August 12, 2012
THOMAS HART BENTON I
JFK's book highlights the stories of eight United States Senators who risked their political careers to pursue justice.
In the introduction to the Memorial Edition, Robert Kennedy writes:
"Courage is the virtue that President Kennedy most admired. That is why this book so fitted his personality, his beliefs."
JFK Library Image
The title of Chapter IV is Thomas Hart Benton.
Senator Kennedy begins this chapter with this quote from a speech given by Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri in 1850:
"Mr. President, sir.....I never quarrel, sir. But sometimes I fight, sir; & whenever I fight, sir, a funeral follows, sir."
These words typify a man who was known, JFK writes, "as a rough & tumble fighter off & on the Senate floor...."
Benton, who championed the West "with a boundless energy" was the 1st member of the Senate to ever serve 30 consecutive years.
Despite his popularity with the people, Senator Benton was not thought of highly by colleagues in his own Democratic party and, like Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, put Union over devotion to section or party.
In 1844, Benton broke with both with the South & the Democratic Party by "engineering the defeat" of the Texas Annexation treaty.
The MISSOURI REGISTER labeled the Senator...."a demagogue & a tyrant at heart....the greatest egotist in Christendom.....Wherever he goes, whatever he does, he shows but one characteristic--that of a blustering, insolent, unscrupulous demagogue."
Senator Thomas Hart Benton
Painting by Ferdinand
Thomas Lee Boyle, 1861
Photo by Cliff1066