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4:01 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

'America's Great Debate' Saved Union From War

Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 12:32 pm

The Civil War remains the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history and the defining crisis of the nation. But it might easily have started 12 years earlier.

In 1850, California's application to join the Union threatened to unhinge the delicate balance of pro- and anti-slavery forces. The flood of European immigration had shifted power in the House of Representatives decisively to the North. Another free state would tilt the U.S. Senate.

The issue went beyond California to the status of all the other territories conquered in the war with Mexico and to the shape of a nation many believed would inevitably absorb Canada, the Caribbean and maybe Central America, as well. It forced the country to confront the central issue — slavery.

In a new book, America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas and the Compromise That Preserved the Union, Fergus Bordewich examines the longest debate in the history of the U.S. Senate and how bitter partisans reached across the divide to craft a compromise that both staved off a civil war and made one inevitable.

"In 1850," Bordewich tells NPR's Neal Conan, "the North wasn't ready to fight a civil war." By and large, Northerners "didn't even believe that secession was going to occur." But Southerners, he says, "not all but a great many, had already mentally and I feel like even spiritually seceded from the United States. They were ready to go." And had Southerners gotten what they were looking for in 1850, "the North would have lost the Civil War."


Interview Highlights

On what the country would have looked like, had secession occurred in 1850

"It seemed obvious to the people of 1850 that if secession took place in one part of the country, it was probably going to be replicated by precedent in other parts of the country, and that most likely California, rich with gold, would go its own way along with the rest of the West Coast, Oregon and what later became Washington, very viable as an independent country.

"And again, if secession were established as a precedent in North America, it was believed by many that New England might go its own way at some point, the Upper Midwest might go its own way, and that the entire United States at the time, the entire continent would fragment."

On "the great triumvirate": John J. Calhoun, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster

"These were the great aging lions of the Senate, all of them very old, at the outer end of their life spans. And all of them would soon be dead. ...

"Calhoun drops dead right in the middle of the debate, not on the floor of the Senate but during the debate. Here's Calhoun, the fierce, enraged voice of the slave-holding South, defends slavery at any cost, secession before relinquishing a slave. A bit of an odd man out initially.

"Clay, the great compromiser from Kentucky, a slave owner himself but absolutely against the extension of slavery to the West. And he's the man who's called on to somehow find a path out of this wilderness of anger and suspicion and warmongering.

"And Daniel Webster, severely alcoholic by this point, sometimes barely steady on his feet, sonorous, spectacular orator, throws his weight behind Clay and compromise. One of the great acts of political courage in American history in that he committed political suicide by doing that. ... He'd been a great voice of anti-slavery for decades, and he threw that great sonorous voice behind the Fugitive Slave Law.

"So you have Clay and Webster aligned, working together toward compromise, Calhoun somewhat on the outside but with a whole new contingent of young, angry pro-slavery men led by Jefferson Davis primarily coming up after him."

On why the Compromise of 1850 matters, even though the Civil War eventually happened

"The most important thing about the Compromise of 1850 was that it prevented war in 1850. The country was on the brink of war. It was much closer to a shooting war than I think most people realize today, although it was quite manifest to Americans South and North in 1850. Had those first shots been fired, it wouldn't have been in Charleston Harbor. Those shots were going to be fired in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

"Why is that? Because Texas was organizing an army to march on the New Mexico Territory, to incorporate it into Texas as part of an ambitious plan to carry slavery further Westward, eventually to the Pacific Ocean. This was not far-fetched to the people of the time.

"Zachary Taylor, one of the most interesting, mostly forgotten presidents in American history, war hero of the Mexican War, a tough, tough man, a slave-owner but dead against the extension of slavery, said publicly that he would lead an army himself to New Mexico to fend off the Texans if it came to that.

"War was about to happen, and, yes, the compromise unraveled, but basically it bought a decade for the rest of the country. It took the North another 10 years to become ready to fight a war that it eventually won."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Over the next three years, the anniversaries arrive in sequence: Shiloh, Antietam, Chancellorsville, on to Petersburg and Appomattox. A hundred and 50 years later, the Civil War remains the bloodiest conflict in American history and the defining crisis of the nation.

