940 Constitution in the American Civil War - §009, Spring 2015

Categories: Legal History Constitutional Law

Instructor(s) Schwartz, David

The Constitution in the American Civil War – Spring 2015

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, contemporary judicial decisions. An effort will be made to draw connections between the constitutional law made in the decade between 1857-1867 and present-day constitutional doctrine.

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. A running theme will be an exploration of how constitutional law is made by non-judicial actors: While more constitutional law was made during the Civil War, very little of it came directly from Supreme Court decisions.

The course satisfies the Constitutional Law II requirement, the Legal Process graduation requirement, and students are also able to fulfill the upper level writing requirement.

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