Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

The Constitutional Origins of the American Civil War


Part of Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society

  • Date Published: July 2019
  • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from August 2019
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108495271

£ 39.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • In an incisive analysis of over two dozen clauses as well as several 'unwritten' rules and practices, The Constitutional Origins of the American Civil War shows how the Constitution aggravated the sectional conflict over slavery to the point of civil war. Going beyond the fugitive slave clause, the three-fifths clause, and the international slave trade clause, Michael F. Conlin demonstrates that many more constitutional provisions and practices played a crucial role in the bloody conflict that claimed the lives of over 750,000 Americans. He also reveals that ordinary Americans in the mid-nineteenth century had a surprisingly sophisticated knowledge of the provisions and the methods of interpretation of the Constitution. Lastly, Conlin reminds us that many of the debates that divide Americans today were present in the 1850s: minority rights vs. majority rule, original intent vs. a living Constitution, state's rights vs. federal supremacy, judicial activism vs. legislative prerogative, secession vs. union, and counter-majoritarianism vs. democracy.

    • Addresses the cause of the Civil War in a new and compelling way
    • Explains the complex legal history of the relationship between slavery and the Constitution in an accessible manner
    • Provides the first quantitative account of the historic three-fifths clause's effect on the House of Representatives and the Electoral College
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    'The Constitutional Origins of the American Civil War is a must-read for anyone interested in either the constitutional dimensions of the conflict over slavery or the influence of constitutional arguments on public policy debates more generally.' Earl Maltz, author of Slavery and the Supreme Court, 1825–1861

    'The Constitutional Origins of the American Civil War is a fascinating read about the role of the Constitution in causing the Civil War. Exhaustively researched and expertly written, the book sheds critical light on how a 4,000-word document that never used the word 'slavery' could contribute to a war over it seventy years later.' Jason A. Gillmer, author of Slavery and Freedom in Texas: Stories from the Courtroom, 1821–1871

    'Michael F. Conlin has given us an authoritative biography of the Founders' Constitution as the People's charter. His exhaustively researched and brilliantly argued book should lay to rest any doubt that the original Constitution was responsible for the Civil War.' H. Robert Baker, Georgia State University

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108495271
    • length: 342 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 159 x 24 mm
    • weight: 0.64kg
    • contains: 24 b/w illus. 6 tables
    • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from August 2019
  • Table of Contents

    1. The original intent of the slaveholding founders
    2. Two constitutional wrongs did not guarantee a constitutional right
    3. The tyranny of the Northern majority
    4. The spirit of 1787
    5. The constitutional right of secession
    Epilogue: the Founders' constitution no more.

  • Author

    Michael F. Conlin, Eastern Washington University
    Michael F. Conlin is Professor of History at Eastern Washington University and author of One Nation Divided by Slavery: Remembering the American Revolution while Marching toward the Civil War (2015).

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.