that Henry Ward Beecher, during thenwar that he “helped to produce,” “livednin luxury in Newport and Europe.”nBeecher lived in Brooklyn throughoutnthe war. He never lived in Newport.nAnd he never lived in Europe, thoughnhe made a lecture tour there duringnthe war, defending the North in thenface of violently hostile pro-South,nBritish audiences.nAnother of the reviewer’s charges isnthat the mock auction of young femalenslaves that Henry Ward Beecher stagedn”over and over again” in his Brooklynnchurch was his “favorite money-maker.”nActually, he staged such auctions only anfew times, and he used young femalenslaves simply to show how a slaveholderncould buy such a woman at will. Thenmoney thus obtained was used to buynfreedom for the “auctioned” slaves. Intook pains in my book to point out thatnthe auctions were sensational gestures; tonimply that they were just a moneymakingnscheme is unconscionable.nThese are but a few examples of thendistortions in Clyde Wilson’s essay.nSome Northern positions in the 19thncentury were certainly deplorable, butnsuch a warping of the facts is inexcusable.nMr. Wilson replies:nI expected my discussion of the Beechersnto provoke disagreement. However, Inanticipated a fruitful controversy withndifferently oriented conservatives overnthe nature of antebellum “reformers”nrather than an attack from Mr. Rugofif. Indid not intend a scholarly review of hisnbook or I would have written a very differentnpiece. I intended, rather, a culturalncommentary on the subject matternof his book.nSir Herbert Butterfield has wiselynargued that the descriptive and thenevaluative functions of history should bendistinguished. RugofiPs book is a goodndescriptive account of the Beechers. ThatnI chose the occasion of his book to react tonthem on an evaluative level in a way thatndoes not please him does not make menguilty of the heioous personal and pro­nfessional sins of which he has, Beecherlike,naccused me. He has employed twondevices that liberals have made all toonfamiliar: the assumption that disagreementnis synonymous with error or badnfaith, and the shifting back and forthnbetween description and evaluationnwhenever convenient.nMr. RugofiPs limitations as a historiannare evident in his book. Whenever he attemptsnto rise to the evaluative level henfalls back, instead, on canned conceptsnlike “Victorianism.” He accepts thenBeechers entirely at their own word andnin their own frame of reference. To havenmeaning, facts must be put in a context.nMy interest is not in how the Beechersnsaw themselves but in how others sawnthem—and in their impact on Americannsociety. It is tme that some of them feltnthemselves to be poor and often said so.nIt is also true that they lived in genteelncomfort compared to the harsh toil thatnwas the lot of most Americans of theirntime. It is correct that spiritualism flourishednin the 19th century. It was widespread,nparticularly among people likenthe Beechers and others who shared theirncultural-intellectual milieu. That was exactlynmy point. Spiritualism was notnwidespread among the Southerners whonwere attacked by the Beechers, nornamong the more orthodox Northernersnwhom they also often attacked. It maynsurprise Mr. Rugofif to learn that there arenpeople for whom even a litde dabbling innspiritualism, or a little unprovoked aggression,nis weird.nIn his recounting of my “inexcusable”nhistorical “distortions,” Rugofif is toonliteral-minded. So what if Henry WardnBeecher, the most aggressive of thenBeechers, deplored spiritualism, whilennnStowe, who had visions, was apolitical?nDiffering taste or emphasis among thenBeechers in choosing among theirnvarious isms is beside the point. Thenpoint is that they were the sort of peoplenamong whom a variety of such thingsncould flourish and who appear reasonablenand benevolent only because theirnheirs are so much worse. Surely—generalizingnin a brief commentary—onencan count Stowe, who was married to anBeecher, as a “Beecher” without beingnguilty of factual distortion? The mocknslave auctions were “money-makers” notnbecause they were profitable but becausenthey were part of a style that was productivenof profitable notoriety.nPerhaps Henry did not “live” at Newport,nbut he was a frequent visitor atnresorts. And somehow, it is difiScult tonagonize over his frightful time in Europenduring the bloodletting in America,nwhen thousands of men who had far lessnvehement opinions than he did felt itntheir duty to risk their lives. His behaviornseems unremarkable to us because wenhave become accustomed to agitatorsnwho arouse social conflict and then avoidnresponsibility for the consequences of it.nMy point was that the Beechers paved thenway for our lower standards of personalnresponsibility. When I mentionednHenry’s wartime exploits, I had in mindnthe contrasting example of my 16-yearoldngreat-grandfather, who spent thenwinter of 1863-64 living in the open andnsubsisting, at times, on raw corn whilenfighting Federal raiding parties innNorth Carolina.nAll the generalizations I made, allowingnfor avoidance of tedious qualificationnof each point in a brief article, were fairnand accurate. The Beechers did follownand profit from a way of life that usednChristianity as a vehicle to aggrandize thenself by war against others. My piurposenwas not to eulogize Lee but to point outnthe common origins and style of antebellumn”reformers” and modern liberalsnand to distinguish the dififerent social effectsnof two types of Protestantism. Nonenof Mr. Rugoffs complaints disturb thensoundness of that analysis. Dn•^^^49nFebruary 1983n