The nation was on the brink of secession, dissolution, and civil war. On the Brink of Civil War tells the dramatic story of what happened when a handful of senators-towering figures in nineteenth-century American history-tried to hammer out a compromise to save the Union. The characters in this critical political drama included Henry Clay, seasoned politician and statesman known as the 'Great Pacificator,' who formulated an agreement in the Senate and would fight to get it through Congress; the gifted orator Daniel Webster, who helped Clay in his efforts by delivering the 'Seventh of March' compromise speech on the Senate floor, one of the most memorable speeches in American history; and John C. Calhoun, a fervent defender of slavery and the South who, though nearing death, spoke to the Senate and demanded equal rights for the South in the new Western territories.
Four young senators stepped into the fray to play their own unique, important roles: Henry Seward, the Whig from New York who many say controlled President Zachary Taylor and who opposed compromise; Stephen A. Douglas, the dynamic 'Little Giant' from Illinois who favored agreement; Salmon P. Chase, the voice of the Free-Soilers and foe of compromise and concessions to the South; and Jefferson Davis, Mexican War hero and second only to Calhoun as the Voice of the South. Eventually, Douglas would take charge of the compromise on the Senate floor and engineer a political triumph.
Author John C. Waugh brings all these men to life in this gripping account. Waugh's richly detailed, swiftly moving narrative reads like a novel, yet he brings perspective and interpretation to the events that will help students understand the meaning of this complex, alarming period in America's past.
The Compromise of 1850 makes history come alive and will enlighten and entertain students in courses on the Civil War era, U.S. political history, and survey courses on U.S. history.