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

By Harold M. Hyman | Go to book overview

Chapter XXVIII
Untying the Reconstruction Knot

Success widened Republican divisions. Johnson's postimpeachment docility, Grant's election, the dramatic improvements in and restorations of half-a-dozen southern states, the withering away of the Army there, the spectacle of Negroes voting and assuming high offices, and the ratifications of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments led ever-increasing numbers of political activists to drop involvements. Social-science, religious, and welfare auxiliaries shifted attention, energy, funds, and talent toward other, usually local horizons. "Constitutional jurisprudence" was swiftly becoming attuned to immediate concerns, noted Columbia's former president William Duer.1 Reconstruction was less and less immediate.

In 1868 an immediately significant new literature helped further to justify the retreat from southern Reconstruction. Treatises by Cooley, Dillon, and Jameson, sustaining Republican

____________________
1
William Duer, A Course of Lectures on the Constitutional Jurisprudence of the United States ( New York, 1868), 19-21; J. G. Sproat, The "Best Men": Liberal Republicans in the Gilded Age ( New York, 1968), 4-44; Radical Republicans and Reconstruction, 1862-1870, ed. Harold M. Hyman ( Indianapolis, 1966), 461-3; M. Conway, "Sursum Corda," Radical, I ( April 1866), 291-4; G. W. Julian, Political Recollections, 1840-1872 ( Chicago, 1884), 330-11; Herman Belz, "The Constitution in the Gilded Age: The Beginnings of Constitutional Realism in American Scholarship," AJLH, XIII ( 1969), 111-13.

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