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John C. Calhoun: American Portrait

3.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0877971856
ISBN-10: 0877971854
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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

A New England native, Margaret L. Coit was raised and educated in North Carolina. She received her B.A. and D.Litt. from the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). She served for some years as professor of English and social studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. Now retired, she holds the position of Emerita Professor. She was awarded the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for her work in John C. Calhoun: American Portrait --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 620 pages
  • Publisher: Cherokee Publishing Company (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877971854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877971856
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,484,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Coit offers a very readable treatment of Calhoun's life. In concocting this work, the author does go into a more literary mode to make things more interesting. She does offer some imagined thoughts fresh from Calhoun's mind. This does not make the book worthy of your disregard, rather it just requires you to appreciate the book for what it happens to be. It is a very good introduction to Calhoun. You will get some anecdotes regarding his life and the decisions he made, but without the solid intellectual footing that would allow one to discern what unfolded in his life. In essence, you get the highlights without being exposed to the process of making this man's paradigm. Calhoun should go down in American history as one of the senators who had a very significant impact upon the nation's history. The former Vice-President was able to become the spokesman of the minority within that era. In doing so, he offered a vigorous justification of why the majority should be limited in what they can do to the minority. His explanation is as sound as today for any minority as it was for defending the South in his time. You will not get how he came to this in this book, but you will get the fact that he did. And you will not be bored in the process.
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Format: Hardcover
Of the three members of the Great Triumvirate--Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John Calhoun--Calhoun was arguably the least interesting. He was not a poker playing rogue like Clay, nor a thunderously captivating speaker and industry shill like Webster. But his influence during four decades of national life cannot be denied, which is one of the reasons why scholars to this day argue over whether there are two distinct periods to Calhoun's career: his earlier years when he seemed more inclined to support national-oriented legislation and his later years when he appears as an early "states rights" man.

Coit, who clearly admires Calhoun and is determined to unearth the person behind the stony legend, argues that Calhoun's devotion to nation and state were as one and that in his view only through a determined affirmation of the rights of the states could the larger national confederation succeed.

A previous reviewer notes a problem with Coit trying to get inside of Calhoun's head, imagining what he was thinking. Undoubtedly today this aspect of her book would fall well short of academic standards. But in every other way, this is a strong book, and most of all, it is a beautiful literary achievement--it does read like fiction.
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Format: Paperback
Readers will either love or hate Margaret Coit's Pulitzer Prize winning biography on John C. Calhoun. Coit has a very vivid style and sometimes she comes dangerously close to crossing the line into writing fiction (such as when she enters the mind of a dying Calhoun and offers a series of flashback sketches). She offers a generally interesting biography even if she gets bogged down in anecdotal stories and speculations (including the annoying Lincoln was Calhoun's illegitimate son story). This is the most accessible biography of Calhoun which does redeem some of its flaws. Still while Coit does offer a solid narrative of Calhoun's long and often tempestuous political career and is better than some of Calhoun's other biographers on sections of his life (including his home life at Fort Hill), the book fails in offering a good analysis of Calhoun as a political theorist. However if someone wants a good account of Calhoun's political and home life without dozing off, Coit's book is a good place to start.
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John C. Calhoun: American Portrait
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