A More Perfect Union: The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the Constitution

By Harold M. Hyman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
The Great Transatlantic Workshop

I n 1861, with the nation's survival at stake, Lincoln groped for nationalist adequacy doctrine. He acted for two years on the assumption that it existed before comprehensive formulation occurred; it was practice without much theory. By contrast, long before Sumter, the states' adequacy to cope with almost any public want was accepted in American constitutionalism. This state-power notion had roots in colonial times and in the nineteenth century was developed further by Lemuel Shaw, John Bannister Gibson, and Isaac Redfield. Its essence was the constitutional rightness of state interventions to encourage, prevent, or contain certain actions; to replace marketplace self-adjustments with alternatives. The aim was to assure the public health, safety, welfare, and morals.

Because it was ready-to-hand in 1865, state-power constitutionalism supplied part of Appomattox's happy optimism and basic political framework. Democrats insisted that state or local treatment of residents was wholly the concern of the state of residence. Republicans agreed that the recent rebel states could and should deal decently with returned white Unionists and black inhabitants, but pointed out that they were not doing so.

After Appomattox as never before, efforts proliferated actually to apply state powers. Advocates of state-power applications resorted overwhelmingly to local, county, and state Republican organizations. Democrats were not merely still tarred by

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