Constitutionalism in the Approach and Aftermath of the Civil War

Constitutionalism in the Approach and Aftermath of the Civil War

Paul D. Moreno and Jonathan O'Neill

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780823251940

Publisher: Fordham University Press


This collection of essays shows how the constitutional aspects of the Civil War were part of American politics for a long time before and after the conflict by examining developments from the founding era to the Progressive era. The contributors, both political theorists and historians, consider constitutional issues leading to the Civil War, the crucial role of Abraham Lincoln's statesmanship, and how the constitutional aspects of the War and Reconstruction endured in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The authors range widely: from George Washington's conception of the Union and his fears for its future to Martin Van Buren's state-centered, anti-secessionist federalism; from Lincoln's approach to citizenship for African-Americans to Woodrow Wilson's attempt to appropriate Lincoln for the goals of Progressivism. Each topic involves the constitutional causes or consequences of the War, and the authors emphasize how constitutional ideas shape political activity and are not merely derived from other processes. This shared approach shows that constitutional principles are in this sense “configurative” of political life. Accordingly, the chapters place important figures, disputes, and judicial decisions within the broader context of the constitutional system. The aim is to explain how ideas and institutions, independently and in dialogue with the courts, have oriented political action and shaped events over time. This approach is particularly appropriate to the subject matter because the constitutional conflicts resulting in the Civil War roiled just under the surface of American politics since the founding, and reverberated for generations after the fighting ceased.

Table of Contents


Paul D. Moreno and Johnathan O'Neill

I Constitutionalism Endangered: The Road to Civil War

2 Lincoln on Black Citizenship

Joseph R. Fornieri

II Legal Change and Constitutional Politics in Reconstruction and the Gilded Age

5 At Every Fireside

Michael Les Benedict

III Contesting the Legacy of Lincoln and the Civil War in the Progressive Era

End Matter