William M. LeoGrande. Our Own Backyard: The United States in

Canada and the United States
those who found, in the Kentucky hills and hollers, a
population and an art as exotic as those earlier travelers had discovered in Tahiti or Melanesia. She is also
familiar with landmark works on collectors and collecting, often a tale of doing well by doing good. She shows
that those who encouraged Tolson to carve more of
the charming Biblical figures he had only occasionally
created also profited mightily from their kindness. For
example, Michael D. and Julie Hall, who came upon
Tolson soon after joining the University of Kentucky
(Lexington) art department and bought some of his
sculptures for three dollars, ended up selling their folk
art collection to the Milwaukee Art Museum for $2.3
million dollars. Furthermore, Tolson's patrons influenced his subject matter and style, often suggcsting
that he create another "Temptation," a unicorn, an
Uncle Sam, or an "Expulsion," providing him with
illustrations, and suggesting he not paint the carvings.
The Halls and other early Tolson collectors created
a market for the artist's work by alerting the Smithsonian Institution, the American Folk Art Museum, and
various dealers to his work. They promoted Tolson's
inclusion in the Whitney Biennial show of American
art, saw to it that his work was illustrated in books
about folk art, and helped him get an Artists' Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. As
their own collections grew, they urged him to raise his
prices and extracted from him colorful statements
about his artistic intentions. Finally, they made Tolson
an archetype for an invasion of dirt road America by
well-heeled collectors getting red dust on their Volvos
and Audis amid the poverty, ignorance, religiosity,
alcoholism, and sloth surrounding any number of naive
or "outsider" artists. The artists quickly learned what
these people were looking for and did thcir bcst to
oblige. They posed patiently for photos in their overalls and laconically accepted bottles of whiskey while
sharing their own moonshine. Upon the rickety porch,
they lined up their (often numerous) children in bare
feet and raggedy jeans for more photos.
All this fascinating material-and more-is in this
beautifully designed and illustrated book. But the
reader will have to shape the scattered pieces into a
coherent whole. For example, the Tolson of 1976
appears as the quintessential outsider: a trim, toothless
fellow in boldly striped pants, his hand on the shoulder
of a carved Uncle Sam, grave, stiff, and painted (p. 8).
In 1984, Tolson was on his deathbed (p. 171). But the
book continues on for 100 more pages, with Tolson
miraculously resurrected, repeatedly quoted, and pictured at various points in his life.
Trying to reinforce theoretical points in what was
obviously once a doctoral thesis, the author clumsily
tramples back and forth through time and space, and
clutches at every scholarly straw: what have Theodor
Adorno, Reinhold Niebuhr, or Pierre Bourdieu to do
with American folk art? Even in the few pages of her
conclusion, Ardery is still quoting authorities, sometimes anonymously, instead of presenting the reader
with her own final verdict on her subject.
This book is amply documented, with twenty-three
pages of footnotes and twenty-two of bibliography.
What is sorely lacking is a chronology detailing Tolson's life and career. A chart or graph relating the
upticks in value of his works to exhibitions, awards,
and publications would also be helpful. Such documentations would not only benefit the reader but would
have provided the author with a sturdy framework for
the book. Virtually every historian faces the problem
of how to move the factual story forward while simultaneously weaving in theory and interpretation. Perhaps a future revision will do this for Edgar Tolson's
University of California,
San Diego
WILLIAM M. LEOGRANDE. Our Own Backyard: The
United States in Central America, 1977-1992. Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 1998. Pp. xvi,
773. $39.95.
In the words of former New York Yankee baseball
great Yogi Berra, the crisis in Central America during
the 1980s was "deja vu, all over again" for President
Ronald Reagan and his advisors. The United States
had traveled this path in Vietnam and appeared on the
verge of doing so again in Central America. To avoid
repeating the tragedy and embarrassment that the
Vietnam War brought to the United States, the Reagan administration determined to act decisively in
Central America. The Sandinistas were to be ousted
from Nicaragua and the Farabundo Marti prevented
from coming to power in El Salvador. But as William
M. LeoGrandc explains, the challenge was not an easy
Within the Reagan administration, "hardliners" who
sought a military solution confronted "pragmatists"
who argued for a more peaceful settlement to the
crisis. In the Congress, Democrats came to challenge
Reagan's policy, and in Central America, the so-called
allies did not always cooperate with Washington's
policy objectives. LeoGrande weaves this complex
story together from declassified documents located at
the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C.,
published government materials, personal interviews,
and a wealth of secondary sources.
Reagan's first secretary of state, Alexander Haig, led
the "hardliners," and he was joined by United Nations
Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) Director William Casey, Defense Secretary Casper Weinbergcr, and Assistant Secretary of
State for Latin American Affairs Elliott Abrams.
While LeoGrandc criticizes the collective lack of Latin
American experience that prevented them from coming to grips with Central America's internal economic,
political, and social dynamics, hc savcs the severest
criticism for Haig, whom LeoGrande characterizes as
an intellectual lightweight. Haig was convinced that a
military victory in Central America would come easy.
