From the introduction:
Before the Civil War, slaveholders made themselves into the most powerful, most deeply rooted, and best organized private interest group within the United States. There should be no surprise in this. Investment in slavery, in all of its financial manifestations, was exceeded only by investment in real estate. The U.S. Constitution was studded with guarantees of slavery’s perpetuation. Proslavery presidents, senators, and congressional representatives consistently put forward slavery’s interests. The vast majority of white Americans, Northern and Southern alike, accepted the institution of slavery, believing strongly that “inferior” African Americans were fitted perfectly to their bondage. As most saw it, the very foundation of white Americans’ liberty depended on the ongoing subjugation of the nation’s blacks, the nominally free as well as the enslaved.