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Letters

"No Union with Slaveholders!"

In "No Union with Slaveholders!" [May/June], Allen Guelzo praises my own and George Van Cleve's books on slavery and the Constitution as "extraordinary and thorough" before making his own case for the antislavery aspects of the Constitution and expressing his discomfort with the implications of our books for how we see the Constitution today. Fair enough, especially in a review written for a broad audience. But in his zeal to defend the Founders, Guelzo commits a howler in stating that "none of the ratification debates (including the Federalist Papers) made slavery an issue." My book shows clearly that several of the Federalist Papers (#38, 42, 43, and almost all of Federalist #54) defend slavery's place in the Constitution, in response to criticisms antifederalists had already raised in the newspapers. How a reviewer could miss one of the more original parts of the book under review, even if it does go against a previous scholarly consensus, is beyond me, unless Guelzo is just more interested in defending his own preconceptions, and accusing others who disagree with them of special pleading (as he does in the review), than in what new scholarship has proven.

David Waldstreicher
Professor of History
Temple University
Philadelphia, Pa.

Allen Gulezo replies:

Let me say, as gently as I can, that my fellow Philadelphian, David Waldstreicher, may be protesting a little too much. Federalist #38 is about the legitimacy of conventions, not slavery, while Federalist #39 concerns the federal (as opposed to national) nature of the new government; Federalist #42 is a review of the federal power regulating commerce and mentions, not slavery, but the prohibition of slave trade, which Madison characterizes as an "unnatural traffic"; Federalist #43 discusses the power of the federal government to suppress insurrections, but this can only be construed to refer to slavery if it is supposed that Madison was writing, in wink-and-nod fashion, about slave insurrections; ...

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