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The Constitution in Congress: Descent into the Maelstrom, 1829-1861

This acclaimed series serves as a biography of the U.S. Constitution, offering an indispensable survey of 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 Constitution in Congress 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, legal scholar David P. Currie 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, Currie shows how the Southern Democrats dangerously diminished federal authority and expanded states' rights, threatening the nation's very survival. 

Like its predecessors, this fourth volume of The Constitution in Congress will be an invaluable reference for legal scholars and constitutional historians alike.

344 pages | 6 5/8 x 9 3/8 | © 2005

History: American History

Law and Legal Studies: Legal History, The Constitution and the Courts

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations and Shortened Titles
Prologue: Speak No Evil
Chapter 1. The Great Petition Fight
I. Skirmishing
II. The Right to Petition
III. Slavery in the District of Columbia
IV. The Indomitable Mr. Adams
Chapter 2. South Carolina, Arkansas, and Liberia
I. Stopping the Mails
II. Michigan
III. Arkansas
IV. Colonization
V. Exclusion
Part One: Diplomacy, Expansion, and Force
Chapter 3. O Canada!
I. Breaking the Ice
II. Neutrality
III. McLeod
IV. Habeas Corpus
V. States and Subjects of Foreign States
VI. The Law of Nations
Chapter 4. Around the Pole
I. The Dorr Rebellion
II. Oregon
III. The Danish Treaty
Chapter 5. The Great Southwest
I. Texas, Li’l Darlin’
A. Jackson and Texas
B. Tyler and Texas
C. Treaties and Wars
D. Statehood
II. Mr. Polk’s War
A. Who Started It?
B. Other Issues
Chapter 6. Brushfires
I. Glad Tidings
II. Greytown
III. Panama
IV. The Adventures of William Walker
V. President Buchanan and Executive Restraint
Part Two: The Evil Empire
Chapter 7. Mr. Wilmot’s Proviso
I. Oregon and the Southwest
A. The Facts
B. The Arguments
II. New Notions: The Thirtieth Congress
A. Popular Sovereignty
B. Property
C. Judicial Decision
D. Statehood--and the Army
Chapter 8. Mr. Clay’s Compromise
I. California
II. New Mexico and Utah
III. The Texas Boundary
A. Adjudication
B. Negotiation
C. Force
IV. Fugitive Slaves
A. Jury Trial
B. Independent Judges
C. Habeas Corpus
D. Indemnity
Chapter 9. The Slippery Slope
I. Mr. Douglas’s Blunder
II. Lincoln and Douglas
III. The Utah War
IV. Polygamy
V. John Brown
Chapter 10. The Winter of Our Discontent
I. Mr. Buchanan’s Challenge
II. Breaking the Bonds
III. The Use of Force
IV. The Consequences of Secession
A. "Three Fourths of the Several States"
B. Suspending the Laws
C. Vacancies
D. The Right to Stay
V. Mr. Corwin’s Amendment
Appendix A: Dramatis Personae
Appendix B: Principal Officers, 1829-1861
Appendix C: The Constitution of the United States


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