The Constitution in CongressDescent into the Maelstrom, 1829-1861

The Constitution in CongressDescent into the Maelstrom, 1829-1861

David P. Currie

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226129167

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

This series serves as a biography of the U.S. Constitution, surveying the congressional history behind its development. In a rare examination of the role that both the legislative and executive branches have played in the development of constitutional interpretation, the series shows how the actions and proceedings of these branches reveal perhaps even more about constitutional disputes than Supreme Court decisions of the time. The centerpiece for the fourth volume in this series is the great debate over slavery and how this divisive issue led the country into the maelstrom of the Civil War. From the Jacksonian revolution of 1829 to the secession of Southern states from the Union, the book provides an unrivaled analysis of the significant constitutional events—the Wilmot Proviso, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, and “Bleeding Kansas”—that led up to the war. Exploring how slavery was addressed in presidential speeches and debated in Congress, the book shows how the Southern Democrats dangerously diminished federal authority and expanded states' rights, threatening the nation's very survival.