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Alison L. LaCroix
University of Chicago (Chicago, IL 60637-5418)
Union, Commerce, and Slavery in the U.S. Constitution from the War of 1812 to the Civil War

A book-length study of Constitutional debates during the period 1815 to 1861.

“The Interbellum Constitution” argues that the decades between the War of 1812 and the Civil War were a dynamic era characterized by both constitutional crisis and conviction. My project shows that the struggle over the interbellum Constitution was the source of some of the most fundamental values, and the most troubling problems, of U.S. law and politics. Public debate in the period was dominated by the issues of commerce and concurrent power, both of which were framed but left unresolved by the Constitution. Commerce became a source of national identity, a zone of regional conflict, and a touchstone of legal and political debate. Contemporaries were also consumed by fights over concurrent power – areas in which federal and state authority overlapped, including slavery, taxation, and public works projects. Drawing on popular and legal sources, my account demonstrates that the period generated a new set of constitutional ideas that bridged the founding and Reconstruction periods.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Intellectual History; Legal History; U.S. History


Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
2/1/2018 – 1/31/2019