It might easily have started 12 years earlier. In 1850, California's application to join the Union threatened to unhinge the delicate balance of pro- and anti-slavery forces. The flood of European immigration had shifted power in the House of Representatives decisively to the North, another free state would tilt the U.S. Senate.

The issue went beyond California, of course, to the status of all the other territories conquered in the war with Mexico to the shape of a nation many believed would inevitably absorb Canada, the Caribbean, maybe Central America, as well, and it forced the country to confront the central issue - slavery.

In a new book, Fergus Bordewich examines the longest debate in the history of the U.S. Senate and how bitter partisans reached across the divide to craft a compromise that both staved off a civil war and made one inevitable. If you have questions about antebellum politics and the Compromise of 1850, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, violinist Joshua Bell on his new role as music director and conductor of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. But first, historian Fergus Bordewich joins us here in Studio 3A. His new book is "America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas and the Compromise That Preserved the Union." Nice to have you back on the program.

FERGUS BORDEWICH: Thank you, Neal, it's a pleasure to be here.

CONAN: And if the compromise just postponed the Civil War by a decade or so, what's the big deal?

BORDEWICH: Well, in 1850, the North wasn't ready to fight a civil war. The North was not geared to war; Northerners weren't talking about war. Southerners, not all but a great many, had already mentally and I feel like even spiritually seceded from the United States. They were ready to go. The talk of secession was very widespread in the South.

There were calls to raise militias, to raise troops and indeed to even be ready to fight federal troops over Texas' claim to the New Mexico Territory. The North, meanwhile, was divided and by and large didn't even believe that secession was going to occur. The North would have lost the Civil War had there been a war in 1850.

CONAN: Well, you can debate, you know, hypotheticals all you want, but had that happened, we would have seen a continent very different from the one that we see today.

BORDEWICH: Yeah, we would've indeed. It seemed obvious to the people of 1850 that if secession took place in one part of the country, it was probably going to be replicated by precedent in other parts of the country and that most likely California, rich with gold, would go its own way along with the rest of the West Coast, Oregon and what later became Washington, very viable as an independent country.

And again, if secession were established as a precedent in North America, it was believed by many that New England might go its own way at some point, the Upper Midwest might go its own way and that the entire United States at the time, the entire continent would fragment.

CONAN: And one of those states, at least one of those states, I think as you point out in the book, would have been a tyranny.

BORDEWICH: Indeed. The Southern states, the slave-owning states, what became the Confederacy after 1861, was essentially a totalitarian state-region already. That's to say that freedoms that were taken for granted in other parts of the country - freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and so on - did not apply in slave states when it came to the issue of slavery, which was the overarching, most controversial issue of the time.

People who dared to deviate from the pro-slavery orthodoxy lost their jobs, they were physically abused, occasionally killed, fled. Newspapers were shut down or prevented from circulating. So indeed had an independent South come into being based on slavery, it would have been a model in times to come for an American variant of totalitarianism.

And we have to bear in mind also, as you pointed out at the beginning, that it was also a highly expansionist region that had visions that it intended to put into practice of acquiring Cuba for slavery, western territories, that's to say Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, parts of Central America for slavery and had a great imperial vision of its own.

CONAN: So that's the - those are some of the consequences that might have ensued had the Compromise not been reached. However, there were consequences of it being reached, including one of the most odious laws in American history, the Fugitive Slave Act.

BORDEWICH: That's true. You have to bear in mind, of course, that there was a Fugitive Slave Act all along; it goes back to - sorry, it goes back to 1793. And the Constitution made clear that people who owned slaves had a right to keep them. It didn't use the word slavery, but we all know that's something the Constitution was protecting.

The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was a draconian increase in the power of that slave law. In other words, it sharply increased punishments for anyone who dared assist fugitive slaves. And...

CONAN: It essentially enlisted the law enforcement agencies of the free states as deputies in the pursuit of fugitive slaves.

