In 1850, America hovered on the brink of disunion. Tensions between slave-holders and abolitionists mounted, as the debate over slavery grew rancorous. An influx of new territory prompted Northern politicians to demand that new states remain free; in response, Southerners baldly threatened to secede from the Union. Only Henry Clay could keep the nation together.

At the Edge of the Precipice is historian Robert V. Remini’s fascinating recounting of the Compromise of 1850, a titanic act of political will that only a skillful statesman like Clay could broker. Although the Compromise would collapse ten years later, plunging the nation into civil war, Clay’s victory in 1850 ultimately saved the Union by giving the North an extra decade to industrialize and prepare.

A masterful narrative by an eminent historian, At the Edge of the Precipice also offers a timely reminder of the importance of bipartisanship in a bellicose age.

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Reader Reviews


Library Journal
“Award-winning historian Remini…draws on his immense knowledge of antebellum American politics and sectionalism to give an informed and lively recounting of the (in)famous Compromise of 1850…. Remini’s great strength is making sense of the many and various personal and political interests entangled in the slavery issue and in showing how the ‘great men’ like Henry Clay tried to manage sectional reconciliation and their own ambitions.”

Publisher’s Weekly
“Remini ably dissects a dangerous moment in the nation’s history and the remarkable but flawed man who ushered the nation through it.”

“Condensed with well-dramatized brevity, Remini’s account will captivate the American-history audience.”

Shelf Awareness
“Robert Remini paints a vivid portrait of Henry Clay in this tightly focused analysis of a critical moment in United States history…. A finely detailed examination of the art of compromise in politics as well as a splendid testimonial to Henry Clay’s inestimable value in our nation’s history.”

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