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Constitutionalism in the Approach and Aftermath of the Civil War$
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Paul D. Moreno and Jonathan O'Neill

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823251940

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823251940.001.0001

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Lincoln on Black Citizenship

Lincoln on Black Citizenship

(p.55) 2 Lincoln on Black Citizenship
Constitutionalism in the Approach and Aftermath of the Civil War

Joseph R. Fornieri

Fordham University Press

This chapter traces Abraham Lincoln's position on black citizenship from his first reply to Dred Scott in 1857 through his presidency. It begins with an overview of the complex and unresolved question of black citizenship prior to the Civil War, and argues that Lincoln's broad and inclusive understanding of equality in the Declaration of Independence logically pointed toward black citizenship. Despite some concessions to Stephen Douglas's racial pandering, Lincoln kept alive the principle that free blacks were entitled to privileges and immunities of federal citizenship under Article 4 sec. 2 of the Constitution. He said so in his First Inaugural Address and acted on this view under his authority as commander-in-chief, including the enlistment of black soldiers and the official recognition of birthright citizenship in an Opinion of his Attorney General in 1862. Lincoln's statesmanship anticipated the birthright citizenship that would culminate in the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868.

Keywords:   Dred Scott, citizenship, natural rights, equality, prudence, Statesmanship, Lincoln, politics

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