The F Street Mess

How Southern Senators Rewrote the Kansas-Nebraska Act

By Alice Elizabeth Malavasic

280 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 8 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3552-1
    Published: November 2017
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3553-8
    Published: September 2017
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5418-6
    Published: September 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3647-4
    Published: November 2017

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Pushing back against the idea that the Slave Power conspiracy was merely an ideological construction, Alice Elizabeth Malavasic argues that some southern politicians in the 1850s did indeed hold an inordinate amount of power in the antebellum Congress and used it to foster the interests of slavery. Malavasic focuses her argument on Senators David Rice Atchison of Missouri, Andrew Pickens Butler of South Carolina, and Robert M. T. Hunter and James Murray Mason of Virginia, known by their contemporaries as the “F Street Mess” for the location of the house they shared. Unlike the earlier and better-known triumvirate of John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster, the F Street Mess was a functioning oligarchy within the U.S. Senate whose power was based on shared ideology, institutional seniority, and personal friendship.

By centering on their most significant achievement--forcing a rewrite of the Nebraska bill that repealed the restriction against slavery above the 36° 30′ parallel--Malavasic demonstrates how the F Street Mess’s mastery of the legislative process led to one of the most destructive pieces of legislation in United States history and helped pave the way to secession.

About the Author

Alice Elizabeth Malavasic is associate professor of history at Hudson Valley Community College.
For more information about Alice Elizabeth Malavasic, visit the Author Page.


“Has much to offer as a legislative history, a demonstration of the value of collective biography, and a welcome contribution to the voluminous literature on slavery and antebellum politics . . . an engaging and accessible narrative.”--Civil War Monitor

“A detailed overview of the antebellum legislative process and the detrimental ramifications of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.”--Missouri Historical Review

“A welcomed contribution to the political history of the U.S. Senate and the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its aftermath.”--Journal of the Civil War Era

“[Malavasic] has carefully unpacked a major moment in US history, one that brought Americans to the brink of war.”--H-Net Reviews

“Malavasic is a graceful storyteller whose keen account of senatorial intrigue will appeal to many historians.”--American Historical Review

“Makes a forthright case for the decisive role in the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.”--Journal of American History