BORDEWICH: That's right. Northern - it radicalized countless Northerners by making them realize that slavery, which might not bother them all that much so long as it stayed down in Mississippi and Alabama and other Southern states, was reaching into their own small towns and cities all across the North and compelling them under the law to assist in arresting fugitive slaves. It outraged people.

CONAN: So that's the backdrop of some of the consequences of the Compromise of 1850. Its prospects, as the Senate began debate, and again this is prompted by California's application to join the Union as it became clear over time as a free state, and the threat that the South felt - 15 states, slave states, 15 free states - the threat that the South felt that if they lose control of the Senate, they have lost everything.

BORDEWICH: Yeah, the South had had an outsized dominance over the federal government from the beginning, partly because the Constitution granted extra seats to - congressional seats to states with slaves, counting three-fifths of every slave as a person. So in other words, slave states had a lot more congressmen than they were entitled to based on the white vote, that's to say the citizen vote.

All but two presidents up to this time had been slave owners, the two exceptions being the Adams. Slave states were admitted to the Union with a smaller number of voting citizens than were free states, giving them yet more representation. So indeed the South had been used to a dominating position in the federal government.

Their last great bastion of power, their lock, was the Senate, where every state had two senators. California was going to through that out of balance, and Southerners saw the handwriting on the wall. They saw, correctly I think, that eventually the dominance of free states with its far greater population and far greater number of states, would bring about emancipation in some form.

CONAN: Let's get some callers in on the conversation, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Our guest is Fergus Bordewich, his book "America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas and the Compromise That Preserved the Union." And we'll start with Mark(ph), and Mark's on the line with us from New York.

MARK: Hi, how are you?

CONAN: Good.

BORDEWICH: Hi there, Mark.

MARK: I actually teach history. I'm on my way to give my exam in history this evening, and it's very funny that you're talking about this. But any event, really two questions. Number one, if you could comment on the interaction of the great triumvirate, you know, Clay, Calhoun and Webster, and what that would be like to be in the Senate during that great debate.

And secondly, what about the fugitive slave law itself? Eric Foner writes it's ironic that the South, which was states-righters, why the federal government to have a federal law. That was very ironic because they were always nullifying federal laws. So I'd be interested to know your, you know, the kind of the source of that and how that happened.

BORDEWICH: Sure, Mark, those are both excellent questions. Well, first the interaction among the men of the great triumvirate; that's Henry Clay, John J. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, these were men - these were the great aging lions of the Senate, all of them very old, at the outer end of their life spans. And all of them would soon be dead.

Clay, or rather Calhoun, drops dead right in the middle of the debate, not on the floor of the Senate but during the debate. Here's Calhoun, the fierce, enraged voice of the slaveholding South, defends slavery at any cost, secession before relinquishing a slave. A bit of an odd man out initially. Clay, the great compromiser from Kentucky, a slave owner himself but absolutely against the extension of slavery to the West. And he's the man who's called on to somehow find a path out of this wilderness of anger and suspicion and warmongering.

And Daniel Webster, severely alcoholic by this point, sometimes barely steady on his feet, sonorous, spectacular orator, throws his weight behind Clay and compromise. One of the great acts of political courage in American history in that he committed political suicide by doing that.

CONAN: And branded a traitor by many of his supporters.

BORDEWICH: Yes, he'd been a great voice of anti-slavery for decades, and he threw that great sonorous voice behind the Fugitive Slave Law. So you have Clay and Webster aligned, working together towards compromise, Calhoun somewhat on the outside but with a whole new contingent of young, angry pro-slavery men led by Jefferson Davis primarily coming up after him.

Now, as far as the Fugitive Slave Law goes...

CONAN: We'll have to pause to get the second part of Mark's question when we come back from a short break because we're coming up on a break. So Fergus Bordewich, stay with us. Again, the book is "America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas and the Compromise That Preserved the Union" is the name of the book.

