The F Street Mess

How Southern Senators Rewrote the Kansas-Nebraska Act

By Alice Elizabeth Malavasic

280 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 8 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3552-1
    Published: November 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3647-4
    Published: November 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3553-8
    Published: September 2017

Civil War America

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Pushing back against the idea that the Slave Power conspiracy was merely an ideological construction, Alice Elizabeth Malavasic argues that some southern politicians in the 1850s did indeed hold an inordinate amount of power in the antebellum Congress and used it to foster the interests of slavery. Malavasic focuses her argument on Senators David Rice Atchison of Missouri, Andrew Pickens Butler of South Carolina, and Robert M. T. Hunter and James Murray Mason of Virginia, known by their contemporaries as the “F Street Mess” for the location of the house they shared. Unlike the earlier and better-known triumvirate of John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster, the F Street Mess was a functioning oligarchy within the U.S. Senate whose power was based on shared ideology, institutional seniority, and personal friendship.

By centering on their most significant achievement--forcing a rewrite of the Nebraska bill that repealed the restriction against slavery above the 36° 30′ parallel--Malavasic demonstrates how the F Street Mess’s mastery of the legislative process led to one of the most destructive pieces of legislation in United States history and helped pave the way to secession.

About the Author

Alice Elizabeth Malavasic is associate professor of history at Hudson Valley Community College.
For more information about Alice Elizabeth Malavasic, visit the Author Page.


“Has much to offer as a legislative history, a demonstration of the value of collective biography, and a welcome contribution to the voluminous literature on slavery and antebellum politics . . . an engaging and accessible narrative.”--Civil War Monitor

“A detailed overview of the antebellum legislative process and the detrimental ramifications of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.”--Missouri Historical Review

“The argument and research here are first-rate. Malavasic brings to this topic keen knowledge and a skill set that few historians have.”—Leonard L. Richards, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“In this fresh retelling of how four senators came together in 1850 to take control of Congress, Malavasic sheds new light on a lovely conspiracy that is at the heart of the coming of the Civil War. This is a timely and unnerving story about the perils of a democratic system built on a Congress dominated by seniority and the powers of committee.”—Scott Reynolds Nelson, University of Georgia