The Rivals: A Book Review

The Greatest Politicians You’ve Never Heard Of

The Rivals

Ever read a great non-fiction book about someone you’d never heard of?

Neither had I until I picked up The Rivals during my research into California’s history for my up-coming historical fiction novel A Veil of Fog and Flames (the second in the Embracing the Elephant series.

What brought this book to my attention was the “Birth of California” in the title. What kept me riveted was the tale of two political pioneers, both from the same party (Democrats), but seldom of the same mind.

The Rivals (book)

Both men arrived in the new territory of California in 1849 – just as the frenzy of the Gold Rush had begun. Both men left an indelible mark on the history of the place that was to become the State of California under their tutelage.

U.S. Senator William Gwin was born into power: a moneyed Southern gentleman who saw potential greatness in a California tied to the American South both economically and, if and when possible, physically with the advent of a transcontinental railroad that would come into the newly formed state from a southern route: through the Mojave Desert.

State Senator David Broderick was born on the hardened streets of New York: a former bartender, the son of an Irish stonemason, who saw California as an egalitarian mecca where working-class men could shrug off the yoke of the moneyed and powerful (who controlled the American political system) to grab their fair share of the American ideal.

Arthur Quinn’s The Rivals is the remarkable story of the fight for the very identity of California. Both Gwin and Broderick had the best interests of the new state in mind with all of their political machinations, but their view of what constituted “the best” often clashed with one another.

Well researched and well presented, Quinn brings these two little-known historic figures and the vibrant but flawed City of San Francisco of the early 1850s to life. It is one of the best history books I’ve had the pleasure to read.

Where once the nation drew its wealth and power from agriculture, the 1850s ushered in a modern era of technological advancements, entrepreneurship that resulted in overnight fortunes, and the advent of a truly global economy.

To experience early California was like looking into the future of America. Nowhere were modern mores and marvels more evident than in the early days of California’s Gold Rush. And Senators Broderick and Gwin were there to usher that future in.

Buy this book on IndieBound.

The author receives NO remuneration for any sale of this book.

Published by

Lori Hart Beninger

Lori Hart Beninger is a native California writer with three critically acclaimed historical novels (Embracing the Elephant, A Veil of Fog and Flames, and A Peculiar Peace) that follow two 19th century young adults as they struggle with survival and acceptance in the pivotal era of the California Gold Rush up to the American Civil War. Please visit for synopses, availability, reviews, and more.

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