Preview: Bordewich, “America’s Great Debate”

12 04 2012

Simon & Schuster just sent me a copy of America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union, by Fergus M. Bordewich. As the title more than implies, this is a study of how the U. S. Senate dealt with the thorny issue of slavery in the territories acquired as a result of the war with Mexico. The sun was setting on the careers of Daniel Webster, John Calhoun, and Clay, and stars Jefferson Davis, William Seward, and Douglas were on the rise. The debate resulted in the passage of five bills known collectively as the Compromise of 1850, brought forth the Fugitive Slave Act and the concept of Popular Sovereignty, admitted California to the Union as a free state, ended the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and established the borders of Texas. While the Union was, for the time being, saved, lines were being drawn in the political sand.

No manuscript sources are listed in the “selected bibliography”, however a review of the end notes indicates that quite a few were consulted.

Bordewich is the author of Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America’s First Civil Rights Movement and Washington: The Making of the American Capital.

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