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Nicholas Trist (1800-74) was one of those rare public figures who really lived dangerously, prepared to risk everything for principle. Generally unknown today, and slighted or scorned when mentioned at all, he was a man of importance in his time, for he defied a presidential recall order and negotiated with Mexico the treaty that won for the United States the vast Southwest. Trist was closely acquainted with the great ones of his time - including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson - and was esteemed by those who really knew him. This well-written biography of Trist is also, then, a story of many of the important people and movements of his time. Trist was an idealist, more uncompromising than his idol, Thomas Jefferson (who was also the grandfather of Trist's wife). Trist was respected by many of his contemporaries and, surprisingly for a man of his unbending character, befriended by many. Yet there were many who despised him. On two unrelated occasions, eight years apart, he stood as the most controversial figure in America. In some ways he was his own worst enemy, as Ohnt skillfully shows. An astonishing haughtiness in a man of relatively modest station enabled him to condescend to presidents, quarrel with military commanders, and hurl insults at the House of Lords. Yet the diplomats with whom he worked in Mexico admired and respected him for his unfailing patience and courtesy under the most trying conditions. Ultimately, his career was thoroughly destroyed by its one great, defining achievement: the negotiation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the peace that ended the Mexican War. Ohrt demonstrates that Trist's quintessential character can best be distilled in atribute he paid to another: "He is ... a true lover of justice". Sources for this eminently readable biography include the voluminous correspondence of the Trist and Randolph families of Virginia, biographies of notables mentioned, and the most respected histories of the ti
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