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America's Great Debate

America's Great Debate

Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union

The Mexican War introduced vast new territories into the United States, including California and the present-day Southwest. When California settlers petitioned for admission to the Union, Congress was presented with a seemingly intractable dilemma: with the Senate precariously balanced at fifteen free states and fifteen slave states, would California be free or slave? So began an unprecedented crisis in American government and the longest debate in Senate history.

Fergus Bordewich tells the epic story of the Compromise of 1850 with skill and vigor, bringing to life two generations of senators who dominated the great debate. Luminaries such as John Calhoun, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay were nearing the end of their long careers, while rising stars such as Jefferson Davis, William Seward, and Stephen Douglas would shape the country’s politics as slavery gradually fractured the nation.

The Compromise saved the Union from collapse, but it did so at a great cost. America’s Great Debate takes us back to a time when political compromise was not only possible, but imperative for the survival of the nation.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 496 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439124611 | 
  • April 2013
List Price $17.00
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America's Great Debate

The riveting story behind the Compromise of 1850, which brought together two generations of Senate luminaries in a last effort to preserve the Union.

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About the Author

Fergus M. Bordewich
Photograph by Jack Barschi

Fergus M. Bordewich

Fergus M. Bordewich is the author of several books, among them Washington: The Making of the American Capital; Bound for Canaan, a national history of the Underground Railroad; and America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in history. His articles have appeared in many magazines and newspapers. He lives in San Francisco. Visit him at FergusBordewich.com.

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