Dr. Benedict is Professor Emeritus of American Legal and Constitutional History and U.S. Constitutional Law at the Ohio State University. He has published numerous books and articles on legal developments during and following the Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln and Constitutional Politics in the Civil War Era
During the Civil War, critics continually blasted Abraham Lincoln for abusing the powers of the presidency and violating the constitutional liberty of American citizens. Although he was a terrific lawyer, Lincoln never defended the constitutionality of his actions in a court. Instead he addressed his arguments directly to the American people.
That is the way constitutional issues were settled in those days. Nowadays, Americans often turn to the courts when such issues arise, but in the nineteenth century, the meaning of the Constitution depended on the decisions the American people themselves made through the political system–what we can call “constitutional politics.” In this well-illustrated take, Professor Benedict shows how American leaders conveyed the issues of civil liberty, state rights, and race relations to the American people in intellectual, graphic, and emotional ways.
Constitutional Politics in the United States
Who decides constitutional issues in the United States? Lawyers and journalists may tell us that it is the Supreme Court. But Professor Benedict says it has always been the people of the United States, who have fulfilled this responsibility through constitutional politics more than constitutional law. In this talk, he provides examples from history, discusses the changing role of the Supreme Court, and assesses the obligations that popular responsibility for constitutional government imposes on all of us.
Can the Government Do That?–Disagreements about “Federalism”
There is a lot of talk nowadays of state rights, local control, and limited federal government power. Americans have argued for a long time about just what federalism means, and they have reached different conclusions. In this presentation, constitutional historian Michael Les Benedict explains how conflicts in American history have led to different schools of federalism, describes what they are, and shows what is at stake.
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