A fresh look at the value of compromise in advancing the general interest.




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.

Pub Date: May 11, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-465-01288-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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