A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States, Vol. I

Author: Alexander H. Stephens

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Last Updated: December 13, 2003
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Publisher's Commentary: Clarence Carson (A Basic History of the United States, volume 3, chapter 9) states that "[Alexander H. Stephens’] study, A Constitutional View of the Late War is considered to be the best statement of the Southern position." Stephens creates composite characters representing each of the major Yankee parties, then engages these characters in conversation about various aspects of the War. These conversations are distillations of actual conversations that Stephens had over the years with people from those parties. As you would expect from a generous and fair-minded host, Stephens allows his guests to present their positions fully and fairly. Then, as you would expect from an intelligent and tough-minded lawyer, he politely and thoroughly destroys the false assumptions underpinning their positions.

Volume I deals with the history of the U.S. Constitution, explaining its roots, and showing, largely from the state ratifying conventions, the meaning placed on it by those ratifying it. Stephens also examines the positions of Webster and Calhoun on the subject, as well as Presidential administrations, and many authors. He concludes by stating that the right of self-government was what the South viewed as the stakes of the conflict leading up to the war, and of the war itself.

See also, Volume II.

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