Constitution 101

2nd Crisis of Our Constitution: Slavery & Secession


Beginning in the 1830s, leading voices in the South, the foremost being John C. Calhoun, embraced slavery as what they called a “positive good,” and rejected any limits on slavery.

These Southerners knew the Founders opposed slavery in principle—and also knew they had taken significant actions, for example with the Northwest Ordinance, to contain the institution and to roll it back wherever possible—but they thought that the Founders were wrong to do so.


Audio-Only Version

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Discussion Questions

  1. In what specific ways did the “positive good” school reject the theory and practice of the American Founders regarding slavery?
  2. How does the new view of slavery and of human nature in the South serve as the foundation for a new view of sovereignty?
  3. On what basis does Abraham Lincoln argue that there is no legal right to secession?

Q & A Session

Audio-Only Version

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About the Professor

Mickey Craig is the William and Berniece Grewcock Professor of Politics, and the Chairman of the Politics Department at Hillsdale College.


Available on the Hillsdale College Site


Discussion Board


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