If you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Mark, we're going to put you on hold. We'll get back to you after the break. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

This is TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. The opening shots of the Civil War came at Fort Sumter in April 1861, 151 years ago. If it weren't for the Compromise of 1850, war might have broken out many years earlier. As Fergus Bordewich writes in his latest book: The Mexican War stoked the furnace of crisis. The spark that set it aflame was struck by an itinerate New Jersey carpenter in a fold of California's Sierra Nevada on a chill morning in January 1848.

That carpenter, James Marshall, struck gold, and the flood of prospectors that followed him West led to California's bid for statehood, eventually the 10 months of negotiations in the U.S. Senate over California, slavery and the Constitution. You can read more about James Marshall and how he started the California Gold Rush in an excerpt from "America's Great Debate" at our website. Go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

If you have questions about antebellum politics and the Compromise of 1850, give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at that website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

The full title: "Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas and the Compromise that Preserved the Union." That follows the title "America's Great Debate." We were talking with Mark just before the break, and your second part of your question, Mark, involved the irony of the South asking for expansion of federal powers to, well - in apparent violation of state's rights.

And Fergus Bordewich, you write: State's rights - an issue, of course, still with us today - initially devised as a protection for slavery.

BORDEWICH: Absolutely. That was an excellent question, and Mark pointed out the salient point, here, which was that it was deeply and glaringly ironic that, here's the South, which for year after year after year had ranted and railed against any hint that federal power might be used to constrain slavery anywhere, anytime, was demanding the - to date, that's to 1850 - the largest extension of federal power in American history and asking the federal government to reach into every community in the Northern states to demand that ordinary citizens help recapture fugitive slaves, regardless of laws in those Northern states that protected the rights of anybody white and black.

And it was a manifestation of a totalitarian impulse and a desire to have central control, the central government use its power when it suited slavery. And I do think one can see the same kind of irony today when certain parts of the body politic rant against federal power, but do want it used to - on behalf of their own interests.

CONAN: Mark, good luck with your test. We'll leave him there to - hope he drives safely on his way to his test. Let's see if we can get another caller in. This is Alan(ph), Alan with us from Connersville in Indiana.

ALAN: Yeah. I was wondering, if the Compromise of 1850 was such a major achievement, why they unraveled it four years later.

BORDEWICH: Good question. The most important thing about the Compromise of 1850 was that it prevented war in 1850. The country was on the brink of war. It was much closer to a shooting war than I think most people realize today, although it was quite manifest to Americans South and North in 1850. Had those first shots been fired, it wouldn't have been in Charleston Harbor. Those shots were going to be fired in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Why is that? Because Texas was organizing an army to march on the New Mexico Territory, to incorporate it into Texas as part of an ambitious plan to carry slavery further Westward, eventually to the Pacific Ocean. This was not far-fetched to the people of the time.

Zachary Taylor, one of the most interesting, mostly forgotten presidents in American history, war hero of the Mexican War, a tough, tough man, a slave-owner, but dead-against the extension of slavery, said publicly that he would lead an army himself to New Mexico to fend off the Texans if it came to that.

War was about to happen, and yes, the compromise unraveled, but basically, it bought a decade for the rest of the country. It took the North another 10 years to become ready to fight a war that it eventually won.

CONAN: You're - thanks very much for the call, Alan. The - one of your previous books, about the history of the Underground Railroad, also speaks to the evolution of the abolitionist movement, which was running in parallel with that, and another 10 years for people to consider the arguments of the abolitionist side, which were not predominate in 1850.

BORDEWICH: Yeah, by no means. In 1850, abolitionism was still, by most Northerners, considered kind of beyond the margins of respectability. And in the South, it was considered - it was seen as something of the way that communism was seen in this country in the 1950s, an absolutely terrifying, revolutionary movement that had to be stopped at all costs.

But a lot of Northerners had some of those same feelings without quite the same emotional urgency about it. And by 1860, a huge number of white Northerners had embraced what had been considered abolitionist doctrines by witnessing, by meeting fugitive slaves who'd been carried north by the Underground Railroad, meeting them personally, hearing their stories and by reacting to the Fugitive Slave Law, which we've talked about quite a bit here.

