March 15: Reconstruction

1877.jpg (213323 bytes) The presentation by the Electoral Commission of 1877, which decided the disputed election of 1876 and in the process terminated the Reconstruction Era.

Arguably the most important period in American constitutional history, Reconstruction--although it ended in failure--set the stage for the vast expansion of rights-related activism by the federal government.  Tonight's class will start with our second moor court debate, on U.S. v. Cruikshank, which, like last Thursday's, will conclude with a segment of general questions from the gallery--so come prepared.



    Kyvig, Explicit and Authentic Acts, pp. 154-187, 14th amendment (appendix)

Given the importance of the 14th amendment to 20th century American constitutional history, it is important that we cover its origins and original judicial interpretations in some detail. But if you are interested in the history of this period, it's worth reading Eric Foner's Reconstruction, which, although quite long, is a good example of how one historian can help change how we all think of a period in our past.


Civil Rights Act (1866)

United States v. Cruikshank (1873)

REMINDER: We're once again reading a court case, so, if you need guidelines on how to go through it, click here.


1.) What were the various constitutional theories about Reconstruction?

2.) If the Supreme Court had decided differently in Cruikshank, do you think it would have made any long-term difference in civil rights policy?

3.) Concentrating strictly on their interpretations of the balance between federal and state powers--and not on their ideological biases against African-Americans--did the Justices decide Cruikshank correctly?

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