Alison LaCroix Discusses Her Book with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Alison L. LaCroix

Alison L. LaCroix is the author of the new book The Interbellum Constitution: Union, Commerce, and Slavery in the Age of Federalisms. Her other books include The Ideological Origins of American Federalism. She is Robert Newton Reid Professor of Law and Associate Member of the History Department at the University of Chicago.

Q: What inspired you to write The Interbellum Constitution?

A: My first book, The Ideological Origins of American Federalism, aimed to tell an unfamiliar story about familiar people.

The unfamiliar story was about the relationship between the United States’ federal structure of divided sovereignty and how it both borrowed from, and also rejected certain elements of, the British Empire.

Familiar members of the founding generation, such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, spent much of their careers puzzling through what it meant to have multiple layers of governmental power – the national government, the states – interacting over the same territory and people.

That book ended roughly around 1800. I started writing The Interbellum Constitution because I wanted to figure out what happened next. I wanted to understand why Americans in what we tend to define very loosely as the “antebellum period” were so obsessed with arguing about the Constitution.

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