EP 333: Historian H.W. Brands on Washington in the Age of Compromise
Historian H.W. Brands discusses his new book Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants. Professor Brands talks about how these three political giants crafted the Compromise of 1850 which barely held the Union together, why none of these three men was ever elected President, and how compromise went from being politics at its finest to a dirty word in today’s Washington. He discusses John Calhoun’s beliefs that slavery was a moral virtue and that states had the right to nullify any federal law, and he says that the moralizing of abolitionists like Daniel Webster actually drove Calhoun to take an increasingly more extreme position on slavery. He recalls Webster's legendary oratory skills in the days when eloquence was a ticket to political fame, and how one of Webster’s speeches once brought the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to tears. Then he shares how Henry Clay earned the nickname "the great compromiser" by playing referee between Webster and Calhoun, and why Clay believed that the South would eventually outgrow slavery if he could just postpone a civil war long enough.
Order his new book Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants on Amazon, Audibleor wherever books are sold and follow him on twitter at @hwbrands. Today's episode was sponsored by The Flatiron School.