During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln struggled to preserve the American constitutional republic and Union that ensured liberty and equality for all Americans. To that end, Lincoln brought the country to fight to preserve the Union against the secession of the South at his election in 1860. Lincoln also fought to end the moral disgrace of slavery and issued the Emancipation Proclamation during the war in 1863 as a war measure based upon his presidential war powers to weaken the South. At the end of the war, several amendments to the Constitution were ratified to advance the natural and civil rights republic of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution for African-Americans.
On March 4, 1865, President Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address. The speech expressed the moral purposes of the war: “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword” (Abraham Lincoln, “Second Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1865).
In the speech, Lincoln struck a tone of moderation and reconciliation with the South in restoring the Union. He also hoped that both sides would recognize the importance of equal rights for all Americans. “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations” (Abraham Lincoln, “Second Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1865).
President Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans in Congress sought to secure an abolition amendment for several reasons. First, they wanted it to be the law of the land in the Constitution Secondly, they knew that Lincoln’s executive authority over slavery would expire at the end of the war. Thirdly, the Emancipation Proclamation would probably face legal challenge in the courts and possibly be overturned. Fourthly, even if the proclamation survived, slavery would be unaffected in the border states of Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware, not covered in the Emancipation Proclamation. Only a constitutional amendment would decisively end slavery in America, though it would not be easy since amending the Constitution required large majorities in Congress and the states. In April 1864, the Senate passed a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, but it narrowly failed to achieve the requisite two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives.
In June 1864, Lincoln ran for re-election and demanded that the Republican party adopt a resolution for the abolition amendment in its platform. He succeeded, and the platform stated that, “as [slavery] must be, always and everywhere, hostile to the principles of Republican Government, justice and the National safety demand its utter and complete extirpation from the soil of the Republic,” this “gigantic evil” would be forever prohibited in the United States (Republican National Platform, 1864).
Lincoln won re-election in November 1864, and he quickly tried to win support for the proposed amendment in his annual State of the Union message. Lincoln told the Congress and American people that the election results were a mandate for the amendment. “Of course the abstract question is not changed; but an intervening election shows almost certainly that the next Congress will pass the measure if this does not” (Abraham Lincoln, “Annual Message,” December 6, 1864)
On January 6, 1865, the House of Representatives took up debate on the amendment, while Lincoln and his Cabinet members traded political favors behind the scenes to secure votes. On January 31, the House narrowly passed the amendment by three votes. The following day, President Lincoln submitted a resolution to the states for ratification. Lincoln’s home state of Illinois ratified that day, and eighteen states ratified the amendment before the month ended. On December 6, 1865, after Lincoln’s death, with the concurrence of several southern states, the amendment was ratified and became the law of the land.
The Thirteenth Amendment states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (The United States Constitution, Thirteenth Amendment, 1865).
At the expense of more than 600,000 deaths in a bloody Civil War, the promise of liberty in the Declaration of Independence had finally been achieved for African-Americans. Slavery was expurgated from the country though much work was to be done before African-Americans enjoyed full equality in law and in custom.
Abraham Lincoln lived to see General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant but would not live to see the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. Lincoln was shot by an assassin on April 14, 1865 and died the following day. Among the many consequences of his death was the uncertain outcome of the Reconstruction, as it was called. Lincoln believed that the South had never left the Union and that southerners were rebels or insurrectionists. Therefore, he had favored a moderate plan of reconstruction whereby ten percent of the people of the Confederacy had to sign an oath of allegiance to the Union and the abolition amendment had to be ratified. Contrary to this mild proposal, the “Radical Republicans” in Congress demanded that the South be punished and passed the Wade-Davis Bill in 1864. This plan required an oath of loyalty by a majority of voters in each state, a ban on suffrage or office-holding by high-ranking Confederates, and the abolition of slavery. President Lincoln vetoed the bill. After Lincoln died, President Andrew Johnson supported a more lenient plan than Lincoln’s in which southern states would only have to repudiate the principle of secession and ratify the Thirteenth Amendment.
