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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, Secession, and Revolution

Lincoln, Secession, and Revolution

The Civil War Challenge to the Founding

(p.81) 3 Lincoln, Secession, and Revolution
Constitutionalism in the Approach and Aftermath of the Civil War

Herman Belz

Fordham University Press

This chapter analyzes Abraham Lincoln's words and actions in construing the Constitution and defining the Union in the secession crisis of 1861. The crisis came as a result of fundamental disagreement over the type of government the Union was intended to be. Lincoln took up the philosophical issues of the right to revolution and social contract theory. In so doing he rejected the Southern claim of peaceable secession as an illegitimate constitutional construction, and led the Republican party's defense of the Constitution as anti-slavery and the Union as indivisible. While the construction of the Southern secessionists repudiated the ends and purposes of the founding, Lincoln's fulfilled it. The Union victory required Lincoln's persuasive rhetorical defense of natural-rights republican constitutionalism, and confirmed that American nationality was defined by a commitment to political ideas, rather than to race, ethnicity, history, religion, or language.

Keywords:   Abraham Lincoln, social contract, union, secession, slavery, constitutional construction

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