Fergus Bordewich

The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government

In The First Congress, award-winning author Fergus Bordewich brings to life the achievements of the First Congress: it debated and passed the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which we know as the Bill of Rights; admitted North Carolina and Rhode Island to the union when they belatedly ratified the Constitution, then admitted two new states, Kentucky and Vermont, establishing the procedure for admitting new states on equal terms with the original thirteen; chose the site of the national capital, a new city to be built on the Potomac; created a national bank to handle the infant republic’s finances; created the first cabinet positions and the federal court system; and many other achievements. But it avoided the subject of slavery, which was too contentious to resolve.

[Added August 3, 2023]

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      Fergus M. Bordewich is the author of nine non-fiction books: KLAN WAR: Ulysses S. Grant and the Battle to Save Reconstruction (October, 2023); CONGRESS AT WAR: How Republican Reformers Fought the Civil War, Defied Lincoln, Ended Slavery, and Remade America; THE FIRST CONGRESS: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government (winner of the D.B. Hardeman Prize in American History); AMERICA’S GREAT DEBATE: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union (winner of the 2012 Los Angeles Times History Prize); WASHINGTON: The Making of the American Capital; BOUND FOR CANAAN: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America (named one of the New York Public Library’s ten best books of 2005); MY MOTHER’S GHOST: A Memoir; KILLING THE WHITE MAN’S INDIAN: Reinventing Native Americans at the End of the Twentieth Century; and CATHAY: A Journey in Search of Old China. Mr. Bordewich recently completed a book about the federal government’s struggle to defeat the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1870s. It will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2023. 

      Mr. Bordewich has been an independent writer, historian, and journalist since the early 1970s. In 2015, he served as chairman of the awards committee for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize given by the Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, resistance, and Abolition, at Yale University. His articles have appeared in many national magazines and newspapers. His book reviews appear regularly in the Wall Street Journal. As a journalist, he reported extensively on politics, economic issues, and culture from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. He has also worked for the United Nations and, in the 1980s, served as an advisor on modernization to the Chinese National News Agency, Xinhua. He holds degrees from the City College of New York and Columbia University.

      He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Jean Parvin Bordewich, an advisor to philanthropies on democratic governance and a playwright.

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