The division between President Johnson and the Radical Republicans in Congress set off a long struggle between the respective branches in government and affected the outcome of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as well as the lives of African-Americans. Even as state legislatures were ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment, Southern states were passing “Black Codes,” that severely curtailed freedmen’s civil rights and reduced them to a state closely resembling slavery. In addition, President Johnson challenged the Radical Republicans in Congress over reconstruction and vetoed nearly any bill aiding in the equality of African-Americans or expressing congressional control over reconstruction. The Radical Republicans also believed (against Lincoln) that the southern states had left the Union and could only be readmitted by agreeing to grant African-Americans full civil equality. President Johnson had other ideas and, in February 1866, vetoed the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill, which would have started a federal agency intended to help freed slaves transition to freedom with education and jobs, and then a civil rights bill a month later. Congress overrode both vetoes, but black equality and liberty after the Civil War were lost amidst the constitutional struggle.
In order to guarantee black civil rights from the recalcitrant states and president, in June 1866, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment by a two-thirds majority in both houses and submitted it to the states for ratification without the courtesy of notifying President Johnson. In March 1867, Congress took even harsher steps to punish the South and enacted the Reconstruction Act, which divided the region into five military districts. The states would be readmitted into the Union when they ratified the Fourteenth Amendment and protected the rights of African-Americans. President Johnson vetoed the bill, but Congress overrode the veto.
In March, Congress also passed the Tenure of Office Act, which prevented President Johnson from circumventing the Reconstruction Act by removing officials governing the military districts. The president vetoed the measure, and Congress overrode the veto, but this was the last straw for Congress. The Radicals started to explore impeachment proceedings in the House Judiciary Committee.
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution states, “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” (The United States Constitution, Article I, Section 4, 1787).
The rationale for impeaching Johnson for misusing the presidential veto was weak because the evidence for high crimes did not exist. As a result, the impeachment attempt was not succeeding. In the summer of 1867, Johnson sought to remove Secretary of War Edwin Stanton from office, and Congress moved to impeach the president.
On February 21, 1868, President Johnson officially removed Stanton from office. Two days later, the House voted to impeach Johnson by a vote of 128 to 47. In order to be constitutionally removed from office, the Senate would have to hold a trial against the president presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court according to Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution. “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present” (The United States Constitution, Article I, Section 3, 1787). When the vote was taken, moderate Republicans broke ranks because of the weakness of the argument and evidence, and Johnson kept his office by a single vote. Former Union general Ulysses S. Grant was elected president months later.
In July 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified by three-fourths of the states. It provided national citizenship, the protection of privileges and immunities within the states, a due process clause, and equal protection of the laws.
Section 1 read: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (The United States Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1, 1866).
In February 1869, Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment, and it was ratified by three-fourths of the states one year later. It stated, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (The United States Constitution, Fifteenth Amendment, 1869). Although African-Americans soon made up the majority of voters in some southern states and even elected some black representatives to Congress, the right to vote was curtailed by southern states through several legal devices including poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses, as well as by plain intimidation of blacks attempting to vote. Paying taxes or passing a reading test to vote hurt poor, illiterate whites (though it was not always administered against them) as well as blacks. The grandfather clause hurt only African-Americans and banned anyone from voting whose grandfather had been a slave, which effectively banned most freed men from voting.
Despite the great successes of the Civil War Amendments in winning liberty and equality for African-Americans, they found themselves suffering many restrictions of their rights in the decades after the Civil War. They lived in perpetual debt with sharecropper farming, violence by groups like the Ku Klux Klan, voting restrictions, and even legal segregation (separation of the races) in Jim Crow laws and the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) Supreme Court decision which ruled in favor of the constitutionality of those statutes of inequality. Separate was held to be acceptable if the institutions were equal, though they relegated African-Americans to an inferior status.
In the original debate over the Constitution, James Madison feared that the greatest threat to liberty in a republic came from popular majorities.
“Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression,” Madison wrote, “In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended…from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents” (James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, October 17, 1788).
He also feared popular passions in a republic. African-Americans in the post-Civil War-South discovered first-hand the dangers of majority tyranny in a republic whatever constitutional protections they had won. It would be almost a century until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 arguments for liberty and equality for African-Americans would win acceptance as, in Madison’s words, “fundamental maxims of free government” (James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, October 17, 1788).
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Law of Demand
As prices decrease, the quantity demanded increases or as prices increase, the quantity demanded decreases.
Rights which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.
Rights which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.
Except where authorized by people through the Constitution, government does not have the authority to limit freedom.
The power of government flows from the people.
Separation of powers
A system of distinct powers built into the constitution, to prevent an accumulation of power in one branch.