But in 1850, the great abolitionists in the Senate - there are several. But the one who stands above the others, William Seward, former governor of New York, he becomes, later on, Abraham Lincoln's competitor for the Republican nomination in 1860, and then Lincoln's secretary of state - a towering figure. But in 1850, he's considered a terrifying, John Brown-like figure in the Senate, the only man who boldly and articulately really proclaims the urgency and the moral imperative of emancipation. There are others, he's not the only one, but he's the most effective.

CONAN: Let's go next to Michael, Michael with us from Sebastopol, in California.

MICHAEL: Yes, hi. Thank you. I would just like to point out that you had mentioned that California, that it was hinged on California coming into the Union. In San Francisco, the majority, or a lot of the streets are named after that antebellum period and the gentlemen that were part of that debate that you're talking about, whereas Clay and Webster Street and, of course, Jackson, which was a little bit prior to, but certainly a part of that whole movement there. So I just wanted to point that out.

CONAN: And Kearny Street, as well. Yes, indeed, the man who made it all possible, held on to California for the United States, or at least the lower part of it. Any case, thanks very much for the call, Michael. We forget this legacy. We forget, as you suggest, not only Zachary Taylor, but his successor, Millard Fillmore - I don't believe a slave-owner - from New York, but that these characters are often written off to the dustbin of history as if they were, well, you know, embarrassing uncles that we keep up in the attic.

BORDEWICH: Yeah, quite right. Millard Fillmore, who looms fairly large in this story, is another one of kind of one of the secret, great American stories. His name is almost a joke today, and barely anybody remembers anything that he did. He was a New Yorker, from Buffalo. He was an up-by-the-bootstraps fellow whose early life was as brutal and degrading to him as Lincoln's was to him in Illinois: born in a log cabin, self-educated, never saw a book until he was seven or eight years old, didn't learn read until he was some years along, as well - not a slave-owner, of course.

Like most Northerners, he disdained slavery, though he was not a radical abolitionist, as was his competitor, his great rival in New York, William Seward. He was considered one of the handsomest men of his day. Queen Victoria of England, who met him later, said he was the handsomest man she ever met. I don't quite know what to make of that, and it doesn't have any bearing on the Great Debate.

But Zachary Taylor, like John Calhoun, dropped dead in the middle of the debate. Taylor, for reasons that are complex, opposed the compromise. He wanted to see California brought straight in as a state. He wanted to see New Mexico Territory brought in as a state, knowing all that was going to be free territory - paradoxical figure, Taylor was.

And Taylor was the great barrier to a comprehensive compromise. He died after heat stroke on the Fourth of July, and was replaced by Vice President Millard Fillmore. Fillmore made it clear he was going to do a deal. He would sign any agreement that Congress passed. He was in tune with Henry Clay. He was in tune with Webster, whom he tapped as secretary of state, and with Stephen A. Douglas, who was the real mastermind of the Compromise as it was finally passed.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Email question from David in St. Paul: Regarding Daniel Webster, surely your guest confuses political courage with political expediency.

BORDEWICH: I think Webster's behavior during the Compromise months exemplified both political courage and political expediency. The caller's point is well taken, and he was seen and damned in his - in that time for expediency. Yes, it's also true that probably Webster had some hope - never to be fulfilled - that he might possibly win the 1852 Whig presidential nomination by revealing himself to be a compromiser.

But he also endured extraordinary opprobrium from his fellow New Englanders and Northerners. Read the letters that were sent to him. Even today, 150 years later, they practically smoke with disgust.

CONAN: Let's go next to David, David with us from Jacksonville.

DAVID: Yes. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

DAVID: I can't wait to read this book. There's one I want to mention: "Arguing about Slavery" by William Lee Miller. And it kind of sets the stage for what would eventually become the Civil War, the congressional notes during the petitions that were brought to Congress for the abolition of slavery in Washington, D.C.

