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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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PRINTED FROM FORDHAM SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.fordham.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Fordham University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FSO for personal use.date: 15 January 2021

At Every Fireside

At Every Fireside

Constitutional Politics in the Era of Reconstruction

(p.133) 5 At Every Fireside
Constitutionalism in the Approach and Aftermath of the Civil War

Michael Les Benedict

Fordham University Press

This chapter locates the decisions the political and judicial branches of the government made during Reconstruction regarding the definition of citizenship and its rights in a broader system of “constitutional politics” in which public opinion played the crucial role. It stresses how decision-makers tried to respond to competing popular desires to protect the rights of black citizens and to preserve a federal system in which states had primary responsibility for protecting such rights. It describes the rival arguments for identifying citizenship with political rights—a universalistic argument that all citizens were entitled to participate in politics, conducive to securing the vote for women, versus a gendered argument that linked political participation with military service and a pragmatic argument that black suffrage was necessary to protect the rights of a despised minority rather than to realize a general principle. It points out that the language of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments reflect the tension between giving Congress a direct veto over state actions that violated rights and reliance on judicial enforcement of constitutional limits on state action.

Keywords:   Black Suffrage, Citizenship, Constitutional Politics, Federal System, Fourteenth Amendment, Fifteenth Amendment, Reconstruction

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