His political antagonist, South Carolina senator John C. I love him. He was spoiled by a lifetime of acclaim he first entered the Senate at the tender and unconstitutional age of twenty-nine , and even his friends admitted he could be a prima donna.
His wit could be biting, and he was easily bored. His ambivalence about slavery led many voters on both sides of the question to discount him as opportunistic. As a young man he passionately argued that Kentucky should end slavery through a plan of gradual emancipation similar to those being adopted by the mid-Atlantic states.
When that plan was rejected he devoted himself to the cause of colonization, believing it possible to end slavery by colonizing freed slaves in Africa. But forty years later his wealth derived in large part from the unpaid labor of fifty men, women, and children whom he owned. His enemies called him a demagogue, but not to his face. Like other southern gentleman, Clay kept a set of dueling pistols and had put them to use more than once.
But these excesses were also in the past, the dueling pistols now just for show. But this was not to be. In place of a scented, embossed, cherub-decorated paper heart, Henry Clay received intelligence that day that put a damper on his hopes and shook him to the bone. Clay was near the end of a two-month stay in his favorite city, New Orleans, when the local paper broke the news.
He was lodging in the elegant and urbane home of Dr. William Mercer, on Carondelet Street, close to the hotels and business establishments where he spent his days winning over the wealthy men of the city with his brilliant economic plans, and evenings flattering their wives and sisters. The fun ended when he picked up the paper on February Clay was flabbergasted, unwilling to believe the news, but also afraid it was true: reportedly President John Tyler had secretly negotiated a treaty to annex the Republic of Texas and was at that very moment lining up supporters for the bill in the Senate.
Surely the great Henry Clay, who until two years before had been the senior senator from Kentucky and who was currently preparing for his third presidential run, should have known about a matter of such monumental importance both to the nation and to his status as a power broker in Washington. How could he be so out of the loop? In the winter of —44, Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur had nearly drafted a treaty with the Lone Star Republic and had employed his masterly lobbying abilities to persuade a majority of U. With two-thirds of the Senate lined up, annexation was all but ensured.
This was a startling turn of events, both for Henry Clay and for the nation. As Speaker, Clay offered patronage, controlled legislation and desirable committee appointments, and even decided who became president in the contested election of , favoring Adams over Andrew Jackson despite the fact that Old Hickory had received more electoral and popular votes.
A Wicked War by Amy S. Greenberg
The following decades became known as the Age of Jackson, but they could just as surely be called the Age of Clay, for Clay was as much a force of nature in American politics as his archfoe. The difference, of course, was that Andrew Jackson had won two presidential elections, while Henry Clay had twice lost. In Henry Clay was consumed with the notion that his time, at long last, had come.
But New Orleans was the launching pad for a lengthy tour of the Southeast designed to shore up his support in the region, and so far things had gone swimmingly. In public squares and in private drawing rooms, the good people of New Orleans proclaimed Henry Clay their undisputed choice for president. The Texians as they called themselves invoked the American Revolution to justify their actions, but their objections to Mexican rule extended beyond representation, taxes, and trade.
In Mexico attempted to restrict immigration into Texas and to limit slaveholding. Thousands of white American men from the South and West illegally crossed into Texas in order to join the fight against Mexico. Many fewer, primarily ministers and abolitionists, attacked the legitimacy of the rebellion. But outside New England, where a significant minority supported the abolition of slavery, few Americans believed that Mexicans occupied the moral high ground in this conflict.
There was no need to exaggerate or sensationalize. Mexican forces piled up Texian corpses, soaked them in oil, and set them on fire. At Goliad, although his subordinate agreed to treat surrendering forces as prisoners of war, Santa Anna arbitrarily set aside the agreement, marched Texians out of town, and had them all shot. How peace ultimately prevailed is the most surprising part of her story. In these fast-turning pages, we see clashes among political opportunists, moments of eloquence and pathos-all under the rising sun of American power.
Amy Greenberg makes us live the war vicariously through the lives of the aging patriarch Henry Clay who lost a son in Mexico, the husband-and-wife presidential team of James K. On the contrary, Greenberg argues in A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the Invasion of Mexico that the eleventh president thoroughly deserved the sobriquet "Polk the Mendacious," bestowed upon him by his political enemies.
In Greenberg's telling of events leading up to the clash of arms in the spring of , Polk never really sought a peaceful settlement with Mexico. Rather, she argues, the decision to send diplomat John Slidell to negotiate with Mexican leaders was little more than a "charade" by the administration to provoke them into hostilities p. Polk then proceeded to use the attack on the Rio Grande as a pretext to demand satisfaction in the form of territorial concessions.
Unlike many biographers of the eleventh president, Greenberg gives considerable attention to Sarah Polk, his most trusted advisor, going so far as to name one chapter "Mr. Polk's War.
A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the U.S. Invasion of Mexico (CD-Audio) | The Book Table
But this is more a book about those who opposed the war than it is about those responsible for it. Greenberg's title comes from a quote from Ulysses S. Chris DeRose.
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Invasion of Mexico by Amy S. Greenberg Narrated by Caroline Shaffer. It's free and yours to keep.