Heirs of the Founders

The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants
Narrated by: Eric Martin
Length: 14 hrs and 55 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (296 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From New York Times best-selling historian H. W. Brands comes the riveting story of how, in 19th-century America, a new set of political giants battled to complete the unfinished work of the Founding Fathers and decide the future of our democracy

In the early 1800s, three young men strode onto the national stage, elected to Congress at a moment when the Founding Fathers were beginning to retire to their farms. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, a champion orator known for his eloquence, spoke for the North and its business class. Henry Clay of Kentucky, as dashing as he was ambitious, embodied the hopes of the rising West. South Carolina's John Calhoun, with piercing eyes and an even more piercing intellect, defended the South and slavery.

Together these heirs of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams took the country to war, battled one another for the presidency, and set themselves the task of finishing the work the Founders had left undone. Their rise was marked by dramatic duels, fierce debates, scandal, and political betrayal. Yet each in his own way sought to remedy the two glaring flaws in the Constitution: its refusal to specify where authority ultimately rested, with the states or the nation, and its unwillingness to address the essential incompatibility of republicanism and slavery.  

They wrestled with these issues for four decades, arguing bitterly and hammering out political compromises that held the Union together, but only just. Then, in 1850, when California moved to join the Union as a free state, "the immortal trio" had one last chance to save the country from the real risk of civil war. But by that point, they had never been further apart.

Thrillingly and authoritatively, H. W. Brands narrates an epic American rivalry and the little-known drama of the dangerous early years of our democracy.

©2018 H. W. Brands (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Lively and learned... Brands has produced a narrative that pulsates vigorously... The three senators wear themselves out and all but die on the job, their respective causes still unresolved, their long public service having earned them fame, but not the political prize for which they most lusted: the presidency (though not for want of trying).” (Harold Holzer, Wall Street Journal)   

“A historical spellbinder... A lively, vivid, and thoroughly researched account of a time when discord gripped the nation and wouldn’t let go.” (David Holahan, Christian Science Monitor)

“Brands’s easy prose and superior, simple organization makes this work an engrossing, entertaining, and educating read on issues important then that echo today in the modern debate on the limits of federal government power.” (Robert Davis, New York Journal of Books)

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Excellent

I have read and enjoyed a number of historian H. W. Brands’ books. This book is about the “Great Triumvirate” as they were known. The great orators from Massachusetts, Daniel Webster (1782-1852), John Calhoun (1782-1850) of South Carolina and Henry Clay (1777-1852) of Kentucky. These three great men were principal legislators in the post Jacksonian debate over slavery and States Rights. They were the key players of the Missouri Compromise of 1850. None of the men lived to see the Civil War.

The book was well written and meticulously researched. The book is easy to read and understand for a lay person. Each of these men played key roles and served in various positions in the government during their years of service. What I enjoyed the most was listening to the debates between the three men over various issues over their years in office. These three men were the greatest debaters of their era. If you are interested in United States history, you must read this book.

The book is fourteen hours and fifty-five minutes. Eric Martin does an excellent job narrating the book. Martin is a well-known audiobook narrator and voice-over artist. He has won many Earphone Awards and was a 2015 Audie Award Finalist.

8 people found this helpful

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Heirs of the founders<br />

Not only John Calhoun, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster the main characters in this,historical story, but a kidnapped free black man also of that time who's story also provided background on these days a decade before the civil war. very interesting how the statesmen compromised to bring forward means to deal with the slavery problem, yet still maintained their own philosophy and position on slavery!

2 people found this helpful

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Refresher Course

“Heirs of the Founders” covers a lot of early 19th Century history, from the War of 1812 to the Missouri Compromise to the annexation of Texas to the Compromise of 1850. But there wasn’t a lot of new material or insight. It felt like a review of things I’d learned in high school.

The lives of John Calhoun, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster provide the framework, but some of the other figures are more intriguing. John Quincy Adams, after his presidency, returned to the House of Representatives as a visceral foe of slavery. The deep feeling of his quoted speech on abolition was more moving, to me, than the political rhetoric of Calhoun, Clay and Webster. Hot Andrew Jackson and cool John Tyler may have had as much influence, in their ways, as the title figures. H.W. Brands digresses at one point to recount at length the life of Solomon Northup of “12 Years a Slave.” That’s an important story, but here it felt like filler.

Clay, Calhoun and Webster were intense, brilliant and persuasive legislators, and this is good serious history. Much of the book is taken up with lengthy quotes from their speeches and letters. But that does not make for compelling listening, especially in the car.

I enjoyed some of Brands’ earlier histories, like The First American (Ben Franklin) and The General vs. the President (MacArthur/Truman). With my high expectations, I was disappointed by this thorough but often plodding book.

2 people found this helpful

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Great book

I really enjoyed having the great speeches of US History read to me rather than trying to read them.

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Heirs of the Founders

Great one arm story, the toughness of the early founder in the keeping of a new young nation and the uneasiness of each settlers struggle in fightging to survice.

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History I Needed to Understand

Before I read this book, I couldn't have told you two facts about Presidents Martin Van Buren or John Tyler. Even though I am well-read on lots of American history, I must admit that my 1820 - 1850 history knowledge was weak. Until this book came out, I just wasn't intrigued by the book offerings for this history period. Thank goodness that this book grabbed me when I became aware of it on Audible.

Telling the history from the viewpoint of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster allowed for the author to give a full history of all sides of political activities for this time. I know a book of this type is good if it intrigues me enough to do lots of internet research about other topics such as Marshall Supreme Court cases and America's war with Mexico.

On a personal level, I am as strongly convinced as I always was that the Civil War was about slavery and not primarily about states rights, but this book explained to me how people from the Southern states felt states rights protected them from burdensome tariffs and taxes supported by Northern states. I didn't know much about that reasoning before. The knowledge I received from this book exceeded my expectations.

I only gave 4 stars because there were some "dry" parts of this book that were too long, but the narration was good and I never wanted to stop listening.


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If I could give 0 stars for the narrator, I would

I think this is a very interesting book, but the narrator is so boring I had to stop after a couple of hours. There is no inflection in his voice, no way to discern whether something is exciting or very serious. I was into learning about early 19th century history and I particularly liked the part about Daniel Webster but I am returning the book because it is unlistenable.

1 person found this helpful

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Loved it!

A gripping story of an easily overlooked period of American history performed flawlessly. One caution to the reader is that this text contains a sizable retelling of Twelve Years a Slave, now a major motion picture. Even this familiar story was retold so compellingly that truly I loved every moment.

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History

I doubt that I could have actually read this book. I listened to it & found some parts very interesting, some parts a bit dry. It is a very wordy book & the more I listened the more I enjoyed it. Definitely informative.

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Three Great Men Who Never Became President

This book presents the biographies of Clay, Calhoun, and Webster. These men helped to guide the US through the from the end of the Founders governing to the brink of the Civil War.

The most pressing question was slavery, but these three along with man others kept putting the issue aside. By the tone of their rhetoric they knew the question would be settled with a breakup of the union.

This book recorded the speeches in fine style. The narrator was excellent. At times I felt I was in the Senate listening to the orations of the day.

If you have an interest in this era of American history. Listen to this book.