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Les Benedict — Abraham Lincoln and Constitutional Politics in the Civil War Era
May 16, 2019 @ 7:00 pm
The Civil War raised a number of constitutional issues surrounding the powers of the presidency and civil liberties, besides the great one of whether a state had the authority to secede from the Union. Nowadays, Americans often concede final authority to the Supreme Court to decide the meaning of the Constitution. But in the nineteenth century, it was understood that the meaning of the Constitution depended on the decision of the American people themselves, made through the political system. Abraham Lincoln and his opponents brought constitutional issues to the American people through formal messages, speeches, pamphlets, and political platforms. But they also relied on less formal media like posters, broadsides, cartoons, songs, and satire. In this well-illustrated talk, Professor Michael Les Benedict discusses ways in which American leaders conveyed the issues of civil liberty, state rights, and race relations to the American people.