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Fergus Bordewich and America's Great Debate
One of the most contentious debates ever to take place in Congress--focusing on westward expansion and slavery--is the topic of Fergus M. Bordewich’s lecture and book signing on Saturday, June 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the Bel Air Library, 100 East Pennsylvania Avenue in Bel Air. The lecture is open to the public and free of charge.
The evening’s Headlining Sponsor is Harford Friends School. Other event sponsors are The Bel Air Friends of Harford County Public Library, ACER Exhibits and Harford County Tourism.
The lecture is part of Journey Stories, a Smithsonian exhibit based at the Abingdon branch of the Harford County Public Library through July 6 that examines the intersection between modes of travel and Americans’ desire to feel free to progress and flourish, voyage and explore. Various cultural opportunities in conjunction with Journey Stories are being held in library branches and activity centers across the county through early July.
Published by Simon & Schuster earlier this year, “America’s Great Debate,” focuses on the Compromise of 1850, which ended the longest debate in congressional history. For 10 months Congress debated the admittance of California and Texas as states as well as the role of New Mexico, the fugitive slave law and elimination of the slave trade in Washington, D.C.
Bordewich outlines what led up to the debate and focuses on the congressional leaders who fought to uphold—and in some cases undermine—preservation of the union. Among those featured include Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Stephen A. Douglas, Jefferson Davis and William H. Seward.
“Although this book is primarily about the events of 1850, it is in a larger sense about the genesis of the Civil War,” Bordewich wrote in the preface. “It will be clear to anyone who unravels the debate of that year that the war was already under way in the psyches of many Americans, in their agonized struggle to respond to slavery.”
A book signing will be held after the lecture. Hardback copies of “America’s Great Debate” will be available for $25. Bordewich’s previous bestseller, “Bound for Canaan,” will be available for $10 (paperback). Both may be purchased that evening for $30 (cash, check or credit card).
To register for the event, call the Bel Air Library at 410-638-3151. For more information on this program or any of the other Journey Stories exhibitions, programs and author visits, log onto www.hcplonline.org.
In addition to “America’s Great Debate,” Bordewich has written five other nonfiction books: “Washington: The Making of the American Capital” (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2008); “Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America” (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2005); “My Mother’s Ghost,” a memoir (Doubleday, 2001); “Killing the White Man’s Indian: Reinventing Native Americans at the End of the Twentieth Century” (Doubleday, 1996); and
“Cathay: A Journey in Search of Old China” (Prentice Hall Press, 1991).
Bordewich’s books have received critical acclaim. “Bound for Canaan” was selected as one of the American Booksellers’ Association’s "ten best nonfiction books" in 2005; as the Great Lakes Booksellers’ Association’s "best nonfiction book" of 2005; as one of the Austin Public Library's Best Nonfiction Books of 2005; and as one of the New York Public Library’s "ten books to remember" in 2005. In addition, Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post named “Washington” as one of his "Best Books of 2008."
Bordewich, an independent writer and historian since the early 1970s, has also published an illustrated children’s book; written the script for a PBS documentary about Thomas Jefferson; and edited an illustrated book of eyewitness accounts of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Journey Stories is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and the Maryland Humanities Council. The Journey Stories exhibition and accompanying programs are offered to the public through a partnership between Harford County Public Library and the Harford County Department of Community Services.
Harford County Public Library operates 11 branches located throughout Harford County. The library serves more than 160,000 registered borrowers of all ages and has an annual circulation of more than 4.8 million. Harford County Public Library is committed to connecting people with information and promoting the love of reading within the community.
More About Harford County Public Library
The Bel Air branch of the Harford County Public Library is located on the corner Hickory and Pennsylvania Avenues, adjacent to town hall. This two-story building has a large children's section as well as a wide selection of DVDs and other electronic media. Beth LaPenotiere is the branch manager at this location, which also has a convenient drive-up window.