bowers made good use of the voluminous Beveridge papers, and his spirited account has been one of the most durable studies of American progressivism. But Bowers, a friend and admirer of the Indiana leader, did not produce an objective and probing interpretation, and the appearance of new source materials and new historical approaches has rendered his volume increasingly inadequate. Professor John Braeman, a young historian at the University of Nebraska, has now written a book that meets the need for a modern biography.

Braeman began work on Beveridge as a result of his interest in the progressive movement, and in this biography he has sought to illuminate the complexity and the paradox of progressivism. The book is based on impressive research in the Beveridge papers, numerous collateral collections, Indiana newspapers, public documents, and Beveridge's own extensive writings. It is superbly organized and well proportioned in its coverage. Braeman succeeds in locating Beveridge both in the tangle of Indiana politics and in the broader milieu of the national political scene. He throws a good deal of light on the unending factional struggles within Indiana's Republican party. He is sympathetic toward his subject but forthright in dealing with Beveridge's less attractive qualities. The heart of Braeman's study is the treatment of Beveridge's political career–particularly his two terms in the Senate and his experiences as a member of the Progressive party. But careful consideration is also given to Beveridge's writing of history, and in this respect, as in many others, Braeman goes far beyond Bowers.

Beveridge was throughout life an ardent nationalist and a thoroughgoing Hamiltonian. He was "never temperamentally a radical or even a reformer," his new biographer asserts. "He was a worshiper of order, efficiency, and material progress" (p. 273). Braeman does not resolve all of the paradoxes in Beveridge's career, but his interpretation of the major aspects of the Hoosier's politics is generally sound and persuasive. He is not as clear as he might be on the reasons for Beveridge's shift to progressivism, on the relationship between his views on foreign policy and his domestic reformism, and on his growing conservatism in his later years. One also misses a sharply etched overall interpretation of this remarkable man. Although Braeman seems to avoid psychoanalytic explanations, he displays poise, common sense, and critical judgment in elucidating Beveridge's thought and behavior. Indeed, the merits of this scholarly and well written biography, one of the best yet written of a key progressive leader, will commend it to all serious students of Indiana history and of the recent American past.

Vanderbilt University, Nashville Dewey W. Grantham

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.