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The existential question facing the antebellum presidents was how to resolve the dichotomy between the freedoms guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence and the protection of slavery established by the Constitution. This work details how each president dealt with this issue. It then ranks the presidents on the sole criterion of their ability to recognize slavery as the critical threat to national unity, and to act decisively to end the evil and peacefully preserve the Union. The book ends with the beginning of the Civil War - the result of presidents' efforts.