In the year after World War I ended, the United States practically suffered a nervous breakdown. The peace conference to conclude a treaty with Germany began at Versailles in January, but by year's end was in shambles. The bright vision of Woodrow Wilson for a world of nations cooperating for peace ended in rancorous squabbles and squandered hopes. The president, stricken by a stroke as he campaigned across the nation to rally support for Senate ratification of the treaty, was by Christmas 1919 a ghostly presence in the White House. The Senate defeated the pact after the troubled old man refused to compromise and the American people quickly abandoned him and his too-complicated plan to remake the world.

Fear, not hope, predominates in Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America, 1919, Ann Hagedorn's account of this annus terribilis. Hagedorn argues that America during this time quailed in fear of the Russian Revolution. Soon police, government agents and editors looking for a headline spotted Bolsheviks everywhere. And with that fear came calls for starching the nation into a rigid conformity behind a war against the Reds now come home to our shores.

Hagedorn (Beyond the River) finds heroes who resisted the domestic spying and organized attacks on domestic radicalism carried out by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and his 25-year-old deputy J. Edgar Hoover. Palmer, Hoover and their hirelings in an elaborate domestic intelligence apparatus regarded speech against government policy as potential sabotage and peaceful demonstration as a clear and present danger.

Fear also marks relations between the races at this time. Hagedorn juxtaposes the terrorism against black people in the United States against Woodrow Wilson's call for self-determination of peoples around the world. Time and again she returns to the heinous crime of lynching as evidence of American hypocrisy weighing down the president's claims of American righteousness. Reviewers will inevitably draw parallels between Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush, as Hagedorn and her publicists clearly intend we should.

James Summerville writes from Dickson, Tennessee.

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