If you have ever had any curiosities about any of the leading figures of AmericanHistory, from John Quincy Adams to Robert A. Taft, John Fitzgerald Kennedy details foryou the accomplishments and personalities of a great cross-section of Americana. Mindyou, this book is not a provocative thriller, nor an aloof murder story, but an encyclopediaof sorts, a personal reference. The people that JFK wrote about were truly courageous andintriguing, and upon reading about them, you begin to immediately respect them. Kennedywon the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature with this book, and with all the credit given tothis book, how can one argue with a masterpiece? One great merit of this volume is thatits instances of courage are all true, clear and in the last analysis constructive; its heroes-John Quincy Adams, Webster, Houston, Ross of Kansas, George Norris-all exercised theircourage in a noble way for large ends.
The Foreward was written by Allen Nevins, a great journalist and admirer of theLate Kennedy(The most amazing part being that Kennedy at this time was still a senator!).
With such a lofty opinion of the ex-president, the foreward was very upbeat. It spoke ofthe differentiations between courage and bravery, the very definition of courage, and evensome of the reasons that a few of the men qualified to enter JFK’s profiles. The preface,written by JFK himself, was merely a thank-you to the brave and trail-blazing politiciansthat preceded him, and to his wife.
All in all, there are eight profiles of Kennedy’s most revered men. The first listedbeing John Q. Adams. According to JFK, Adams was young, very unsure and yet,determined. Adams received threats in the mail from the federalist party and was preparedto leave any politics he was set to go into. In time, he began a very powerful man, takingpart in more important events than anyone else in our history, the most important, ofcourse, being the presidency.
The succeeding profile is of Daniel Webster, one of the most powerful orators andstatesmen of his time, or any other. Daniel Webster is familiar to many of us as the battlerof Jabez Stone’s soul against the devil in Stephen Vincent Benet’s story. There could be nomistaking that he was a great man, as JFK writes, “He was a great man-he looked likeone, talked like one, was treated like one, and insisted he was one.”The next profile is of Thomas Hart Benton, a senator from Missouri, a man thatused to engage in stand-off’s and shootings. He held all of the people he spoke within…fear. He spoke well, and always had a rebuttal to even the most stinging sarcasm. As amatte of fact, Benton tried his hardest to become as fearsome as possible, brushing himselfdaily with a horsehair brush, giving his skin a very leathery texture. Benton held such a fixin the Capitol that Missouri voted him to stay in office for just over thirty years! Bentonstood up for what he wanted to happen, he listened less and less to his people in Missouri,and he became very devoted to winning everything he advocated for. Perhaps that is whyhe was considered courageous, that or the pistols he always carried into the Capitol.
Thirdly was Sam Houston, governor of both Texas and Tennessee. During his timeas a statesman for Texas, it was up to him to bring Texas into statehood, and heaccomplished it well. He was dubbed ‘The Magnificent Barbarian” due to his neanderthalicfeatures, and moving orations. He was barnone the most popular statesman of his time,struggling like mad to accomplish all that he had set forth in a long journal to himself. Hispassion for his voters, the people, placed him in many high offices, in two different states!His worst mistake that ultimately ended his career was his vote to put an end to slavery, avote that went against the thoughts of most people in Texas.
Next in line was Edmund G. Ross, a young senator from Kansas. Ross wasadmitted during one of the most turmoil-filled epoch of American History, the time ofPresident Andrew Johnson. Andrew had succeeded Lincoln as president, and was sent intohis job to clean up all the hatred shared between the North and the South. Of course, theSouth had been conquered, and it was up to Johnson to decide what happens to the