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Changes in Law and Society during the Civil War Reconstruction

A Legal History Documentary Reader

Christian G. Samito

Publication Year: 2009

Edited collection of primary sources from America’s transformative Civil War and Reconstruction period that document the profound legal changes that took place during the Civil War era but also highlight how law, society, and politics inextricably mixed and set American legal development on particular paths that were not predetermined. 

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. xiii

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pp. 1-4

During the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the government and people of the United States undertook the most comprehensive reconsideration of issues since the original constitutional convention in 1787. As New Yorker Daniel Morris announced in 1864 to his fellow congressmen, they faced a “moment of greater responsibility than has devolved upon a like body since the...

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1. The Status of African Americans before the Civil War

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pp. 5-58

From 1787 until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, slavery was a central cause of tension between the North and South and was the focus of debates about the relationship between the states and the federal government. While states in the North early on passed gradual emancipation acts or abolished slavery outright, and some Northern jurists rejected human bondage as repugnant to natural...

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2. The Expansion of Governmental Power and the Nationalization of the Union

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pp. 59-99

After the bombardment of Fort Sumter, a Virginia convention passed an ordinance of secession on April 17, 1861, and many Unionists and secessionists alike anticipated that Maryland would quickly follow suit. Two days later, a Baltimore mob attacked a Massachusetts regiment as it passed through that city en route to undefended Washington, D.C., leaving four soldiers and nine civilians dead. That night, as the...

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3. African Americans, Emancipation, and Military Service

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pp. 100-163

In contrast to slavery and the doctrine of the Dred Scott case that blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect,” federal law began to acknowledge the personhood and rights of African Americans during the Civil War. The Confiscation Acts and Emancipation Proclamation sought to remove slaves from their Confederate owners, and the Union armed forces began to enlist African American soldiers...

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4. Rights during the Civil War and Reconstruction: Potential, Change, and Opposition

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pp. 164-259

The fluidity of the Civil War and its aftermath marked a moment of potential. Exslaves suddenly transformed from chattel property to persons and, in light of African American military service, could never go back to bondage again. In an opinion on citizenship, Attorney General Edward Bates helped set the groundwork for future civil rights legislation by explicitly rejecting the...

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5. Judicial Interpretation and Limitation of the Civil War Amendments and Civil Rights Legislation

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pp. 260-321

Beginning with its ruling in the Slaughter-House Cases (1873), which truncated an expansive interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court slowly whittled away the practical impact of the Civil War Amendments and legislation. Holdings in United States v. Cruikshank (1876) and United States v. Harris (1883) undermined anti-Klan legislation, while the ruling in...


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pp. 325-326

Further Reading

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pp. 327-330


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pp. 331-336

E-ISBN-13: 9780809386437
E-ISBN-10: 0809386437
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809328895
Print-ISBN-10: 0809328895

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 24 b/w halftones
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 457224731
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Changes in Law and Society during the Civil War Reconstruction

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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- History -- 19th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 19th century.
  • United States -- Armed Forces -- African Americans -- History -- 19th century.
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