Lanier's Reviews > Profiles in Courage

Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy
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's review
Nov 10, 2009

it was amazing
Recommended to Lanier by: Political heads, History, Kennedy fans,
Recommended for: History and Political buffs
Read in December, 2009

Finished a while ago, yet have a few more notes to remind myself for later date:

Thomas Hart Benton, Senator from Missouri for more than 30 years, 1820-50 who stood against his slavery sister states for the Union and the repeal of the California split.

Pg 77
“Nobody opposes Benton, sir. Nobody but a few black-jack prairie lawyers; these are the only opponents of Benton. Benton and the people, Benton and Democracy are one and the same, sir; synonymous terms, sir, synonymous terms.”

This was a character who lived in the time of duels and he was so well-known for “killing” others in duels or on the Senate floor, that in one of his last debates, Mississippi Senator, Henry Foote, “whipped out a pistol and pointed it at Benton, who dramatically threw open his coat and cried, ‘I have no pistol! Let him fire! Let the assassin fire!’” pg 89.


85—He was relentless in calling a Spade a Spade while on campaigns for his causes. “In another town, spotting from the platform three of his enemies sitting quietly in his audience while he characterized their resolutions as ‘fungus cancers,’ he caustically referred to them by the name ‘as demure as three prostitutes at a christening.’” And further up he belittles Davies having him stand in profile, calling him a “dog”, and Aycock: “‘Who is this man, citizens, who dares to stop Benton in his speech?’ ‘Aycock, Colonel Aycock,’ came a dozen voices. ‘Aycock? No, citizens, no; not a cock; but a hen rather. Take off your hat, sir, and take a seat.’”

92—“But even in death and defeat, Thomas Hart Benton was victorious. For his voice from the past on behalf of Union was one of the deciding factors that prevented Missouri from yielding from all the desperate efforts to drive her into secession along with he sister slave states. Fate had borne out the wisdom of Benton’s last report to his constituents as Senator: ‘I value solid popularity—the esteem of good men for good action. I despise the bubble popularity that is won without merit and lost without crime…I have been Senator 30 years…I sometimes had to act against the preconceived opinions and first impressions of my constituents; but always with full reliance upon their intelligence to understand me and their equity do me justice—and I have never been disappointed.’”

Sam Houston begins on 93, Texas’ very first Senator who years earlier 1820, supported the Missouri Compromise as a Tennessee Senator.

95—“This is an eminently perilous measure; and do you expect me to remain here silent, or to shrink from the discharge of my duty in admonishing the South in what I conceive the results will be? I will speak in spite of all the intimidations, or threats, or discountenances that may be thrown upon me. Sir, the charge that I am going with the Abolitionists or Free-Soilers affects me not. The discharge of conscious duty prompts me often to confront the united array of the very section of the country in which I reside, in which my associates are, in which my affections rest…Sir, if this is a boon that is offered to propitiate the South, I, as a Southern man, repudiate it. I will have none of it….Our children are either to live in after times in the enjoyment of peace, or harmony, and prosperity, or the alternative remains for them of anarchy, discord, and civil broil. We can avert the last. I trust we shall…I adjure you to regard the contract once made to harmonize and preserve this Union. Maintain the Missouri Compromise! Stir not up agitation! Give us peace!”

Took him grave tenacity to go against everything and everyone who formerly supported him to try to maintain the UNION, which lasted for another decade thanks to Houston's stand.
Page 166—examples of shifts of Senate and Politics to back burner as country bored with or bad-tasting residuals from a century of House and Senate influenced, controlled and beholden to lobbyist and other political machinations.

167—“Give me the People, every time! Look at me! No legislature would ever have dared to elect me to the Senate, not even at Harrisburg. But the People, the dear People elected me by a bigger majority than my opponent’s total vote by over half a million. You and your “reformer” friends thought direct election would turn men like me out of the Senate! Give me the People, every time!”

(Senator Boies Penrose, boss of Pennsylvania)

The greater power of technology influencing public opinion more rapidly. This was one of the messages of a summer piece on Obama’s Mega-Messaging in Time or the Economist?

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar—“Better to follow the example of the illustrious men whose names have been given than to abandon altogether judgment and conviction in deference to popular clamor.”

Edmund Ross***
George Norris –173—
“Norris, throughout our bitter controversy, I do not recall a single instance when you have been unfair. I can not say this of many of your associates; and I want to say to you now that if any member of your damned gang had to be elected to the Senate, I prefer it to be you more than any of them.” (Speaker Joe Cannon of Norris—1910)

The man going against the immutable force of the opposition, knowing that this one and only fight was the end of his political career. Not sure how many people could do this; fight all your young life for a place, make one decision, stand by it knowing it will be your last. Death may be preferable?

Robert A. Taft—193

Sun. Nov. 22, 2009
In an attempt to break out of this reader’s Block, I went to the library and picked up Little Boys Come From Stars , by Emmanuel Dongala and JFK’s Profiles in Courage , figuring if I only have three weeks than I read them before I have to return them. Renewing is NOT an option.

“We shall need to compromises in the days ahead, to be sure. But these will be, or should be, compromises of issues, not of principles. We can compromise our political positions, but not ourselves. We can resolve the clash of interests without conceding our ideals. And even the necessity for the right kind of compromise does not eliminate the need for those idealists and reformers who keep our compromises moving ahead, who prevent all political situations from meeting the description supplied by Shaw: ‘smirched with compromise, rotted with opportunism, mildewed by expedience, stretched out of shape with wirepulling and putrefied by permeation.’ Compromise need not mean cowardice. Indeed it is the compromisers and conciliators who are faced with the severest tests of political courage as they oppose the extremist view of their constituents” (18).

Every day there is more propaganda against Obama, seemingly from friend and foe, and this first part of Kennedy’s book on Senators and others who stood their ground, in the midst of the firestorms seems more than apropos today! In fact, one may think this book was written yesterday rather than 53 years ago, while Jackie boy was a Senator himself.

Even before this, however, are claims to support rather than bash those publicly elected mouthpieces as they have a rock-n-hard-place, damned if you do and damned if you don’t existence. Here, on page 5, Jackie defends the moral backing of the Senator’s inner compass.

“Their consciences may direct them from time to time to take a more rigid stand for principle—but their intellects tell them that a fair or poor bill is better than no bill at all, and that only through the give-and-take of compromise will any bill receive the successive approval of the Senate, the House the President and the nation.”

I wonder if he’d be rolling in his grave or bristling from the Here After choking on these sentiments with some of the country’s previous morally bankrupt, socially corrupt and mentally challenged “senators” and “congresspeople” who have stepped in something awful! Most of which fell surreptitiously from their very pie-holes, and I’m not ONLY referring to Republicans.

Well, there is also a great Introduction from his very own daughter, Caroline, which blows away the Preface from baby brother, Bobby. Yet, it seems a book that choreographed, in part, Obama’s very career.

More when I wake up!
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Reading Progress

11/18/2009 page 76
31.02% "Reviewing Daniel Webster's The Seventh of March Speech which helped to prevent or delayed Civil War for another 11 years."
11/29/2009 page 150
61.22% "Gotta read The Seven of March Speech!"
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