The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution

The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution

by Eric Foner

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Overview

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning scholar, a timely history of the constitutional changes that built equality into the nation’s foundation and how those guarantees have been shaken over time.

The Declaration of Independence announced equality as an American ideal, but it took the Civil War and the subsequent adoption of three constitutional amendments to establish that ideal as American law. The Reconstruction amendments abolished slavery, guaranteed all persons due process and equal protection of the law, and equipped black men with the right to vote. They established the principle of birthright citizenship and guaranteed the privileges and immunities of all citizens. The federal government, not the states, was charged with enforcement, reversing the priority of the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In grafting the principle of equality onto the Constitution, these revolutionary changes marked the second founding of the United States.

Eric Foner’s compact, insightful history traces the arc of these pivotal amendments from their dramatic origins in pre–Civil War mass meetings of African-American “colored citizens” and in Republican party politics to their virtual nullification in the late nineteenth century. A series of momentous decisions by the Supreme Court narrowed the rights guaranteed in the amendments, while the states actively undermined them. The Jim Crow system was the result. Again today there are serious political challenges to birthright citizenship, voting rights, due process, and equal protection of the law. Like all great works of history, this one informs our understanding of the present as well as the past: knowledge and vigilance are always necessary to secure our basic rights.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393652574
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 09/17/2019
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 45,231
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Eric Foner is the author of many award-winning books on the Civil War and Reconstruction, including The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. He is DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

The Reconstruction Amendments xiii

Preface xix

Introduction: Origins of the Second Founding 1

1 What Is Freedom? The Thirteenth Amendment 21

2 Toward Equality: The Fourteenth Amendment 55

3 The Right to Vote: The Fifteenth Amendment 93

4 Justice and Jurisprudence 125

Epilogue 169

Appendix 177

Acknowledgments 217

Notes 219

Index 247

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