Henry Clay

Strict codes of conduct marked the relationships of early American Politicians, often leading to duels, brawls, and other—sometimes fatal—violence

Fistfights broke out in Congress in 1850 over whether the territories just won in the Mexican War should be slave or free—and only a last-minute series of compromises prevented catastrophe

On a raw evening in winter of 1850, a weary-looking, feeble, and desperately ill old man arrived unannounced at the Washington, D.C. residence of Sen. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts. Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky had come to seek Webster’s help in his battle to save the Union. Read more >>

With his usual furious vigor, Andrew Jackson posed a question that continues to trouble us to this day

The alarm bells are ringing for Social Security again. That’s not exactly news— predictions of the exhaustion of its trust fund have been made before. Read more >>

You Asked for It

When American Heritage suggested last year that I put together the article that became “101 Things Every College Graduate Should Know about American History,” I accepted the assignment eagerly. Read more >>

The urge to create literature was as strong in the mid-1800s as it is today, but rejections were brutal and the pay was even worse

How does the writing life in preCivil War America compare with that of the 1980s? Read more >>

And in doing so, the fate of Congress—will it be weak? will it be strong?—is determined

In the fall of 1844 a thirty-five-year-old lawyer from Springfield, Illinois, returned after an absence of nearly fifteen years to Spencer County, Indiana, to campaign in behalf of Presidential candidate Henry Clay. Read more >>

Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson’s right-hand man, was a master of political intrigue who let nothing block his one unwavering ambition—the Presidency. But sometimes he was too smart for his own good

John Randolph of Roanoke was a second cousin of Edmund Randolph, President Washington’s first Attorney General and second Secretary of State. It would be difficult to say which of the two careers was the more tragic. Read more >>

Was the old South solidly for slavery and secession? An eminent historian disputes a long-cherished view of that region’s history

At Ghent five Americans—divided and far from home—held firm for a treaty that won their nation new respect, and began a lasting alliance

I t was St. John’s Day, a gentle introduction to summer, and the road, Lowered by leafing elms and poplars and oaks, carved through lush grain fields and meticulous flower gardens. Read more >>