on controversial issues. Two are to Republican presidents McKinley and Roosevelt. The most impassioned is a searing critique of Thomas Dixon's The Leopard's Spots. Together these sections reveal Tourgée's uncompromising idealism, his strategic practicality, his polemical combativeness, his sentimental compassion, and his bouts with despair. We see his shrewd awareness that, unless federal aid to education went directly to local schools, children of color would get a disproportionate share. We also see how his unwillingness to compromise aligned him with southern racists to defeat proposed legislation that filtered money through individual states. We see his repeated arguments--against all odds--for equal political and civil rights of freedpeople. We also see his sharp criticism of Charles Sumner's Civil Rights Bill as "the idea of a visionary quack who prescribes for the disease without having made a diagnosis" (53). Noted Yale law professor Owen Fiss calls Tourgée's brief in the Plessy case "eloquent and moving" and then dismisses it as the "work of a legal Don Quixote."1 To be sure, at times Tourgée was a romantic idealist. He faulted literary realists for their failure to represent the human capacity for heroism and noble love. Yet, more often than not, his failed
The Journal of the Civil War Era – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Aug 29, 2012
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