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The U.S. Constitution and Secession


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About the Author

Dwight T. Pitcaithley is a college professor of history at New Mexico State University. He is a former Chief Historian of the National Park Service.


"Pitcaithley has produced an important work on one of the most significant events in the history of the United States--the movement by the slaveholding states to secede from the Union. His careful examination of the constitutional sources provides arresting insights into the handful of months between Lincoln's election and the outbreak of war. Brilliantly organized and contextualized by the author, these documents from America's greatest crisis provide a definitive answer to the question of why the South seceded."--Timothy S. Huebner, author of Liberty and Union: The Civil War Era and American Constitutionalism "Anyone trying to understand the debate swirling around the constitutional right of secession in the months leading up to the Civil War will need to consult this volume. The selection of documents reflects Dwight Pitcaithley's mastery of this material, as does his superb extended introduction. One word summarizes this book's place in the massive literature on the Great Secession Winter of 1860-1861: indispensable." --Charles B. Dew, author of Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War "It is hard to imagine a more timely collection of documents. As Americans debate the place of Confederate monuments in our culture, Pitcaithley's book provides hard evidence--from the pens and mouths of Confederate leaders--that Southerners created the Confederacy and made war on their own country for the sole purpose of preserving and perpetuating slavery forever. The documents show that the Confederacy was conceived in slavery and dedicated to the proposition that all men were not created equal."--Paul Finkelman, Fulbright Chair in Human Rights and Social Justice, University of Ottawa, and John E. Murray Visiting Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law "Dwight Pitcaithley has gathered together a remarkable set of primary source material from the winter of 1860-1861 that completely destroys revisionist claims of state's rights as the primary cause of disunion and the Civil War. It is clear from congressional speeches, declarations of secession, and the many proposals to amend the US constitution that one issue drove this crisis--slavery. The collection stands out for highlighting the failed efforts at compromise, and Pitcaithley's outstanding introduction traces the constitutional conflict surrounding human bondage from the original sin of the Philadelphia Convention through the firing on Fort Sumter. The U.S. Constitution and Secession should be read by all students and scholars of American constitutionalism, Southern politics, and American history."--Paul E. Herron, author of Framing the Solid South: The State Constitutional Conventions of Secession, Reconstruction, and Redemption, 1860-1902
"The documents clearly show the intractability of proslavery secessionists as well as the desperation of Unionists' ill-fated efforts to avoid war. Pitcaithley's introduction is a masterful exposition of how slavery and white supremacy suffused the Southern movement for secession and war. Students of the Civil War era will find this collection eminently useful. Highly recommended."--Choice

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