Synopses & Reviews
From New York Times bestselling historian H. W. Brands comes the riveting story of how, in nineteenth-century America, a new set of political giants battled to complete the unfinished work of the Founding Fathers and decide the future of our democracy
In the early 1800s, three young men strode onto the national stage, elected to Congress at a moment when the Founding Fathers were beginning to retire to their farms. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, a champion orator known for his eloquence, spoke for the North and its business class. Henry Clay of Kentucky, as dashing as he was ambitious, embodied the hopes of the rising West. South Carolina's John Calhoun, with piercing eyes and an even more piercing intellect, defended the South and slavery.
Together these heirs of Washington, Jefferson and Adams took the country to war, battled one another for the presidency and set themselves the task of finishing the work the Founders had left undone. Their rise was marked by dramatic duels, fierce debates, scandal and political betrayal. Yet each in his own way sought to remedy the two glaring flaws in the Constitution: its refusal to specify where authority ultimately rested, with the states or the nation, and its unwillingness to address the essential incompatibility of republicanism and slavery.
Thrillingly and authoritatively, H. W. Brands narrates an epic American rivalry and the little-known drama of the dangerous early years of our democracy.
"They were called 'The Great Triumvirate' — three senators whose rivalries, alliances, and work in the tumultuous battles of the 19th century profoundly influenced the course of American history. H. W. Brands tells the story of Clay, Calhoun, and Webster with verve and clarity, reminding us of a bygone age when giants truly walked the floor of the United States Senate."
Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels
"An engrossing and revealing account of personal rivalries that played out on a national scale."
"Brands uses the life stories of three consequential early-19th-century American politicians — all with unfulfilled aspirations to become president — to show how tensions inherent in the founding fathers' vision of the country led to the calamity of the Civil War. . . . This fascinating history illuminates rifts that still plague the country today."
"Brands's easy prose and superior, simple organization makes this work an engrossing, entertaining, and educating read on issues important then that echo today in the modern debate on the limits of federal government power." New York Journal of Books
About the Author
H. W. BRANDS holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written more than a dozen biographies and histories, two of which, The First American and Traitor to His Class, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. His most recent book, The General vs. the President, was a New York Times bestseller.