Henry Clay

I have been reading John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” slowly, reading some passages over the course of several months, then munching a chapter in a day. It reminds me of college, when getting approval for a thesis topic was an all consuming preoccupation. I write about this in a post because I would like to revisit those days. Getting a topic was very stressful, but working with the support of my colleagues and classmates, and striving towards acceptance by my advisor and faculty in the department meant a great deal in a satisfying almost tribal way.

Kennedy’s book is all about the US Congress. It must have been based on his experiences as a Congressman. He states that he started in 1954 when he was recovering from a spinal operation, “A long period of hospitalization and convalescence following a spinal operation in October 1954, gave me my first opportunity to to do the reading and research necessary for this project”.

He first served as a Representative in the House. Wikipedia states that he served there  from 1947 through 1953. And then, Wikipedia goes on to state that he served as a Senator from 1953 until 1960, and mentions this hospitalization.

The book is written with a unique perspective. The views are in the chambers and of  the leaders and orators are up close, You can almost smell them, for example this description of Henry Clay of the 1850 Missouri Compromise “a being so brilliant, yet so corrupt, which, like a rotten mackerel by moonlight, shines and stinks”.


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