Slavery and the American West

The Eclipse of Manifest Destiny

By Michael A. Morrison

416 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4796-1
    Published: August 1999
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6432-6
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6859-6
    Published: November 2000

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Tracing the sectionalization of American politics in the 1840s and 1850s, Michael Morrison offers a comprehensive study of how slavery and territorial expansion intersected as causes of the Civil War. Specifically, he argues that the common heritage of the American Revolution bound Americans together until disputes over the extension of slavery into the territories led northerners and southerners to increasingly divergent understandings of the Revolution's legacy. Manifest Destiny promised the literal enlargement of freedom through the extension of American institutions all the way to the Pacific. At each step--from John Tyler's attempt to annex Texas in 1844, to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, to the opening shots of the Civil War--the issue of slavery had to be confronted. Morrison shows that the Revolution was the common prism through which northerners and southerners viewed these events and that the factor that ultimately made consensus impossible was slavery itself. By 1861, no nationally accepted solution to the dilemma of slavery in the territories had emerged, no political party existed as a national entity, and politicians from both North and South had come to believe that those on the other side had subverted the American political tradition.

About the Author

Michael A. Morrison, coeditor of the Journal of the Early Republic, is associate professor of history at Purdue University.

For more information about Michael A. Morrison, visit the Author Page.


"This book is a masterpiece. . . . Elegant, witty (mystery fans will note a good number of Sherlockian allusions), and learned, Slavery and the American West is the finest book written on the 1850s since David Potter’s classic study of two decades past."--Civil War History

"Serious historians will find Morrison's book well worth reading. It captures the key events that led to civil war while superimposing them on a framework of western expansion."--Military Review

"A welcome study, a well-written authoritative work that provokes new answers to old but scarcely exhausted questions about the origins of America’s greatest upheaval."--Slavery and Abolition

"A strong book that is thoroughly and copiously documented. . . . Slavery and the American West brings a range of fresh insights that will help historians rethink the conceptual framework of antebellum politics."--Kansas History

"A thoroughly researched, carefully reasoned account of antebellum politics. . . . This book is an intellectual tour de force."--North Carolina Historical Review

"This book is a masterpiece. . . . No historian who pretends to understand the sixteen-year countdown to Civil War will be able to ignore it."--Civil War History