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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...


A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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