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The Great Triumvirate: Webster, Clay and Calhoun Paperback – 6 Apr 1989
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`Merrill Peterson has given us a thorough and scholarly account of these three giants and the grand debates that consumed their lives.' The Book Review/Los Angeles Times
`Elaborate and learned new study...Densely packed with facts and closely focused, The Great Triumvirate provides a richly rewarding account of party conflict in the antebellum period.' The Boston Sunday Globe
`His details enable us to recognise how little the practices of parliamentary democracy have changed ... Mr Peterson's inclusiveness is valuable, too, in its attention to lesser figures, men who became footnotes after they died, but whose opinions and search for responsiveness were decisive while they lived.' The New Yorker
`We are in debt to Merrill Peterson. Basing his work on a careful combing of the original sources, he has made a distinguished contribution to the study of American history.' New York Times Book Reviews
`Mr Peterson imparts a good deal of excitement to the events of the past. He admires his subject but judges them harshly as well.' Washington Times
`Without invoking grand theories, without statistics, and with only an occasional generalization of any kind, Merrill Peterson simply tells an interesting and momentous story.' Book World
`A "thorough and scholarly" account of three enduring symbols of congressional leadership.' L.A.Times
From the Back Cover
Peterson brings to life the great events in which the Triumvirate figures so Prominently.See all Product description
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
In a formative period, 1812-1852, these three were dominant in national politics, members of the second generation of American statesmen. Webster of Massachusetts was a powerful spokesman of the declining Federalist party and the rising National Republican party. Clay of Kentucky was a Jeffersonian Republican, then Whig, representing the rising West. Calhoun of South Carolina was a Jeffersonian educated by Calvinists at Yale, Democrat and Unitarian, fanatic advocate of state rights, nullification, slavery. One admired, one despised, Paine and Jefferson. They argued endlessly about the nature of the Nation and the Constitution and slavery. One or the other denounced every President from Jefferson to Taylor. All three opposed the Mexican War and were called unpatriotic. America's culture war is perennial.
The conflict of ideas and interests represented brilliantly by these three is the essence of American history. Webster in 1802 decried the Jeffersonian "revolution of 1800" --"The path to despotism leads through the mire and dirt of uncontrolled democracy." But in 1840 Webster called for a "civil revolution" like Jefferson's in 1800 that would return the government to its republican foundations. Great men need not be consistent.
All served in the House, the Senate, and as Secretary of State, and all failed in their ambition to be President. In 1842 Clay wrote "The contemplation of what we are, what we were, and what we might have been is enough to sicken the heart." Alternately allies and opponents of each other and of Presidents, each decried political defeat as national doom. Alarmism in American politics is perennial. Dismay at disappointment of the American dream is perennial.
This deeply researched, well written, engrossing history of a momentous time, great men, great issues and conflicts, is a remedy for our daily agitation at current -- perennial -- partisan politics.
This book is 499 pages including the Epilogue, details in a engaging and well written style the lives of each man. We are given a glimpse of the times that they were born into; their family's history; their friendships; their triumphs and failures; and the quick demise of a once powerful political party and what, if any, seeds were planted which would soon divide a nation in the bloodest war before or since. Great emphasis is placed on their private lives and, as much as possible, Peterson provides us with an insight into the minds and personalities of these American political giants. In short, this the kind of book which breaths life back into these once flesh and blood men.
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in early American history or politics, the Whigs, the pre-Civil War Era, or would like to gain insight into the thinking of how three brilliant and yet diverse men were able to reach across party and philosophical lines ot reach a compermise that held a nation together, albeit only while they lived. Perhaps there is something we can still learn from them.
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