In the years immediately following the Civil War, the nation's leaders called desperately for reform as they struggled to rebuild a society scarred by death and mass destruction. Recognizing America's need for enlightened leadership, Republican senator Henry Blair (1834--1920) of New Hampshire embarked on an ambitious crusade to enact dramatic progressive changes.
Henry W. Blair's Campaign to Reform America follows Blair's remarkable political career. At the heart of his efforts was a push to improve the nation's system of public education, but his reform programs addressed a wide range of issues, including legal rights, economic rights, women's suffrage, and racial equality. He consistently supported black voting rights, introduced an antilynching bill in 1894, and worked as a lobbyist with the NAACP at the age of eighty.
In this long-overdue biography, Gordon B. McKinney sheds light on the brilliant career of a man who maintained a strong commitment to reform, liberty, and equality through a formative period in the nation's history. McKinney deftly demonstrates that, despite the social and economic challenges of the time, Senator Blair defended moral reform in a hostile climate and affirmed that the federal government had an important and active role to play in improving American society.
""Gordon McKinney provides a discerning and sympathetic account of Blair's tenacious struggles to use an idealized image of his home region as a legislative template. This is a book that has been worth waiting for."" -- Daniel W. Crofts, author of Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis
""Gordon B. McKinney's fully contextualized, engagingly written, and richly documented study of Henry W. Blair, Senate Republican and New England reformer, brings to life the crucial nature of the 1880s and the era of national politics following Reconstruction. Skillfully combining political history with a biography of a long-neglected figure, McKinney makes an important contribution to our understanding of Gilded Age."-- William A. Link, Richard J. Milbauer Professor of History at the University of Florida" --
"With a sure hand, McKinney sorts out the competing interests; discovers the machinations of local and state politics; and wends through the inner workings of Congress to understand Blair's success in keeping reform issues in the public eye..." -- The Journal of American History
"This well-crafted biography of Henry W. Blair places the New Hampshire politician at the center of late nineteenth-century political debates about moral reform.... both general readers and historians of the Gilded Age will find much to like about this study." -- The Historian