Even while slavery existed, Americans debated slavery. Was it a profitable and healthy institution? If so, for whom? The abolition of slavery in 1865 did not end this debate, and it still remains among the most hotly disputed topics in American history. Smith outlines the main contours of this debate, summarizes the contending viewpoints, and weighs the relative importance, strengths and weaknesses of the various interpretations. This book introduces an important topic in American history in a manner that is accessible to students.