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This is the first of a two-volume treatment of slavery, capitalism and politics in the forty years before the Civil War. It is both a novel reinterpretation, from a Marxist perspective, of American political and economic development and a synthesis of existing scholarship on the economics of slavery, the origins of abolitionism, the proslavery argument and the second party system. With its sequel, this book will locate the political struggles of the antebellum period in the international context of the dismantling of unfree labor systems. It will also show that the Civil War should be seen as America's "bourgeois revolution."