Most literature on the Civil War focuses on soldiers, battles, and politics. But for every soldier in the United States Army, there were nine civilians at home. The war affected those left on the home front in many ways. Westward expansion and land ownership increased. The draft disrupted families while a shortage of male workers created opportunities for women that were previously unknown.
The war also enlarged the national government in ways unimagined before 1861. The Homestead Act, the Land Grant College Act, civil rights legislation, the use of paper currency, and creation of the Internal Revenue Service to collect taxes to pay for the war all illustrate how the war fundamentally, and permanently, changed the nation.
The essays in this book, drawn from a wide range of historical expertise and approaching the topic from a variety of angles, explore the changes in life at home that led to a revolution in American society and set the stage for the making of modern America.
Contributors: Jean H. Baker, Jenny Bourne, Paul Finkelman, Guy Gugliotta, Daniel W. Stowell, Peter Wallenstein, Jennifer L. Weber.
During the long decade from 1848 to 1861 America was like a train speeding down the track, without an engineer or brakes. The new territories acquired from Mexico had vastly increased the size of the nation, but debate over their status—and more importantly the status of slavery within them—paralyzed the nation. Southerners gained access to the territories and a draconian fugitive slave law in the Compromise of 1850, but this only exacerbated sectional tensions. Virtually all northerners, even those who supported the law because they believed that it would preserve the union, despised being turned into slave catchers. In 1854, in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Congress repealed the ban on slavery in the remaining unorganized territories. In 1857, in the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court held that all bans on slavery in the territories were unconstitutional. Meanwhile, northern whites, free blacks, and fugitive slaves resisted the enforcement of the 1850 fugitive slave law. In Congress members carried weapons and Representative Preston Brooks assaulted Senator Charles Sumner with a cane, nearly killing him. This was the decade of the 1850s and these were the issues Congress grappled with.
This volume of new essays examines many of these issues, helping us better understand the failure of political leadership in the decade that led to the Civil War.
Spencer R. Crew
Amy S. Greenberg
Martin J. Hershock
Michael F. Holt
Brooks D. Simpson
In 1815 the United States was a proud and confident nation. Its second war with England had come to a successful conclusion, and Americans seemed united as never before. The collapse of the Federalist party left the Jeffersonian Republicans in control of virtually all important governmental offices. This period of harmony—what historians once called the Era of Good Feeling—was not illusory, but it was far from stable. One-party government could not persist for long in a vibrant democracy full of ambitious politicians, and sectional harmony was possible only as long as no one addressed the hard issues: slavery, race, western expansion, and economic development.
Congress and the Emergence of Sectionalism: From the Missouri Compromise to the Age of Jackson inaugurates a new series for the United States Capitol Historical Society, one that will focus on issues that led to the secession crisis and the Civil War. This first volume examines controversies surrounding sectionalism and the rise of Jacksonian Democracy, placing these sources of conflict in the context of congressional action in the 1820s and 1830s. The essays in this volume consider the plight of American Indians, sectional strife over banking and commerce, emerging issues involving slavery, and the very nature of American democracy.
“It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes…. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing. In the act before me there seems to be a wide and unnecessary departure from these just principles.”—Andrew Jackson, Veto Message Regarding the Bank of the United States, July 10, 1832
“I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.”—Andrew Jackson, Proclamation Regarding Nullification to the People of South Carolina, December 10, 1832
The American Civil War was the first military conflict in history to be fought with railroads moving troops and the telegraph connecting civilian leadership to commanders in the field. New developments arose at a moment’s notice. As a result, the young nation’s political structure and culture often struggled to keep up. When war began, Congress was not even in session. By the time it met, the government had mobilized over 100,000 soldiers, battles had been fought, casualties had been taken, some civilians had violently opposed the war effort, and emancipation was under way.
This set the stage for Congress to play catch-up for much of the conflict. The result was an ongoing race to pass new laws and set policies. Throughout it all, Congress had to answer to a fractured and demanding public. In addition, Congress, no longer paralyzed by large numbers of Southern slave owners, moved forward on progressive economic and social issues—such as the transcontinental railroad and the land grant college act—which could not previously have been passed.
In Congress and the People’s Contest, Paul Finkelman and Donald R. Kennon have assembled some of the nation’s finest scholars of American history and law to evaluate the interactions between Congress and the American people as they navigated a cataclysmic and unprecedented war. Displaying a variety and range of focus that will make the book a classroom must, these essays show how these interactions took place—sometimes successfully, and sometimes less so.
