Publisher description for America's great debate : Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the compromise that preserved the Union / Fergus M. Bordewich.


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The spellbinding story behind the longest debate in U.S. Senate history: the Compromise of 1850, which brought together Senate luminaries on the eve of the Civil War in a desperate effort to save the Union.The Mexican War introduced vast new territories into the United States, including California and the present-day Southwest. California appealed to join the Union, but would it and the other territories be admitted as slave or free? The Senate was precariously balanced with fifteen free states and fifteen slave. Southerners asserted that they would not tolerate any imbalance in their disfavor.

Henry Clay, one of the greatest figures in Senate history, tried to forge a compromise that would fulfill the dream of manifest destiny. At the same time a related crisis erupted over the boundary of New Mexico and Texas with the latter threatening to go to war. Clay's efforts to resolve both problems failed. Instead a young senator from Illinois, the self-proclaimed new voice of "the West," Stephen A. Douglas, devised a tortuous compromise that preserved the Union, at least for another decade. As Senate lions such as Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun exited, Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and William H. Seward replaced them. A new era dawned.

Riveting and dramatic, America's Great Debate brilliantly recreates a critical moment when America fractured but did not break.


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Compromise of 1850.
Clay, Henry, -- 1777-1852.
Douglas, Stephen A. -- (Stephen Arnold), -- 1813-1861.
United States -- Politics and government -- 1815-1861.
Slavery -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Causes.