Checks and balances
Powers distributed among the branches of government allowing each to limit the application of power of the other branches and to prevent expansion of power of any branch.
The people delegate certain powers to the national government, while the states retain other powers; and the people, who authorize the states and national government, retain all freedoms not delegated to the governing bodies.
Fairness or reasonableness in the way people are treated or decisions are made.
The natural right of all individuals to create, obtain, and control their possessions, beliefs, faculties, and opinions, as well as the fruits of their labor.
Citizens are best able to pursue happiness when government is confined to those powers which protect their life, liberty, and property.
(or republican government) Form of government in which the people are sovereign (ultimate source of power) and authorize representatives to make and carry out laws.
(or representative government)Form of government in which the people are sovereign (ultimate source of power) and authorize representatives to make and carry out laws.
Reasoned and respectful sharing of ideas between individuals is the primary way people influence change in society/government, and is essential to maintain self-government.
The fundamental principles by which a state or nation is governed. The United States Constitution, written in 1787, lays out the roles and powers of each of the three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial), the protections of due process and rule of law in the states, a republican form of government, and the manner in which to amend the document.
Jefferson was a Virginia plantation owner who was the principle author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson served as a legislator and governor in Virginia, as well as an ambassador to France, Secretary of State under George Washington, Vice President under John Adams, and the third President of the United States. During his political career, Jefferson founded the Democratic-Republican Party with James Madison, and he bought the Louisiana Purchase from France. After his presidency, Jefferson started the University of Virginia near his home, Monticello.
Bill of Rights
The first ten amendments to the Constitution, ratified in 1791, which limit government power and protect individual liberties, including the freedoms of speech, press, religion, petition, and assembly, as well as protections against cruel and unusual punishment, unreasonable search and seizure, and other due process rights.
Ratified in 1791, it protects citizens’ rights to create a militia and to bear arms. “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
The government must interact with all persons according to the duly-enacted laws; applying these rules equally among all persons.
Every individual is equal to every other person with respect to natural rights and treatment before the law.
Consent of the governed
The authority of the government must come from the people through elections and through the people’s interaction with government.
Individuals must take care of themselves and their families, and be vigilant to preserve their liberty and the liberty of others.
Rule of law
Government officials and citizens all abide by the same laws regardless of political power.
Declaration of Independence
The document written in 1776 by the Founders to send to Britain’s King George III in which independence from Britain was declared and the reasons for the separation were explained.
Articles of Confederation
The first national government document developed in 1781 by the Founders. The Articles created a federal legislative branch, but there was no executive or judiciary. The states retained most of the governmental powers.
The group of people who wrote and influenced the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the United States Constitution, and the United States Bill of Rights. These men were instrumental in establishing the nation and its governmental documents and practices.
A series of 85 essays written to convince the people of New York to ratify the Constitution. The authors were James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. These documents are considered to be the most authoritative explanation of the political theory of the Constitution.
Ratified in 1791, it protects the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and freedom to petition the government.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Law of Supply
As the price drops, the quantity supplied also drops.
Ratified in 1791, it protects citizens’ rights against unreasonable searches and seizures of property and explains that warrants must be issued with probable cause. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Ratified in 1791, it protects the right indictment by a jury, against double jeopardy, self-incrimination, loss of life, liberty, or property without due process, and just compensation for private property taken for public use. “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Ratified in 1791, it states that the powers not enumerated or delegated in the Constitution are reserved for the states and the people. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Ratified in 1791, it protects against excessive bail and fines and cruel and unusual punishments. “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Ratified in 1791, the listing of certain rights protected by the Constitution cannot be used to deny rights not enumerated in the document. “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Alexander Hamilton served as General Washington’s chief of staff, promoted the ratification of the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, and founded the nation’s financial system and first political party.
Madison was a Framer who was instrumental in writing the Constitution and Bill of Rights. He is known as the “Father of the Constitution.” Madison partnered with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to write the Federalist Papers in support of the ratification of the Constitution. He also served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, the United States House of Representatives, Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson, and the fourth president of the United States.
First President of the United States, George Washington served as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
An English philosopher and physician, John Locke was one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers and is known today as the Father of Classical Liberalism.
The Continental Congress, comprised of delegates from 12 of the 13 American colonies, represented the colonists during and after the American Revolution. The Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence and ratified the Articles of Confederation.
