“Thomas Morris is one of the forgotten early proponents of political and constitutional antislavery,” says David Crago, Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law professor and author of The Creation of a Crusader: Senator Thomas Morris and the Birth of the Antislavery Movement. Crago says his latest work remedies this historical neglect.
The book, released the end of November, is described by Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz as a “truly major contribution to the history of American politics," written “with imagination, unstinting research and analytical clarity,” and is “a rare life study that illuminates the entire antislavery political tradition.”
“Thomas Morris has fascinated me since I first encountered him years ago in an undergraduate seminar,” explains Crago. “He was described as the first abolitionist in the U.S. Senate, but his background and political views were the antithesis of early abolitionists.” He goes on to say, “At a time when Ohio abolitionists were generally evangelicals, Morris lived in northern Ohio and detested Andrew Jackson. Morris was a hard money Jacksonian Democrat who emigrated to Ohio from Virginia, lacked any formal education, had operated a tavern, been imprisoned for debt, lived in Southern Ohio along the Kentucky border and neither belonged to nor attended a church. He simply should not have been an abolitionist,” says Crago.
Ultimately expelled from the Ohio Democratic Party and denied reelection to the Senate, within a decade Morris’ ideas would shape the core principles of both the Free-Soil and Republican Parties’ platforms. “In many respects Morris provided much of the intellectual driving force behind antislavery's move into politics,” says Crago. “I thought it was time his story was told. Moreover, at a time when slavery's place in the constitution has become widely discussed and debated, I thought an exploration of the origin of the antislavery interpretation of the constitution would be helpful.”
As noted by Sydney Nathans, Professor Emeritus at Duke University, The Creation of a Crusader “restores antebellum Ohio senator Thomas Morris to the meteoric presence he had in his own time,” and fills an important gap in understanding the early American antislavery thought.
Professor David Crago currently serves as Visiting Professor of Law at Ohio Northern University. Over the past 30 years, Crago has held a variety of leadership and administrative roles in the College of Law and University.
The book is available online at: http://www.kentstateuniversitypress.com. The promo code is ENJOY3.