Profiles in Courage

Summary of senators profiled

  • John Quincy Adams, from Massachusetts, for breaking away from the Federalist Party.
  • Daniel Webster, also from Massachusetts, for speaking in favor of the Compromise of 1850.
  • Thomas Hart Benton, from Missouri, for staying in the Democratic Party despite his opposition to the extension of slavery in the territories.
  • Sam Houston, from Texas, for speaking against the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854, which would have allowed those two states to decide on the slavery question. Houston wanted to uphold the Missouri Compromise. His and Benton's votes against Kansas–Nebraska did just that. This was his most unpopular vote, and he was defeated when running for re-election. Two years later he'd regained enough popularity to be elected Governor of Texas. However, when the state convened in special session and joined the Confederacy, Sam Houston refused to be inaugurated as governor, holding true to his ideal of preserving the Union.
  • Edmund G. Ross, from Kansas, for voting for acquittal in the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial. As a result of Ross's vote, along with those of six other Republicans, Democrat Johnson's presidency was saved, and the stature of the office was preserved.
  • Lucius Lamar, from Mississippi, for eulogizing Charles Sumner on the Senate floor and other efforts to mend ties between the North and South during Reconstruction, and for his principled opposition to the Bland–Allison Act to permit free coinage of silver. Lamar returned to Mississippi and gave rousing speeches that eventually led to public approval of his decisions and cemented a legacy of courageousness.
  • George Norris, from Nebraska, for opposing Joseph Gurney Cannon's autocratic power as Speaker of the House, for speaking out against arming U.S. merchant ships during the United States' neutral period in World War I, and for supporting the presidential campaign of Democrat Al Smith.
  • Robert A. Taft, from Ohio, for criticizing the Nuremberg Trials for trying Nazi war criminals under ex post facto laws. Counter-criticism against Taft's statements was vital to his failure to secure the Republican nomination for president in 1948.

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