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Albion Winegar Tourgée, 1838-1905
A Fool's Errand. By One of the Fools
New York: Fords, Howard, & Hulbert, 1879.


Published in 1879, Albion Tourgee's A Fool's Errand was an enormously popular book in its time. It was based largely on Tourgee's actual experiences in Greensboro, North Carolina during Reconstruction. A Fool's Errand is the fictional story of Comfort Servosse, a man of French Canadian descent. It follows him briefly as he joins the Civil War on the Union side, then returns home after the war and resolves to move his family to the South. He purchases a decayed plantation called Warrington in Rockford County; the state to which he moves is never identified. In his new home, Servosse almost immediately makes a name for himself as a radical Yankee--or carpetbagger--and arouses the hostility of the neighbors in the community. The rest of the story follows his increasing involvement on the behalf of former slaves in the community and his opposition to the activities of the Ku Klux Klan

Interspersed in this story are several digressions and conversations in which Servosse, his friends, and even the narrator discuss the numerous problems facing the South during the time of reconstruction. The author describes in detail various issues and attitudes regarding those issues, even to the point of describing in detail northern and southern attitudes about themselves and each other both before and after the war. He also describes several reconstruction plans. Numerous digressions and \"letters\" seem to be indictments against the federal government in Washington, blaming some of the violence and trouble in the South on Washington's unwillingness to step in where required. His other major additions have to do with the national decline of the KKK and the general failure of reconstruction governments to take hold and transform the South in terms of culture or law.

Christopher Hill

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