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

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The promise of a new American Founding after the Civil War was articulated by the 13th, 14th, and 15th Constitutional Amendments. While they rid the nation of slavery, their aspiration to provide equal rights to more citizens largely failed in the face of violent opposition, blinkered judicial rulings, and widespread indifference. — Mike Hare

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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.



Coverage from NPR



Product Details
ISBN: 9780393652574
ISBN-10: 0393652572
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: September 17th, 2019
Pages: 256
Language: English
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