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Imperfect Union : How Jessie and John Frémont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War
by Steve Inskeep




Overview -
Steve Inskeep tells the riveting story of John and Jessie Fr mont, the husband and wife team who in the 1800s were instrumental in the westward expansion of the United States, and thus became America's first great political couple

John C. Fr mont, one of the United States's leading explorers of the nineteenth century, was relatively unknown in 1842, when he commanded the first of his expeditions to the uncharted West. But in only a few years, he was one of the most acclaimed people of the age - known as a wilderness explorer, bestselling writer, gallant army officer, and latter-day conquistador, who in 1846 began the United States's takeover of California from Mexico. He was not even 40 years old when Americans began naming mountains and towns after him. He had perfect timing, exploring the West just as it captured the nation's attention. But the most important factor in his fame may have been the person who made it all possible: his wife, Jessie Benton Fr mont.

Jessie, the daughter of a United States senator who was deeply involved in the West, provided her husband with entr e to the highest levels of government and media, and his career reached new heights only a few months after their elopement. During a time when women were allowed to make few choices for themselves, Jessie - who herself aspired to roles in exploration and politics - threw her skill and passion into promoting her husband. She worked to carefully edit and publicize his accounts of his travels, attracted talented young men to his circle, and lashed out at his enemies. She became her husband's political adviser, as well as a power player in her own right. In 1856, the famous couple strategized as John became the first-ever presidential nominee of the newly established Republican Party.

With rare detail and in consummate style, Steve Inskeep tells the story of a couple whose joint ambitions and talents intertwined with those of the nascent United States itself. Taking advantage of expanding news media, aided by an increasingly literate public, the two linked their names to the three great national movements of the time--westward settlement, women's rights, and opposition to slavery. Together, John and Jessie Fr mont took parts in events that defined the country and gave rise to a new, more global America. Theirs is a surprisingly modern tale of ambition and fame; they lived in a time of social and technological disruption and divisive politics that foreshadowed our own. In Imperfect Union, as Inskeep navigates these deeply transformative years through Jessie and John's own union, he reveals how the Fr monts' adventures amount to nothing less than a tour of the early American soul.

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Overview

Steve Inskeep tells the riveting story of John and Jessie Fr mont, the husband and wife team who in the 1800s were instrumental in the westward expansion of the United States, and thus became America's first great political couple

John C. Fr mont, one of the United States's leading explorers of the nineteenth century, was relatively unknown in 1842, when he commanded the first of his expeditions to the uncharted West. But in only a few years, he was one of the most acclaimed people of the age - known as a wilderness explorer, bestselling writer, gallant army officer, and latter-day conquistador, who in 1846 began the United States's takeover of California from Mexico. He was not even 40 years old when Americans began naming mountains and towns after him. He had perfect timing, exploring the West just as it captured the nation's attention. But the most important factor in his fame may have been the person who made it all possible: his wife, Jessie Benton Fr mont.

Jessie, the daughter of a United States senator who was deeply involved in the West, provided her husband with entr e to the highest levels of government and media, and his career reached new heights only a few months after their elopement. During a time when women were allowed to make few choices for themselves, Jessie - who herself aspired to roles in exploration and politics - threw her skill and passion into promoting her husband. She worked to carefully edit and publicize his accounts of his travels, attracted talented young men to his circle, and lashed out at his enemies. She became her husband's political adviser, as well as a power player in her own right. In 1856, the famous couple strategized as John became the first-ever presidential nominee of the newly established Republican Party.

With rare detail and in consummate style, Steve Inskeep tells the story of a couple whose joint ambitions and talents intertwined with those of the nascent United States itself. Taking advantage of expanding news media, aided by an increasingly literate public, the two linked their names to the three great national movements of the time--westward settlement, women's rights, and opposition to slavery. Together, John and Jessie Fr mont took parts in events that defined the country and gave rise to a new, more global America. Theirs is a surprisingly modern tale of ambition and fame; they lived in a time of social and technological disruption and divisive politics that foreshadowed our own. In Imperfect Union, as Inskeep navigates these deeply transformative years through Jessie and John's own union, he reveals how the Fr monts' adventures amount to nothing less than a tour of the early American soul.

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780735224353
  • ISBN-10: 0735224358
  • Publisher: Penguin Press
  • Publish Date: January 2020
  • Page Count: 480
  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.66 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Imperfect Union

As a native of the Great State of Texas (™), I grew up on tales of Western heroes. But even outside of Texas, our country has a tendency to lionize those who embodied the Wild West mythos of America: white men who did stupid or awful things at least as often as they did brave ones, whom frontier legend has polished and absolved. The trouble is, our history hurts us when we make it into a self-congratulatory story. It can only teach us if we also include the moments when we failed.

Steve Inskeep, particularly aware of our current cultural moment in his role as the host of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” has given us a history to learn from in his book Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Frémont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War. Present are all the things we like in an American tale: frontier adventure, fame and a conflict that’s cast as tragic and romantic. But Inskeep, wise to the lure he has set out, doesn’t give us the story we expect. Failures and near misses are rife. John Frémont was a famed explorer who delivered California to the United States, true. But he was indecisive and short-sighted, and though he came down on the right side of the slavery argument, he was unapologetically racist. His wife was the brilliant political force behind him—an abolitionist who was wildly popular with the American people but, because she was a woman, was barred from achieving her own ambitions.

Inskeep deepens the tale beyond the traditional American narrative, giving us an insightful look at two people who seem familiar even all these years later: an ambitious and brilliant woman shackled by her gender and an imperfect dreamer who often comes close to doing the right thing. Within the political theater of this pre-Civil War drama, we just might find ourselves.

 

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