Claude Bowers was a political opponent of Albert J. Beveridge in Indiana and contributed in no small measure to accomplish his downfall, but it is apparent in every line of his book, Beveridge and the Progressive Era (Houghton Mifflin, $5.00), that, he loved the man personally and desires to do full justice to his memory. He has evidently had the advantage of access
to the personal papers of one who from his youth up regarded himself as a chief actor on the stage of human affairs and preserved a complete record of his thoughts and contacts in order that history might do him justice. Beveridge has been fortunate in his Boswell, for Mr. Bowers has accomplished a work which no other living American could have approached.
Beveridge is a classic example of a man who devoted his life to polities and who narrowly missed greatness. He was gifted us few Americans have been as an orator. He entered the Senate as the eloquent proponent of imperialism, as the personification of a doctrine which would have made Kaiser Wilhelm blush, preaching conquest of the world by arms for the extension of American markets. As an intense and outspoken reactionary, he was about to be taken into the inner circle of the reactionaries who controlled the Senate, Then he rebelled, partly through personal pique and partly through principle, against the determination of Aldrich and the Senate machine in their efforts to violate a campaign pledge by writing the tariff up instead of down.
The tragedy of Beveridge’s life was that he was a paradox — a sincere Hamiltonian who thought himself a progressive and liberal in polities. The jingoistic imperialist who entered the Senate in the flush of youth never changed his essential doctrines, He was simply too honest and too sincere to become a tool for the perversion of the theories in which he honestly believed. He never became really ‘progressive,’ but he made history by becoming ’insurgent.'
Mr. Bowers draws a moving picture of the retirement of the defeated politician to the ‘Ivory Tower’ whence came his great Marshall, and his splendid, though uncompleted, Lincoln, Despite his brilliant career as a politician and his reputation as a great orator, Beveridge’s permanent fame will almost certainly rest, upon his just renown as the biographer of Marshall. Marshall stands alone among American biographies.
Perhaps the kindest thing in Mr. Bowers’s book is the treatment of the Marshall. This great biography was marred by a distinctly partisan taint, a deliberate attempt to belittle and degrade Jefferson throughout the work. Mr. Bowers’s own volume, Jefferson and Hamilton, was generally considered the answer to the partisanship of Beveridge’s Marshall. Mr. Bowers tells now from the most intimate notes of Senator Beveridge that the author of Marshall repented of his partisanship and resolved not to repeat it in his Lincoln. Perhaps if he had lived to complete it the biography of Lincoln would even have outdone his earlier masterpiece.