This is the first book devoted exclusively to the political career of William Windom. It illuminates not only the personal biography of Windom, arguably Minnesota's most influential political figure of the 19th century, but it also casts much light on the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties during the period 1860-1890. Salisbury offers evidence which refutes the traditional view of the Gilded Age that Republicans were the party of big business, characterized by a mediocrity of leadership and permeated by corruption and venality. Rather, Windom and a majority of both parties maintained a consistent stance throughout this period on such questions as the desirability of governmental intervention in the economy, the regulation of private behavior by governmental coercion, and attitudes toward the nation's number of groups which were discriminated against, including women and blacks. An intensive analysis of William Windom's political career - he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for ten years, in the U.S. Senate for twelve years, and was twice appointed Secretary of the Treasury - reveals the post-Civil War era to hold several more nuances than contemporary beliefs allow. Salisbury offers important observations about the essence of both parties and the general political mood of the 19th century.
Robert S. Salisbury has been a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Texas A & M University, Southwest Texas State University, Oregon State University, University of the South and Fulbright Junior Lecturer at the University of Orleans in France. He is currently engaged in research in Oswego, NY.