Instructor(s) Snyder, Brad
The Constitution in the American Civil War
The American Civil War tested, defined and redefined the United States Constitution more deeply, and in more varied ways, than any other episode in U.S. history since the founding itself. This seminar is designed to explore some of the ways in which that statement is true. Each week, we will examine a different topic in which government actors and individuals tested constitutional understandings or limits in the run-up to the Civil War, during the armed conflict, and in the immediate aftermath. Course materials will include primary and secondary historical material and contemporary judicial decisions.
Topics will include: the constitutional status of slavery and constitutional structures designed to protect slave property in the antebellum period; the constitutional arguments for secession; the scope of presidential war powers as asserted by Lincoln (e.g., the blockade of Southern ports, the suspension of habeas corpus); the redefinition of Congressional power by the Republican congresses of 1862-64; the constitutional issues surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation; the Confederate constitution; the state of civil liberties in the north and south; the constitutional questions around readmitting rebellious states into the Union; the post-war Amendments and reconstruction; and others.
Each students must produce a seminar paper meeting the upper level writing requirement (at least 15 pages and a revision).