Review: Passion and Principle: John and Jessie Fremont, the Couple Whose Power, Politics, and Love Shaped Nineteenth-Century America

by James Durney on May 22, 2009 · 0 comments

Passion and Principle: John and Jessie Fremont, the Couple Whose Power, Politics, and Love Shaped Nineteenth-Century America by Sally Denton

Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (May 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803213689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803213685

This dual bio is the intriguing tale of John and Jessie C. Fremont.  John is a major political figure from the 1840s to 1860s.  Well known as a western explorer, partner of Kit Carson, California senator and an unyielding abolitionist, he is the Republican Party’s first presidential candidate.  Jessie, the daughter of Missouri Democratic senator Thomas Hart Benton, a noted beauty, conceals a first-class brain.  Both of them were intensely ambitious with the White House their goal.

Today, they are something of a footnote in history, as stated in “Retreat 1862-1902”.  They were undone by a combination of Lincoln’s determination to maintain the Border States and Stone Wall Jackson’s victory over John.  While many question John’s status as a pathfinder, the book shows how accepted this was at the time.  This very balanced book keeps both John and Jessie together.  While the times limited her role, Jessie was a skillful advocate for John.  Many times, she works to retrieve the situation using her influence to smooth things.

This fine dual biography is a history of the times too.  The author has a very easy to read style that makes a point without belaboring the obvious.  We never lose sight of the Fremont’s, the times or their marriage.  While John has many bios, this book is unique in being about both.  John without Jessie is only half the story; this book completes the story in a readable, informative and enjoyable book.

Editor’s Note: Jim is a Top 500 reviewer.

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