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Written by Timothy Sexton
John Quincy Adams
The first President who was son of a President was also a Senator whose courage lay in standing up to the powerful factions within his own party, the Federalists. Adams proved that it is possible to be successful outside the Senate even when sticking to your own conscience means you are accused of betraying your Party.
Sam Houston’s profile in courageous behavior runs counter to the feelings of many who have become the biggest obstacle to progress in America: putting not Party, but State first. The man whose name is synonymous with Texas bravely chose to remain loyally committed to the Union instead of associating himself with Texas during the Civil War.
Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar
Lamar is today one of the lesser known figures in the book, but Kennedy presents him as a man driven by a passionate hatred toward the North in the aftermath of the Civil War, but who possessed the intellect to seek reconciliation. Lamar went on to become one of the few politicians from the South in the latter half of the 19th century to wield considerable influence over the direction taken by the U.S. in a career which took him from the Senate to the Supreme Court.
Norris was a Nebraska Senator whose tenure was characterized by a mercurial polarity swinging between highly idealistic stands and petty acts of vengeance. His greatest exhibition of courage is revealing in the way it shows how commitment to sticking a political candidate one knows is clearly the better choice can wind up looking foolish in the short term, but lend a career gravity in hindsight. Norris was almost a single voice in the wilderness of Nebraska politics campaigning hard for Al Smith over his opponent in the Presidential election. The popular choice that year? Herbert Hoover, who would go on to stage manage the events leading to the 1929 Stock Market Crash and the arrival of the Great Depression; a period which devastated the mostly rural economy of Nebraska voters.
Perhaps the most controversial figure of courage in the volume is Daniel Webster. While much of the other courage shown captured in profile here are the result of standing firm to one’s convictions against the pressures of compromise, Webster is actually celebrated for taking part in one of the most questionable political compromises in American history. Kennedy argues that while Webster clearly sacrificed his on anti-slavery beliefs in taking part in the Missouri Compromise, it was an act of courage because he also sacrificed any lingering hopes he had of ever becoming President for the sake of keeping the Union together—if only long enough for a President with courage to be finally be elected.
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