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Revaluations, V*: F. S. Oliver, “Alexander Hamilton: an Essay on American Union”

  • Peter Marshall


The writings of F. S. Oliver arouse as little interest today as the causes he espoused: tariff reform, the rights of Ulster, military preparedness, Imperial unity are issues abandoned by Politics but unclaimed by History. Booksellers indifferently expose his works to the elements. It is true that a brief account of his career is to be found in the Dictionary of National Biography; but the third volume of the Cambridge History of the British Empire does not mention his name. Yet to his contemporaries Oliver was a figure of great significance and the decline of his reputation has been swift and startling. Reasons can be put forward to account for the change: his political tracts are no longer relevant, his historical works were the efforts of an amateur in a discipline which has become increasingly professional, and his influence was always based primarily upon the force of his personality and the charm of his correspondence. Oliver's singular position in public affairs both helped and hindered his influence. Business preoccupations and indifferent health excluded him from an active part in politics, or so it is said. Doubt on this point is perhaps permissible, since the decade before 1914 saw him active in discussion and prolific as an author. It seems more likely that these were excuses offered to conceal his inability to accept the conventions of democracy. Walpole and Hamilton, Oliver's two heroes, marked the bounds of his political beliefs: the wider world of manhood suffrage was not for him.



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page 18 note 1 The only reference to Oliver I have found in recent studies of imperial questions is in Miller, J. D. B., Richard Jebb and the Problem of Empire, (London, 1956), p. 48.

page 18 note 2 Amery, L. S., My Political Life. I. England Before the Storm 1896–1914 (London, 1953), p. 268; The Anvil of War … ed. Gwynn, Stephen (London, 1936), pp. 3, 33–34.

page 18 note 3 Gwynn, op. cit.. pp. 6–9.

page 19 note 1 Amery, op. cit., pp. 264–265, 268–269.

page 19 note 2 Gwynn, op. cit., p. 16; Wrench, John Evelyn, Geoffrey Dawson and our Times (London, 1955), p. 94.

page 19 note 3 Amery, op. cit., p. 269.

page 19 note 4 American Historical Review, XII, 19061907, pp. 398400.

page 19 note 5 Alexander Hamilton, p. 377.

page 20 note 1 Alexander Hamilton, p. 409.

page 20 note 2 For Roosevelt's attitudes towards British imperialism see “Theodore Roosevelt and the British Empire”, Max Beloff, The Great Powers (London, 1959), PP. 215232.

page 20 note 3 The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, ed. Morison, E. E., (Cambridge, Mass., 1952), pp. 347, 349, 368.

page 20 note 4 Ibid., pp. 350–353.

* New B.A.A.S. members may be interested to know that the “Revaluations” series was started to provide re-assessments of pioneering British works on American subjects. Books reviewed previously were:- D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature, 1923 (by D. S. R. Welland, Bulletin No. 5. September, 1957, pp. 3–8); H. A. L. Fisher, Our New Religion, 1929 (by George Shepperson, Bulletin No. 6, February, 1958, pp. 8–12); James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, 1888 (by H. G. Nicholas, Bulletin No. 7, August, 1958, pp. 3–7); and J. A. Hobson, Veblen, 1936 (by W. E. Minchinton and A. W. Coats, Bulletin No. 8, February, 1959, pp. 29–41). The Editor of the Bulletin welcomes suggestions of further works for notice in this series.

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Bulletin of the British Association for American Studies
  • ISSN: 0524-5001
  • EISSN: 2053-5988
  • URL: /core/journals/bulletin-of-the-british-association-for-american-studies
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