One important tradition in political science conceives of the Civil War in the United States serving as the functional equivalent of the English and French Revolutions, bringing with it the victory of liberal democratic industrialism over aristocratic agriculturalism. From this perspective, the Civil War is notable for its impact on the American state. Surprisingly however, little attention has been paid to the distinguishing features of this historic rupture in American politics.
Through primary source research and the re-analysis of the rich historical literature about the antebellum era and the causes of the Civil War, Lawrence A. Anderson explores the relationship between federalism and the movement for secession in the United States during the pre-civil war era. Focusing primarily on South Carolina, Anderson carefully revisits theory on institutional analysis of political development to expose what caused secession in the United States.
"Anderson provides fresh insights into dynamics of secession that changed the path of the nation in the mid-1800s. The book’s original research carefully details the growing estrangement of Southerners and especially the South Carolina radicals who tested – and ultimately crossed – the frontiers of national loyalty. By exposing the fatal mixture of federalism and polarization that paved the way to national tragedy, Anderson holds up a distant mirror to today’s turbulent politics."
—David Brian Robertson, University of Missouri – St. Louis
"This book makes important new contributions both to the general theory of federalism, secession, and stability; and to the issues of American stability and disunion in the years leading to the Civil War. Focusing on the critical state of South Carolina, Anderson explains the forces generating this state’s leadership in the Southern movement to protect slavery and, ultimately, in the path of secession from the United States."
—Barry Weingast, Stanford University
Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2: The American State and Early Challenges to Central State Authority Chapter 3: States’ Rights in South Carolina: From Nullification to the First Secession Crisis Chapter 4: South Carolina Secedes Chapter 5: The Path of Secession in the Three Souths Chapter 6: The Past and Future of Federalism and Secession