Contributors: L. Diane Barnes, Fergus M. Bordewich, Jenny Bourne, Jonathan Earle, Lesley J. Gordon, Mischa Honeck, Chandra Manning, Nikki M. Taylor, and Eric Walther.
In 1846 two slaves, Dred and Harriet Scott, filed petitions for their freedom in the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri. As the first true civil rights case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Dred Scott v. Sandford raised issues that have not been fully resolved despite three amendments to the Constitution and more than a century and a half of litigation.
The Dred Scott Case: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Race and Law presents original research and the reflections of the nation’s leading scholars who gathered in St. Louis to mark the 150th anniversary of what was arguably the most infamous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision, which held that African Americans “had no rights” under the Constitution and that Congress had no authority to alter that, galvanized Americans and thrust the issue of race and law to the center of American politics. This collection of essays revisits the history of the case and its aftermath in American life and law. In a final section, the present-day justices of the Missouri Supreme Court offer their reflections on the process of judging and provide perspective on the misdeeds of their nineteenth-century predecessors who denied the Scotts their freedom. Contributors: Austin Allen, Adam Arenson, John Baugh, Hon. Duane Benton, Christopher Alan Bracey, Alfred L. Brophy, Paul Finkelman, Louis Gerteis, Mark Graber, Daniel W. Hamilton, Cecil J. Hunt II, David Thomas Konig, Leland Ware, Hon. Michael A. Wolff
The social changes and human and economic costs of the Civil War led to profound legal and constitutional developments after it ended, not least of which were the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and the many laws devised to protect the civil rights of newly freed African Americans. These amendments and laws worked for a while, but they were ineffective or ineffectively enforced for more than a century.
In Ending the Civil War and the Consequences for Congress, contributors explore how the end of the war both continued the trauma of the conflict and enhanced the potential for the new birth of freedom that Lincoln promised in the Gettysburg Address. Collectively, they bring their multidisciplinary expertise to bear on the legal, economic, social, and political aspects of the aftermath of the war and Reconstruction era. The book concludes with the reminder of how the meaning of the war has changed over time. The Civil War is no longer the “felt” history it once was, Clay Risen reminds us, and despite the work of many fine scholars it remains contested.
Contributors: Jenny Bourne, Carole Emberton, Paul Finkelman, Lorien Foote, William E. Nelson, Clay Risen, Anne Sarah Rubin, and Peter Wallenstein
Selected as a 2007 Michigan Notable Book
Winner of Michigan’s State History Award
The History of Michigan Law offers the first serious survey of Michigan's rich legal past. Michigan legislators have played a leading role in developing modern civil rights law, protecting the environment, and assuring the right to counsel for those accused of crimes. Michigan was the first jurisdiction in the English-speaking world to abolish the death penalty. As the state industrialized, its legal system responded to the competing demands and interests of farmers, railroads, entrepreneurs, and workers.
Michigan was a beacon of liberty for fugitive slaves and free blacks before the Civil War and an early leader in the adoption of laws to protect civil rights and prohibit discrimination after that conflict. The state was the site of the Ossian Sweet murder trial, which illustrated the tensions in Michigan between law and popular ideology. The History of Michigan Law documents and analyzes these legal developments and others, including the history of labor law, women's rights, and legal education.
This landmark volume will serve as the entry point for all future studies that involve law and society in Michigan and will be invaluable in the comparative study of state law. As the Michigan Supreme Court enters its third century, The History of Michigan Law has relevance beyond the legal community, for scholars and students of American history.
The Patrons of Husbandry—or the Grange—is the longest-lived US agricultural society and, since its founding shortly after the Civil War, has had immeasurable influence on social change as enacted by ordinary Americans. The Grange sought to relieve the struggles of small farmers by encouraging collaboration. Pathbreaking for its inclusion of women, the Grange is also well known for its association with Gilded Age laws aimed at curbing the monopoly power of railroads.
In Essentials, Unity takes as its focus Grange founder Oliver Kelley and his home organization in Minnesota. Jenny Bourne draws upon numerous historical records to present a lively picture of a fraternal organization devoted to improving the lot of farmers but whose legacies extend far beyond agriculture. From struggles over minimum wage, birth control, and environmental regulation to the conflicts surrounding the Affordable Care Act, and from lunch-counter sit-ins to Occupy Wall Street, the Grange has shaped the very notion of collective action and how it is deployed even today. As this compact book so effectively illustrates, the history of the Patrons of Husbandry exposes the classic tension between the desires for achieving overall economic success and determining how the spoils are split.
