No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation's Founding

Backorder (temporarily out of stock)

Product Details

$26.95  $25.06
Harvard University Press
Publish Date
5.7 X 1.1 X 8.5 inches | 1.15 pounds

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University, is the author or editor of several books, including Chants Democratic and The Rise of American Democracy. He has also written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, and other publications. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.


Demonstrating that the Constitution both protected slavery and left open the possibility of an antislavery politics, Wilentz's careful and insightful analysis helps us understand how Americans who hated slavery, such as Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, could come to see the Constitution as an ally in their struggle.--Eric Foner, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
Wilentz shows what we dearly need to see now as much as ever: that slavery and antislavery were joined at the hip in the American founding, as well as in the tragic history that led to the Civil War. The Constitution possessed fatal complicity with racial slavery but also sowed seeds of its destruction. Wilentz brings a lifetime of learning and a mastery of political history to this brilliant book.--David W. Blight, author of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom
Sean Wilentz offers readers a forceful argument, an attentiveness to competing perspectives, an appreciation for nuance and irony, a thorough mastery of pertinent sources, and elegant writing. This is a book that both specialists and generalists will profit from reading.--Randall Kennedy, author of For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law
Like Sherlock Holmes noticing the dog that didn't bark, Sean Wilentz discerns the revealing absence of a property right in slaves that hardline southerners failed to secure at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Clearly and without apology, Wilentz explains the framers' familiar compromises with slavery. But until now no historian has examined the critical concession antislavery delegates refused to make. There would be no constitutional right of property in man.--James Oakes, author of The Scorpion's Sting: Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War
Undeniably enlightening.--Kirkus Reviews (07/15/2018)
What does Wilentz know that others have gotten so terribly wrong about the founding connection between slavery and racism? In his revealing and passionately argued book, he insists that because the framers did not sanction slavery as a matter of principle, the antislavery legacy of the Constitution has been 'slighted' and 'misconstrued' for over 200 years.--Khalil Gibran Muhammad"New York Times" (10/18/2018)
Stimulating...draws on letters, speeches and public debates to enlarge our sense of slavery's political dimension in the founding period.--David S. Reynolds"Wall Street Journal" (11/22/2018)
Was the U.S. Constitution, as the South Carolinian states-man John C. Calhoun believed, a pro-slavery document, or did it, as President Abraham Lincoln argued, deny slavery a place in national law and point toward abolition? Although most Americans outside the academy would assume that Calhoun was wrong and Lincoln right, the contrary view has gained so much ground among academics in recent years that Wilentz's qualified endorsement of Lincoln's interpretation is both bracing and brave. Wilentz's thoroughly researched argument serves as a useful example of solid scholarship and effective writing on a sensitive topic.-- (11/01/2018)