The Roots of Nonviolent Revolutions
Regarding the opinion-page column "Two Revolutions: 1776 and 1991," Sept. 6: It was more than "the triumph of the ideas of the American Revolution" that brought about "the collapse of communist totalitarianism in Eastern Europe and now the USSR." It was the triumph of nonviolence, which American colonists also used successfully.Although the American Revolution ended in war, it began with three major nonviolent resistance campaigns against British rule (against the Stamp Acts of 1765, the Townshend Acts of 1767, and the Coercive Acts of 1774). Similarly, Eastern Europeans and Soviets undermined illegitimate rulers through street blockades, demonstrations, strikes, and mass noncooperation. Clearly the American tradition of nonviolent struggle has as much to do with recent events as does the influence of American democratic ideals. Roger S. Powers, Cambridge, Mass., The Albert Einstein Institution
William Seward and academic feminism The review "Man in the Middle of 19th-Century American History," Aug. 30, of my new biography of William Henry Seward prompts me to reply. The reviewer complains that I rely excessively on secondary sources, thus demonstrating her ignorance of the fact that the Seward Papers at the University of Rochester were bowdlerized by the Seward family. She charges that Seward's relations with Thurlow Weed and Horace Greeley are "not explored," raising questions as to whether she has read the book. The allegation that my discussion of the Seward marriage is lacking in insight provides a clue as to the reviewer's bias. My fault, it appears, is that I fail to "explore the wealth of materials dealing with women and families in the 19th century." My objective, of course, was to deal with one particular couple. Any biography of William Henry Seward poses fascinating questions. Could Seward in fact have prevented the Civil War? Was he aware of corruption in connection with the Alaska purchase? These are substantive points that are essential to any understanding of Seward and his period, but they do not interest the reviewer, for whom my book must be judged by the criteria of academic feminism. John M. Taylor, McLean, Va.