No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation'sFounding, With a New Preface

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A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
A Foreign Affairs Best Book of the Year

Americans revere the Constitution even as they argue fiercely over its original toleration of slavery. In this timely reconsideration of our nation's founding document, the acclaimed historian Sean Wilentz reveals the tortured compromise that led the Founders to abide slavery without legitimizing it. This deliberate ambiguity lay behind the great political battles that fractured the nation over the next seventy years. Contesting the Southern proslavery version of the Constitution, antislavery advocates, including Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, pointed to the framers' refusal to validate what they called "property in man."

No Property in Man invites fresh debate about the political and legal struggles over slavery that began during the Revolution and concluded with the Civil War. It drives straight to the heart of the most contentious issue in all of American history.

"In his revealing and passionately argued book, [Wilentz] insists that because the framers did not sanction slavery as a matter of principle, the antislavery legacy of the Constitution has been...'misconstrued' for over 200 years."
--Khalil Gibran Muhammad, New York Times

"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

Publication Date: 
September 3, 2019