BORDEWICH: Yeah. That's an excellent book, "Arguing about Slavery" by Miller, really one of the finest books on the whole slavery debate. And, indeed, it was an early inspiration for this book that I've written, in that I was - I admired how Miller had worked with the seemingly very dry debate recorded in Congress - in his case, in a somewhat earlier period - which, within that shell of debate, was brilliant oratory, compelling argument and great emotion. Miller did a very good job in that.

CONAN: Thanks, David, for the call.

DAVID: Thanks.

CONAN: Fergus Bordewich is with us, the book "America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union." You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's try - this is Monica, is that right, in Louisville?

MONICA: Yes. Yes. Hi.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

MONICA: My question - well, sort of - I would like for you to comment on the role of Transylvania in a lot of the legislation during the time of the Great Compromise and the period leading up to the Civil War.

CONAN: Transylvania was a putative state.

MONICA: I'm sorry?

CONAN: Transylvania? Go ahead, Fergus Bordewich.

BORDEWICH: Well, I assume you mean the college.

MONICA: Yes. Yes, sir.

CONAN: Ah. OK. Excuse me.

BORDEWICH: Well, OK. I think that takes us a bit far afield from the sphere of my book.

MONICA: Oh.

BORDEWICH: To my knowledge - and I could indeed be wrong - I don't see that the college itself played a direct role in the debate of that year, although Transylvania College obviously was an eminent institution and produced many people who in antebellum period played important roles in Kentucky.

MONICA: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much for the call.

MONICA: All right. Thank you.

CONAN: We appreciate it. And let's see if we can go next to - this is May(ph), May with us from Elkins in Arkansas?

MAY: Yeah, that's correct.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

MAY: I was wondering if we could hear comments on - what I had understood was that the churches had effectively split 15 years or so before the war on the question of slavery, and that there was - there wasn't any sort of conciliation going on between North and South, if perhaps, you know, by that split there had been sort of a ripening of rivalries and hostilities that was fomented, really, by and within churches. And I'll just take the, you know, comments.

CONAN: OK. Thanks for the call.

BORDEWICH: Yeah. Well, you're quite right that the churches - particularly the Methodist and Baptist churches you're talking about, the evangelical churches - did split, Presbyterian as well. I mean, that split didn't bear directly on the debate of 1850, but, nonetheless, it's part of - very much part of the background to what's happening during that period.

Early on, the evangelical churches, even in the South - particularly Baptist and Methodist - had pretty strong anti-slavery and pro-emancipation positions. But as they became stronger, more established, more mainstream, their leadership increasingly allied itself with the slave-owning or pro-slavery factions in Southern states, whereas in the North, increasingly the evangelical churches allied themselves with the anti-slavery movement. There are many exceptions amongst individual churches and congregations. But broadly speaking, yeah, those political divisions split open congregations.

CONAN: One of the things that your book does is remind us of a time and that generation of politicians or the second generation of American politicians that were dying out, as you suggested, at the end of this period, who were the great entertainers of their day in an odd way, expected to be up and speaking without notes for hours on end on almost any subject, but speaking with enormous eloquence and, in this crisis, speaking their minds with a passion that you would not see, I don't think, today.

BORDEWICH: Absolutely. One of the great pleasures of writing about this period - and, I would hope, reading about it - is the caliber of oratory and language. One thinks of oratory as being kind of windy and a bit empty. It wasn't. It was rich with content, and it was the - it was an art form in its day. People came from all over the country to sit in the Senate or House gallery and listen to these great speeches by Clay, Webster, Calhoun and many, many others whose names are less familiar.

They used language with a richness and even poetry that is - our political discourse today is devoid of. And indeed, I think the political speech of the mid-19th century, you know, puts the spin-doctored, poll-tested grammatically challenged language of today's politicians on both sides of the fence to shame.

CONAN: The name of the book again, "Americas Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas and the Compromise That Preserved the Union." Fergus Bordewich is the author. He joined us here in Studio 3A. Thanks very much for your time.

BORDEWICH: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Coming up next: Violin virtuoso Joshua Bell now a conductor and musical director. Stay with us. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.