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

Sally Denton, Author . Bloomsbury $32.50 (460p) ISBN 978-1-59691-019-5

Denton (American Massacre ) produces an intriguing take on the life and times of John C. Frémont (1813–1890), explorer of the West, traveling partner of Kit Carson, California senator, unyielding abolitionist and the Republican Party's first presidential candidate (he lost the 1856 election to James Buchanan). This is not a conventional political biography but a portrait of the five-decade-long marriage between Frémont and Jessie, a daughter of Missouri Democratic senator Thomas Hart Benton, set against the tumultuous background of 19th-century America. It is certainly the first narrative in which Jessie Frémont is accorded equal weight, and is by far the most sympathetic—not just to her, but also to him. John, all too often depicted as a semicompetent and fraudulent megalomaniac, emerges as an immensely talented explorer, overtrusting soul and introverted scientist. Jessie's historical caricature as a hysterical shrew and control freak is sensitively tempered by Denton into a complex amalgam of indomitability and idealism constrained by her times into playing second fiddle. Jessie's accomplishments, writes Denton, "were attained not through John as her surrogate, but with John as her partner." As Denton shows, Bill and Hillary are not the first American power couple. 16 pages of b&w illus. (May)

Reviewed on: 02/19/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-1-59691-488-9
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-8032-1368-5
Open Ebook - 978-1-59691-765-1
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