On the Brink of Civil War (The American Crisis Series, No. 13): The Compromise of 1850 and How It Changed the Course of American History / Edition 1

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Years before the Civil War began, another dark conflict threatened to shatter the Union. It was December 1849. The U.S.-Mexican War had just ended, doubling the size of the country. A grave problem emerged: whether slavery should be admitted into the new territories that were to be carved out of the vast new domain resulting from the war. This dilemma strained the relationship between the slave-holding South and the antislavery North. Other issues loomed as well: where to draw the Texas boundary line with the New Mexico territory, how to settle the Texas debt claims, and what to do about the problem of fugitive slaves escaping to the North and the slavetrade in the District of Columbia. The nation was on the brink of secession, dissolution, and civil war. On the Brink of Civil War tells the dramatic story of what happened when a handful of senators-towering figures in nineteenth-century American history-tried to hammer out a compromise to save the Union. The characters in this critical political drama included Henry Clay, seasoned politician and statesman known as the "Great Pacificator," who formulated an agreement in the Senate and would fight to get it through Congress; the gifted orator Daniel Webster, who helped Clay in his efforts by delivering the "Seventh of March" compromise speech on the Senate floor, one of the most memorable speeches in American history; and John C. Calhoun, a fervent defender of slavery and the South who, though nearing death, spoke to the Senate and demanded equal rights for the South in the new Western territories. Four young senators stepped into the fray to play their own unique, important roles: Henry Seward, the Whig from New York who many say controlled President Zachary Taylor and who opposed compromise; Stephen A. Douglas, the dynamic "Little Giant" from Illinois who favored agreement; Salmon P. Chase, the voice of the Free-Soilers and foe of compromise and concessions to the South; and Jefferson Davis, Mexican War hero and second only to Calhoun as the V

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Editorial Reviews

History Teacher
Waugh has produced a splendid and quite readable volume.
Edwin C. Bearss
John C. Waugh has scored again. On the Brink of Civil War is a tour de force and must reading if we are to comprehend why in 1850 the nation's political leadership succeeded only to fail when next challenged.
John Y. Simon
After the Mexican War, the United States came close to civil war. The process through which compromise prevailed is dramatically recounted by John C. Waugh, an experienced twentieth-century journalist now turning his attention and talents to past crises. Combining skillful reporting, careful research, and an instinct for the colorful, Waugh analyzes the statesmanship the nation would lack a decade later.
Grady McWhiney
Jack Waugh has written the best book on the Compromise of 1850. Waugh, in a graceful, journalistic way, examines the views of each major figure and some minor figures. The great statesmen of the nation speak for the causes of the sections, and, with no compromise being popular, they nevertheless manage to prolong the peace for a decade. It is a marvelously written account; you'll root for the one side and then the other—a great read.
Keith Poulter
A lucid, comprehensive, and wonderfully readable account of the crisis that could have resulted in the dissolution of the Union in 1850.
Keith Poulter
A lucid, comprehensive, and wonderfully readable account of the crisis that could have resulted in the dissolution of the Union in 1850.
Publisher, North & South magazine
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780842029452
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/12/2003
  • Series: American Crisis Series: Books on the Civil War Era Series, #13
  • Edition description: Books on the Civil War Era
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 218
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

John C. Waugh was a staff correspondant and bureau chief of The Christian Science Monitor. He is author of six books on the Civil War era, and served on the senior staffs of two national politicians, Nelson Rockefeller of New York and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Acknowledgments Chapter 2 Storm Clouds Rising Chapter 3 David Wilmot's Bombshell Chapter 4 "Old Rough and Ready" Chapter 5 Deadlock in the House Chapter 6 "The Star of the West" Chapter 7 The Prophet of Southern Anger Chapter 8 Webster and the Seventh of March Chapter 9 The Higher Law Chapter 10 Pulling it All Together Chapter 11 The Omnibus Chapter 12 Changing the Guard Chapter 13 Wreck of the Omnibus Chapter 14 Epilogue: End of an Era Chapter 15 Bibliography Chapter 16 Index

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