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At the Edge of the Precipice: Henry Clay and the Compromise That Saved the Union
     

At the Edge of the Precipice: Henry Clay and the Compromise That Saved the Union

by Robert V. Remini
 

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In 1850, America hovered on the brink of disunion. Tensions between slave-holders and abolitionists mounted, as the debate over slavery grew rancorous. An influx of new territory prompted Northern politicians to demand that new states remain free; in response, Southerners baldly threatened to secede from the Union. Only Henry Clay could keep the nation

Overview

In 1850, America hovered on the brink of disunion. Tensions between slave-holders and abolitionists mounted, as the debate over slavery grew rancorous. An influx of new territory prompted Northern politicians to demand that new states remain free; in response, Southerners baldly threatened to secede from the Union. Only Henry Clay could keep the nation together.

At the Edge of the Precipice is historian Robert V. Remini's fascinating recounting of the Compromise of 1850, a titanic act of political will that only a skillful statesman like Clay could broker. Although the Compromise would collapse ten years later, plunging the nation into civil war, Clay's victory in 1850 ultimately saved the Union by giving the North an extra decade to industrialize and prepare.

A masterful narrative by an eminent historian, At the Edge of the Precipice also offers a timely reminder of the importance of bipartisanship in a bellicose age.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
National Book Award winner and U.S. House of Representatives historian Remini (A Short History of the United States, 2008, etc.) revisits the Compromise of 1850 as an important, cautionary tale for today. Although Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas actually pressed for the passing of the separate bills that effectively became the Compromise of 1850, it was Kentucky Senator Henry Clay who hammered the various proposals by Northerners and Southerners into a shape that was acceptable to both, then argued passionately on the Senate floor for "assured peace and restored harmony to all the remotest extremities of this distracted land." Remini breaks down the debate into palatable pieces for the lay reader. After the Mexican war, California and New Mexico had to be configured into the Union, as well as the Mormon territory in Utah. The North wanted the territories to be free states, while the South desired an extension of slavery. Clay, coaxed back to the Senate from retirement, decided an urgent compromise was needed to placate the North as well as keep the Southern states from seceding in earnest. The compromise involved popular sovereignty for the new states, the settlement of Texas boundaries and resolution of its debt, the abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia and a more effective fugitive-slave law. Clay, a Kentucky slaveholder who had been converted to the benefits of abolition, made his political career years before as the Great Pacifier, having forged important legislature as Speaker of the House, such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and a compromise over the crisis on tariffs and protectionism in 1832-33. However, he had also been tainted by the "corrupt bargain"he supposedly made with John Quincy Adams in 1824 to gain the appointment of secretary of state. Remini skillfully presents the debates by the Great Triumvirate-Clay, John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster-and decides that Clay's compromise ultimately saved the Union by allowing the North ten years to prepare for war and to nourish the great leader it needed-Abraham Lincoln. A fresh look at the value of compromise in advancing the general interest.
From the Publisher
Library Journal
“Award-winning historian Remini…draws on his immense knowledge of antebellum American politics and sectionalism to give an informed and lively recounting of the (in)famous Compromise of 1850…. Remini’s great strength is making sense of the many and various personal and political interests entangled in the slavery issue and in showing how the ‘great men’ like Henry Clay tried to manage sectional reconciliation and their own ambitions.”

Publisher’s Weekly
“Remini ably dissects a dangerous moment in the nation’s history and the remarkable but flawed man who ushered the nation through it.”

Booklist
“Condensed with well-dramatized brevity, Remini’s account will captivate the American-history audience.”

Shelf Awareness
“Robert Remini paints a vivid portrait of Henry Clay in this tightly focused analysis of a critical moment in United States history…. A finely detailed examination of the art of compromise in politics as well as a splendid testimonial to Henry Clay’s inestimable value in our nation’s history.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465021666
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
05/11/2010
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
469,534
File size:
301 KB
Age Range:
13 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Robert V. Remini, historian of the U.S. House of Representatives, has been teaching and writing about American history for more than half a century. He has written more than twenty books, including the definitive three volume biography The Life of Andrew Jackson, which won the National Book Award (1984). His other books include biographies of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John Quincy Adams, and Joseph Smith. His Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars won the Spur Award for best western nonfiction from the Western Writers of America. He lives in Wilmette, Illinois.

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