Daniel Ligon's Reviews > The Great Triumvirate: Webster, Clay, and Calhoun

The Great Triumvirate by Merrill D. Peterson
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really liked it
bookshelves: history

The Great Triumvirate is a fascinating read for those who wish to get a better understanding of American politics in the 1800s. As a triple biography of Webster, Clay, and Calhoun, this book wasn't great. It didn't include enough information about their early lives, their families are only given a cursory treatment, and the biographical material isn't presented in a very interesting manner anyway. But where this book shines is in its treatment of the political maneuvering of these three men. Clay, Webster, and Calhoun dominated American politics from 1812-1852 in a way that few men have ever matched. The impact that these three had on the development of American political history puts them on a very short list of America's most influential politicians (in my opinion, people like Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and FDR). These three reminded me of Alexander Hamilton in particular in that, while none of them ever became president, they impacted their nation more than many presidents ever did.

Clay, the Great Compromiser, was the ultimate politician who could never quite make it to the top but was always a force to be reckoned with. Webster, the Great Orator, was a flawed genius whose personal shortcomings held him back from the success he could have achieved. Nevertheless, Clay and Webster united to save the Union on multiple occasions. Calhoun, in my opinion, was a monster, at least later in life. While personally moral, he followed his political principles to radical extremes, and his influence led to the South embracing slavery (Calhoun quote on slavery: "It is a good...a great good.") and destroying the Union.

As I've been reading through presidential biographies in order, I felt that I could not adequately understand this period in American history without investing some time reading about Clay, Webster, and Calhoun. I'm glad I did. While dry at times, this book is invaluable for anyone who wants to study American politics from 1812-1852. I highly recommend it!

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Reading Progress

July 28, 2016 – Shelved
July 28, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
July 28, 2016 – Shelved as: history
January 1, 2017 – Started Reading
January 3, 2017 –
page 113
January 7, 2017 –
page 183
January 12, 2017 –
page 265
January 19, 2017 –
page 402
January 25, 2017 – Finished Reading

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