Few images of early America were more striking, and jarring, than that of slaves in the capital city of the world’s most important free republic. Black slaves served and sustained the legislators, bureaucrats, jurists, cabinet officials, military leaders, and even the presidents who lived and worked there. While slaves quietly kept the nation’s capital running smoothly, lawmakers debated the place of slavery in the nation, the status of slavery in the territories newly acquired from Mexico, and even the legality of the slave trade in itself.
This volume, with essays by some of the most distinguished historians in the nation, explores the twin issues of how slavery made life possible in the District of Columbia and how lawmakers in the district regulated slavery in the nation.
Contributors: David Brion Davis, Mary Beth Corrigan, A. Glenn Crothers, Jonathan Earle, Stanley Harrold, Mitch Kachun, Mary K. Ricks, James B. Stewart, Susan Zaeske, David Zarefsky
Justice and Legal Change on the Shores of Lake Erie explores the many ways that the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio has affected the region, the nation, the development of American law, and American politics.
The essays in this book, written by eminent law professors, historians, political scientists, and practicing attorneys, illustrate the range of cases and issues that have come before the court. Since the court’s inception in 1855, judges have influenced economic developments and social issues, beginning with the court’s most famous early case, involving the rescue of the fugitive slave John Price by residents of Northern Ohio. Chapters focusing on labor strikes, free speech, women’s rights, the environment, the death penalty, and immigration illustrate the impact this court and its judges have had in the development of society and the nation’s law. Some of the cases here deal with local issues with huge national implications —like political corruption, school desegregation, or pollution on the Cuyahoga River. But others are about major national issues that grew out of incidents, such as the prosecution of Eugene V. Debs for opposing World War I, the litigation resulting from the Kent State shootings and opposition to the Vietnam War, and the immigration status of the alleged Nazi war criminal John Demyanjuk.
This timely history confirms the significant role played by district courts in the history of the United States.
“When Lincoln took office, in March 1861, the national government had no power to touch slavery in the states where it existed. Lincoln understood this, and said as much in his first inaugural address, noting: ‘I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.’” How, then, asks Paul Finkelman in the introduction to Lincoln, Congress, and Emancipation, did Lincoln—who personally hated slavery—lead the nation through the Civil War to January 1865, when Congress passed the constitutional amendment that ended slavery outright?
The essays in this book examine the route Lincoln took to achieve emancipation and how it is remembered both in the United States and abroad. The ten contributors—all on the cutting edge of contemporary scholarship on Lincoln and the Civil War—push our understanding of this watershed moment in US history in new directions. They present wide-ranging contributions to Lincoln studies, including a parsing of the sixteenth president’s career in Congress in the 1840s and a brilliant critique of the historical choices made by Steven Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner in the movie Lincoln, about the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.
As a whole, these classroom-ready readings provide fresh and essential perspectives on Lincoln’s deft navigation of constitutional and political circumstances to move emancipation forward.
Contributors: L. Diane Barnes, Jenny Bourne, Michael Burlingame, Orville Vernon Burton, Seymour Drescher, Paul Finkelman, Amy S. Greenberg, James Oakes, Beverly Wilson Palmer, Matthew Pinsker
In ruling after ruling, the three most important pre–Civil War justices—Marshall, Taney, and Story—upheld slavery. Paul Finkelman establishes an authoritative account of each justice’s proslavery position, the reasoning behind his opposition to black freedom, and the personal incentives that embedded racism ever deeper in American civic life.
More than two centuries after his birth and almost a century and a half after his death, the legendary life and legacy of John Brown go marching on. Variously deemed martyr, madman, monster, terrorist, and saint, he remains one of the most controversial figures in America’s history. Brown’s actions in Kansas and in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, were major catalysts for the American Civil War, and continue today to evoke praise or condemnation.
Through the prisms of history, literature, psychology, criminal justice, oral history, African American studies, political science, film studies, and anthropology, Terrible Swift Sword offers insights not only into John Brown’s controversial character and motives but also into the nature of a troubled society before, during, and after the Civil War. The contributors discuss reasons why Brown’s contemporaries supported him, analyze Brown’s behavior and his depiction in literature, and examine the iconography and mythology surrounding him.
The interdisciplinary focus brought by editors Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman makes this collection unique. Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown will appeal to a broad audience of readers interested in this turbulent moment in American history.