Reviews of Books
All of the "hardliners" accepted Kirkpatrick's dictum
that U.S. interests would be better served by right-wing
dictators than by left-wing revolutionaries. Because
Reagan shared the "hardliners' " perception of events
in Central America, moderates such as Assistant Secretary Thomas O. Enders were forced to resign, and
Haig's replacement George Shultz was ignored.
In Congress, Democratic opposition to Reagan's
Central American policy intensified over time, and as
it did, the administration's spokespeople skirted telling
the full truth before various congressional committees.
In the House, Thomas Foley, Edward Boland, Thomas
Harkin, and Clement Zablocki led the Democratic
charge, and they were joined in the Senate by Christopher Dodd, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Republican moderate Nancy Kassenbaum. As the opposition
intensified, the administration's half-truths became
non-truths. Casey neglected to discuss CIA-sponsored
covert operations against Nicaragua; the president's
human rights and land reform certifications in El
Salvador became vague assertions; the solicitation of
foreign monies for the Nicaraguan contrfls was at first
denied but, once public, defended as a moral good;
and the administration's professed support for peace
negotiations were mere fabrications. As the Democrats intensified their opposition, the most ardent
Republican conservatives, such as Newt Gingrich, attacked them in McCarthyite fashion. The president
himself charged that the Democrats were soft on
The Democratic opposition led to the passage of two
so-called Boland Amendments, the first in 1982 and
the second in 1984. The first prevented the use of CIA
funds for military activities against Nicaragua. The
second cut funds to the Nicaraguan contra forces. The
cutoff of funds prompted Reagan zealots like Oliver
North and John Poindexter to find foreign sources,
including the sale of weapons to Iran. Despite the
illegality of these actions and circumstantial evidence
indicating the president's knowledge of the operation,
LeoGrande explains that the Democrats recognized
that Reagan's popularity prevented their seeking recourse.
In hopes of convincing Congress to support its
Central American policies, the Reagan administration
understood the need to bring an end to human rights
violations practiced by the Salvadoran military and
paramilitary forces and the Nicaraguan contras; to
have the Salvadoran elite accept the implementation
of a land reform program, and to forge unity among
the contra leadership. The Reagan administration
failed, not for lack of trying but because the Central
American actors refused to cooperate. Despite these
failures, until the very end, Reagan insisted on a
military solution and refused all offers for a negotiated
settlement to the conflict. While the U.S. used economic pressure on Mexico to cease its peace initiative
and to turn Honduras into a proxy obstacle to the
Central American peace process, it ignored mediation
offers from European and South American nations.
Only because of the tenacity of Costa Rican President
Oscar Arias and the need of his Central American
neighbors to terminate the conflict did peace finally
come to Central America.
LeoGrande's well-written volume will serve for a
long time as a most serious analysis of Reagan's
Central American policy. Those critics who assert that
LeoGrande's association with congressional committees during the 1980s colored his perception should be
reminded that Robert Kagan's equally massive study,
The Twilight Struggle: American Puwer and Nicaragua,
1977-1990 (1996), which defends Reagan's Central
American policies, may also have been colored by his
association with the administration.
University of North Florida
HAROLD M. HYMAN. Craftsmanship and Character: A
History of the Vinson and Elkins Law Firm of Houston,
1917-1997. (Studies in the Legal History of the South.)
Athens: University of Georgia Press. 1998. Pp. xvi, 658.
Law firm histories share the general bias of American
legal history toward studies of the Boston-to-Washington corridor. This history of a major institution in the
American Southwest offers a welcome change of focus.
Law firm histories pose difficulties for historians because lawyers are reluctant to share files with outsiders
due to fear of breaching the principle of attorneyclient confidentiality. In this case, Harold M. Hyman
enjoyed complete access to the firm's files and full
cooperation from members of the firm.
This book offers an institutional history of the firm,
an internal account of its administrative operations.
Hyman chronicles the growth of the firm from a
two-man partnership, through a mid-size firm with an
imperious and arbitrary senior founding partner,
James A. Elkins, to its stature as a mega-firm with over
five hundred lawyers, an equal numher of support
staff, and perhaps a hundred legal assistants. The book
explores pressures that growth placed on the firm to
depart from the vision of the founders, who had hoped
for a partnership of generalists. Instead, the firm
gradually developed various departments, or specialties, and created various administrative committees
and subcommittees charged with attending to thc
complicated tasks of administering such a complex
organization. Missing from this account is a clear sense
of the role that the firm played in the city of Houston
or the state of Texas. Hyman chose not to explore the
web of political, economic, and social relationships
created by Vinson & Elkins lawyers.
The first substantial growth of the firm came during
the Depression when legal business spawned by various federal and other government public policies
resulted in a sharp increase in the number of associates
at Vinson & Elkins. During World War II, Elkins
threatened that lawyers who volunteered for service
would find no job awaiting them at the end of the war.