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Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union Paperback – November 17, 1993

4.7 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

By the distinguished biographer of Andrew Jackson, this is the first major study of the "great compromiser" in half a century. Henry Clay's prolonged feud with Jackson and his failed quest for the White House are traced in detail, with Remini showing how the unfounded charge of political collusion when Clay was appointed secretary of State contributed significantly to that failure. The author explains Clay's role in the Missouri Compromise of 1820; and later, when the country faced the slavery question over territory acquired in the Mexican War, his role in shaping the Compromise of 1850. Thus tension between North and South was eased and civil war delayed for a decade. Remini points out that many historians have argued that had secession and war occurred in 1850 the South "undoubtedly" would have won its independence. This majestic work brings into sharp focus the private and public Henry Clay (1777-1852): gambler, drinker, duelist, as well as brilliant orator, a man with a "gift for the outrageous," and savior of the Union. Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Award-winning historian Remini has written the definitive biography on controversial 19th-century politician Clay of Kentucky. Remini's work, which uses a rich array of primary sources, especially letters uncovered by the Henry Clay Papers publication project, surpasses earlier studies of Clay by Glyndon Van Deusen ( The Life of Henry Clay , Greenwood, 1979) and Clement Eaton ( Henry Clay & the Art of American Politics , 1962). All facets of Clay's life are examined, especially much new information about his private life and how it influenced his public political career. Remini analyzes why an accomplished political leader such as Clay could never be elected president, though he ran for the office five times. Clay's political success came from his extraordinary talents as the engineer who directed three major compromises between 1820 and 1850 through Congress, thus averting civil strife and keeping the Union together. This is an excellently written, superbly crafted, and long-needed biography that is suitable for academic and large public libraries.
- Charles C. Hay III, Eastern Kentucky Univ. Archives, Richmond
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 818 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Revised ed. edition (November 17, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393310884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393310887
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #705,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Graczewski VINE VOICE on June 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
The New York Times has called Robert V. Remini "our foremost Jacksonian scholar". No matter how one feels about Remini's scholarship or historical interpretations, he is undeniably the most prolific Jacksonian historian of our time - our any other time, for that matter.
In reading his celebrated three-volume biography of Andrew Jackson and other related works, I'd come to think of Remini as something of a "Jackson bigot." The reverence Remini has for Jackson practically oozes from the pages of his books, while the many injustices and dubious actions undertaken by the seventh president throughout his lifetime are treated as the unfortunate, but excusable episodes of a passionate and often impulsive man (some examples might include: the Treaty of Fort Jackson and other Indian treaties; the unauthorized invasion of Florida in 1818 and his conduct during that campaign; the forced removal of the Cherokees from Georgia; etc.). Indeed, I have often thought that had Remini lived in Jackson's lifetime he may have supplanted Francis Blair as editor of the pro-Jackson newspaper, the Washington Globe. Thus, given such an undisguised admiration for Jackson and his trenchant democratic principles, I was curious to see how Remini would treat his arch-villain: the indomitable Henry Clay of Kentucky.
To my great surprise and pleasure, Remini presents an exceptionally balanced and thorough account of "Prince Hal" and his feud with Andrew Jackson and the Democrats as nominal head of the Whig party. The author pays homage to Clay's tremendous oratorical and political abilities and openly laments the fact that Clay's overweening desire for the presidency ultimately deprived the nation of his services in that office.
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Format: Paperback
Robert Remini is far better known as the biographer of Henry Clay's great enemy, Andrew Jackson. But in turning to a biography of Henry Clay, who lost every presidential race he entered, Remini has found a subject just as worthy of attention. Both Clay and Jackson belonged to the generation of American leaders who succeeded those Founding Fathers; like their contemporaries Daniel Webster, Martin Van Buren and John C. Calhoun, they charted the course of the United States from its roots as a rather elitist republic into a more democratized republic. Benefiting from the expansion in the franchise following the War of 1812, all five of these men vied for the Presidency at one time or another, and all five were involved in the greatest debates of the antebellum world: slavery, abolition, the formation of the second party system of the Whigs and the Democrats, the expansion westward, and the attempts to steer a course away from civil war. In order to understand Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, one needs to know the life of his great hero, Henry Clay. There is simply no substitute for this book, and Remini tells his story with gusto and intelligence. I knew from the first page that it would be fascinating, as Remini tells the deathbed story of Andrew Jackson. Someone asked Jackson if he had left anything undone. Jackson supposedly replied, "Yes. I didn't shoot Henry Clay, and I didn't hang John C. Calhoun." A great story, about an era when politicians were also statesmen.
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Format: Paperback
Over the past year, I've read biographies of all the presidents from Washington to Polk, plus biographies of other important figures of the revolutionary through the antebellum period and this book is simply the best I've read! Robert Remini is by far the best historian of the period and his writing style should be the model for all students of history. I thoroughly enjoyed his biography of Andrew Jackson and his monograph "Van Buren and the Making of the Demoncratic Party". But this biography of Henry Clay is, to me, his masterpiece! It's more than just a history of Henry Clay's life...it is an encyclopedia of all the major events in American History from 1800 to 1850. Clay was by far the most important figure of the 1st half of the 19th Century. There is not one event or issue that Henry Clay did not affect...either in his opposition to or support for. Remini lays Clay's life bare. All his faults (and there were many!) and all his strengths. Remini's Jackson came off as a very mean spirited and unsympathetic figure. Remini's Clay came off as very mean spirited, but extremely likeable. Remini's reference to Clay as the "Statesman for the Union" is a very fitting moniker.
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At almost 800 pages and about a relatively obscure period in American history, reading this book is no light endeavor. Yet, it is extremely readable and replete with fascinating information about a very important period in our nation's history: that between the presidencies of the Virginia dynasty and the Civil War. Among the many larger-than-life characters of those days, few commanded a greater presence than Henry Clay. In a long-storied congressional career, this man did as much as any president to direct the nation's course and avoid Civil War for as long as it was possible.
Knowing that the author has written extensively on Andrew Jackson, I wouldn't have been surprised if this biography might have been somewhat biased against Clay, one of Jackson's deadliest enemies. It was a very nice surprise to see that Remini was extremely balanced in this study, perhaps reflecting the way most people of that day reacted to Clay themselves. Perhaps one wanted to hate him and his policies and his unabashed ambition to be president, yet on a personal level, the man was impossible not to like (except for a few hard cases like Jackson). To read about the Golden Age of our Senate, when giants trod the earth, is kind of saddening when we see what has become of that institution since then.
In the days of Clay and Jackson, Remini shows us the beginnings of constitutional issues that we may take for granted now but were of intense importance in those days. Issues like the federal government's role in financing infrastructure and the chartering of a national central bank were issues that decided and ended political careers back then.
Certainly slavery, its expansion and the desire to abolish is what we are most familiar with about this period.
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