OPINIONSrnThe Spirit of Atlanticrnby Bill Kauffmanrn”The Empire is peace.”rn—Napoleon IIIrn.V ‘ j i . HS’.rn,.. <•”-‘ “-.V ‘-”-AA^VIA/ . ‘» ‘•>•rn•••”‘•r’r—:r.?;t.lS^.’;:-V’.: ‘-•'”.•^^fr- -rn.” • ‘-rn’ …•”«?-j^ .. ; -•rn•cMl. -.rnWilliam Appleman Williams:rnThe Tragedy of Empirernhy Paul M. Buhle andrnEdward Rice-MaximinrnNew York: Routledge;rn318pp.,$l8.95rnBill Williams was an Eagle Scout, basketballrnstar, paperboy, and jazzrndrummer in the Atlantic, Iowa, of thernDepression. He was a wholesome mixturernof small-town bohemian and JimmyrnStewart: he shared bottomless ice creamrnsodas with his girifriend and read Hemingway;rnhe played piano and maderna soapbox derby racer. The Atlantic hernlived and would carry with him alwaysrnwas a place, as the authors of this excellentrnbiography write, of “judges handingrndown suspended sentences for theft ofrnBill Kauffman is the author of EveryrnMan a King, Country Towns of NewrnYork, and America First!rnfood, theater managers looking awayrnwhen kids opened the back door for theirrnpoorer friends, and storekeepers keepingrna ‘tab’ that they rightly suspected wouldrnnever be repaid.” Bill Williams grew intornWilliam Appleman Williams, thernbrave and idiosyncratic historian ofrnUnited States diplomacy and Americanrnlife, and it is the genius of his biographersrnPaul M. Buhle and Edward Rice-rnMaximin to locate Williams’s “patrioticrnanti-imperialism” in “his roots in thernsmall-town America of the Depression.”rnAlthough writing a biography of a historianrncan be tricky business (the dramaticrnpotential of “he approached the card cataloguerngingerly” is limited), theirs is a superbrnstudy of the genesis of an Americanrnradical and a proprietary patriot. “Attackedrnfrequently as an America-hater,rnWilliams cared about the nation passionately,rneven obsessively, as if from arnsense of family responsibility.”rnBoth sides of his family traced theirrnlineage to Revolutionary War soldiers;rnWilliams was a “self-conscious heir tornthe great tradition.” He believed his Atlanticrn(an ironically named hometownrnfor a Beardian isolationist) to be virtuallyrnclassless: like so many of our best Americansrn—Sinclair Lewis revisiting SaukrnCentre, Jack Kerouac ever on the roadrnback to Lowell—Williams’s life can bernread as an attempt first to escape, thenrnmake peace with, then vigorously champion,rnhis hometown. Williams’s motherrnwas a melancholy teacher, his father arnbarnstorming pilot who was killed in arnplane crash when the boy was eight.rnCharles Lindbergh once flew over thernWilliams home as a gesture of friendship;rnthe historian later wrote of thernLone Eagle as a “last national hero fromrnthe past” who embodied the “nineteenth-rncentury dream that the individualrncould become one with his tools andrnhis work.”rnYoung Williams won appointment tornthe Naval Academy. He wore his “Annapolisrnring the rest of his life . . . sometimesrnconsciously fingering it to unnervernhis left-wing graduate students.” Hisrn22/CHRONICLESrnrnrn