King George III
King George III was the King of Great Britain at the time of the American Revolution. His actions towards the American colonies, outlined in the Declaration of Independence, spurred the American Revolution.
Spanning ten years from 1929 to 1939, the Great Depression was one of the longest-lasting economic downturns in the history of the United States affecting the U.S. and most of the world.
An introductory statement, preface, or introduction.
Cruel and unfair treatment by people with power over others.
Using power over people in a way that is cruel and unfair.
Before becoming the second President of the United States, John Adams served as the country’s first Vice President under George Washington. Adams was an advocate of American independence from Britain and a Federalist.
Founding Father John Jay was one of the signers of the Treaty of Paris and served as the first Chief Justice of the United States. He was also one of the authors of the Federalist Papers.
Ratified in 1791, it protects citizens against the quartering of soldiers in private homes without their approval. “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”
Ratified in 1791, it protects the rights of impartial jury trials, the right to be informed of the accusations against you, the right to be confronted by witness, and the right to be assisted by counsel. “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”
Ratified in 1791, it protects the right of jury trials in law suits dealing with more than twenty dollars and protects against reexamination of the trial in any court if decided by a jury. “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
Alexis de Tocqueville
French political thinker and historian, Alexis de Tocqueville is best known for his works Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution. He visited the U.S. in the 1830s and wrote admiringly about many aspects of American law and society.
Democracy in America
Written by Alexis de Tocqueville after visiting the United States, Democracy in America contains de Tocqueville’s analysis of and reflections on the United States’ democratic system and society. The first volume was published in 1835 and the second in 1840.
Written in 1215, it is the oldest document in the British and American heritage of rights. Contributed to the adoption of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments of the Bill of Rights, and speaks of these rights as ancient.
Two Treatises of Civil Government
Written by John Locke in 1690, the Two Treatises of Civil Government criticize absolute power for kings and outline Locke’s suggestions for a more civilized society based on natural rights and the social contract.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. “Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
The group of people who actually attended the Constitutional Convention and participated in writing the Constitution.
Ratified in 1868, it states that all people born or naturalized in the United States are citizens and ensures that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Ratified in 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment gave Congress the ability to collect income taxes. “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census of enumeration.”
atified in 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment introduced Prohibition, the period of United States history when the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol was made illegal throughout the country. “Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited. Section 2. The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.”
The Twentieth Amendment was ratified in 1933, and it establishes procedures for presidential succession and the start and end of federal officials’ terms of office.
“Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3rd day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
In 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, ending Prohibition. “Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed. Section 2. The transportation or importation into any state, territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited. Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.”
English Bill of Rights
Passed by the British Parliament in 1689, the English Bill of Rights limited the power of the British monarch, outlined the rights of the Parliament, and guaranteed Protestants the right to bear arms.
The legislative body of the United Kingdom (known as Great Britain or England during the Founding era).
One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was a statesman, author, publisher, scientist, inventor and diplomat. He served in the Second Continental Congress during the American Revolution and helped draft the Declaration of Independence. In addition, Franklin helped negotiated the Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War and later served as a delegate to the convention that produced the U.S. Constitution.
The right to vote.
A government in which the power belongs to citizens through the right to vote.
Ratified in 1870, it states that the right could not be restricted based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” “Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Ratified in 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment introduced direct election of Senators. “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures. When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct. This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.”
Ratified in 1920, the amendment stated that a citizen’s right to vote must not be restricted based on gender. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Direct democracy is a political system in which the people vote directly on policies or laws, as opposed to voting for representatives who enact laws on their behalf.
Not planned or chosen for a particular reason; done without concern for what is fair or right.
The process by which courts analyze the constitutionality of an act of government.
Majority rule/minority rights
laws may be made with the consent of the majority, but only to the point where they do not infringe on the inalienable rights of the minority.
An arbitrary order or decree.
Something that is owned by a person, business, etc. This includes possessions, beliefs, faculties, and opinions, and the fruits of one's labor.
A government in which the power is held by the people.
A body of electors chosen by each state to vote for the president and vice president of the United States.
Conduct that reflects universal principles of moral and ethical excellence essential to leading a worthwhile life and to effective self-government. For many leading Founders, attributes of character such as justice, responsibility, perseverance, etc., were thought to flow from an understanding of the rights and obligations of men. Virtue is compatible with, but does not require, religious belief.