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Overview & List of Documents

This volume is another in the Ashbrook Center’s collection of primary document volumes covering major periods, themes, and institutions in American history and government. It is the second of a planned trilogy on the conflict over slavery. Reconstruction has already appeared; The Civil War will follow. The documents in this volume explain the political, constitutional, moral, social, and economic causes of the Civil War. They show that ultimately the war was fought over this question: was the Declaration of Independence a mere political expression of the colonists' desire to control their own affairs, or did it express a moral truth—human equality—which was the necessary foundation of popular sovereignty and self-government?

  • James Tallmadge Jr., Speech to Congress, February 15, 1819
  • Henry Clay, Missouri Compromise Act, March 6, 1820
  • Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Holmes, April 22, 1820
  • Daniel Webster and Robert Y. Hayne, Webster-Hayne Debates, January 1830
  • William Lloyd Garrison, “On the Constitution and the Union,” December 29, 1832
  • John C. Calhoun, Speech on Abolition Petitions, February 6, 1837
  • John C. Calhoun, Speech on the Oregon Bill, June 27, 1848
  • Henry Clay, The Compromise of 1850, January 29, 1850
  • Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?,” July 5, 1852
  • Appeal of the Independent Democrats to the People of America, January 19, 1854
  • Stephen A. Douglas, “Nebraska Territory,” January 30, 1854
  • Abraham Lincoln, Speech on the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, October 16, 1854
  • George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, or The Failure of Free Society, 1854
  • Roger Taney, Dred Scott v. Sandford, March 6, 1857
  • Abraham Lincoln, Reply to the Dred Scott Decision, June 26, 1857
  • James Henry Hammond, “Mud Sill” Speech, March 4, 1858
  • Abraham Lincoln, “House Divided” Speech, June 16, 1858
  • Stephen A. Douglas, “Homecoming” Speech at Chicago, July 9, 1858
  • William H. Seward, “An Irrepressible Conflict,” October 25, 1858
  • Abraham Lincoln, Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, September 30, 1859
  • Republican Party Platform, May 17, 1860
  • Democratic Party Platform, June 2, 1856 and June 18, 1860
  • South Carolina’s Declaration of the Causes of Secession, December 20, 1860
  • Abraham Lincoln, Fragment on the Constitution and Union, January 1861
  • Jefferson Davis, Inaugural Address, February 18, 1861
  • Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861