No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation's Founding

An Alpheus T. Mason Lecture on Constitutional Law and Political Thought: The Quest for Freedom

September 28, 2018
Poster - Wilentz book panel

Sean Wilentz, George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, Princeton University; Allen C. GuelzoHenry R. Luce III Professor of the Civil War Era, Gettysburg College; Earl M. Maltz, Distinguished Professor of Law, Rutgers University; moderated by Bronwen C. McShea, 2018-19 Associate Research Scholar, James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University

Americans revere the Constitution even as they argue fiercely over its original toleration of slavery. In No Property in Man, Professor Sean Wilentz argues that though the proslavery side won important concessions in the Constitution, antislavery impulses also influenced the framers’ work. Wilentz suggests that the Constitution restricted slavery’s legitimacy under the new national government, opening the way for the creation of an antislavery politics that led to Southern secession, the Civil War, and Emancipation. This panel will consider the following questions with No Property in Man as its basis: How much were the framers complicit with American slavery? Did the Constitution enshrine its practice or pave the way for its removal? And what is at stake in this inquiry?

Allen C. Guelzo is Director of Civil War Era Studies and Professor of History at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  He is the author of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President (Wm. Eerdmans, 1999), which won both the Lincoln Prize and the Abraham Lincoln Institute Prize in 2000; Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America (Simon & Schuster, 2004), which also won the Lincoln Prize and the Abraham Lincoln Institute Prize, for 2005; Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America (Simon & Schuster, 2008), on the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858; Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009) a volume of essays which won a Certificate of Merit from the Illinois State Historical Association in 2010; and Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction (in the Oxford University Press ‘Very Short Introductions’ series). In 2012, he published Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction with Oxford University Press, and in 2013 Knopf published his book on the battle of Gettysburg (for the 150th anniversary of the battle), Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, which spent eight weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and again won the Lincoln Prize. He was a 2018 recipient of the Bradley Prize. From 2006 to 2013, Professor Guelzo served as a member of the National Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2002-03 he was a Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, and he returned in 2010-11 and 2017-18 as the Madison Program’s Garwood Visiting Fellow and Garwood Visiting Professor in Politics. He was born in Yokohama, Japan, and holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania.

Earl M. Maltz is a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, New Jersey.  He is the author of ten books and many articles dealing with constitutional law and constitutional history.  His most recent book, The Coming of the Nixon Court:  The 1972 Term of the Supreme Court and the Transformation of Constitutional Law, was published by the University Press of Kansas in 2016. Professor Maltz is also the author of Rethinking Constitutional Law: Originalism, Interventionism, and the Politics of Judicial Review (1994), Civil Rights, The Constitution and Congress, 1863-1865 (1990), and over 50 articles on constitutional law, statutory interpretation, the role of the courts and legal history. He teaches Constitutional Law, Employment Discrimination, Conflicts of Law, and a seminar on the Supreme Court. He was a 2014-15 Garwood Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He received his B.A. from Northwestern University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and his J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School.

Sean Wilentz is George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History at Princeton University, studying U.S. social and political history. He is the author of numerous books on American history and politics, including The Rise of American Democracy (2006), which won the Bancroft Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and The Politicians and the Egalitarians (2017), chosen as Best History Book of the Year by Kirkus and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding (2018)In Chants Democratic (1984), which won several national prizes, including the Albert J. Beveridge Award of the American Historical Association, Professor Wilentz shows how the working class emerged in New York City and examines the accompanying changes in politics and political thought. In The Kingdom of Matthias (1994), Wilentz and coauthor Paul Johnson tell the story of a bizarre religious cult that sprang up in New York City in the 1830s, exploring in the process the darker corners of the 19th-century religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening. Professor Wilentz is also the coauthor and coeditor of The Key of Liberty (1993) and the editor of several other books, including Major Problems in the Early Republic (1992) and The Rose and the Briar (2004, Greil Marcus coeditor), a collection of historical essays and artistic creations inspired by American ballads, The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008, a reconsideration of U.S. politics since the Watergate affair, and Bob Dylan in America, a consideration of Dylan's place in American cultural history. A contributing editor to The New Republic, and a member of the editorial boards of Dissent and Democracy, Professor Wilentz lectures frequently and has written some three hundred articles, reviews, and op-ed pieces for publications such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the American ScholarThe Nation, Le Monde, and Salon. Wilentz’s writings on American music have earned him two Grammy nominations and two Deems-Taylor-ASCAP awards. He received his Ph.D. in History from Yale University after earning bachelor’s degrees from Columbia University and Balliol College, Oxford University.

Bronwen McShea, 2018-19 James Madison Program Associate Research Scholar, has taught at the University of Nebraska Omaha, Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, and Columbia University, where she was an ACLS New Faculty Fellow. She is the author of Apostles of Empire: The Jesuits and New France (University of Nebraska Press, forthcoming 2019) and is currently writing a biography of Cardinal Richelieu’s niece and heiress, Marie de Vignerot, Duchesse d’Aiguillon, who founded and oversaw the first missions of French Augustinian hospital nuns in Canada, Vincentians in North Africa and Madagascar, and clergy of the Missions Étrangères de Paris in Southeast Asia and the Levant. Her writings have appeared in the Sixteenth Century Journal, the Journal of Jesuit StudiesFirst Things, and other publications. In 2017, she received a first place award from the Catholic Press Association and, in 2018, one of Notre Dame’s Cushwa Center’s inaugural Mother Theodore Guerin grants for projects on understudied Catholic women. She received her B.A. in history from Harvard University, an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in early modern history from Yale University.


No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation's Founding


Lewis Library 120

Photo Album:

  • Flyer on the table
  • Allen Guelzo speaking at the podium
  • Sean Wilentz taking audience questions