Paul Finkelman is an expert on constitutional history, the law of slavery, and the American Civil War. He coedits the Ohio University Press series New Approaches to Midwestern Studies and is the president of Gratz College.
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Contributors explore how the end of the Civil War continued the trauma of the conflict and also enhanced the potential for the new birth of freedom that Lincoln promised in the Gettysburg Address, particularly when it came to the Fourteenth Amendment.
Civil War Congress and the Creation of Modern America
A Revolution on the Home Front
Edited by Paul Finkelman and Donald R. Kennon
Drawn from a wide range of historical expertise and approaching the topic from a variety of angles, these essays explore the changes in life at home during the Civil War that led to a revolution in American society and set the stage for the making of modern America.
The American Civil War was the first military conflict in history to be fought with railroads moving troops and the telegraph connecting civilian leadership to commanders in the field. New developments arose at a moment’s notice. As a result, the young nation’s political structure and culture often struggled to keep up. When war began, Congress was not even in session.
In In Essentials, Unity, Jenny Bourne presents a lively picture of a fraternal organization—the Patrons of Husbandry, or the Grange—devoted to improving the lot of small farmers but whose legacies extend far beyond agriculture, shaping the very notion of collective action and how it is deployed even today.
“When Lincoln took office, in March 1861, the national government had no power to touch slavery in the states where it existed. Lincoln understood this, and said as much in his first inaugural address, noting: ‘I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.’”
Justice and Legal Change on the Shores of Lake Erie
A History of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
Edited by Paul Finkelman and Roberta Sue Alexander
Justice and Legal Change on the Shores of Lake Erie explores the many ways that the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio has affected the region, the nation, the development of American law, and American politics. The essays in this book, written by eminent law professors, historians, political scientists, and practicing attorneys, illustrate the range of cases and issues that have come before the court.
During the long decade from 1848 to 1861 America was like a train speeding down the track, without an engineer or brakes. The new territories acquired from Mexico had vastly increased the size of the nation, but debate over their status—and more importantly the status of slavery within them—paralyzed the nation. Southerners gained access to the territories and a draconian fugitive slave law in the Compromise of 1850, but this only exacerbated sectional tensions.
Few images of early America were more striking, and jarring, than that of slaves in the capital city of the world’s most important free republic. Black slaves served and sustained the legislators, bureaucrats, jurists, cabinet officials, military leaders, and even the presidents who lived and worked there.
In 1846 two slaves, Dred and Harriet Scott, filed petitions for their freedom in the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri. As the first true civil rights case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Dred Scott v. Sandford raised issues that have not been fully resolved despite three amendments to the Constitution and more than a century and a half of litigation.
In 1815 the United States was a proud and confident nation. Its second war with England had come to a successful conclusion, and Americans seemed united as never before. The collapse of the Federalist party left the Jeffersonian Republicans in control of virtually all important governmental offices. This period of harmony—what historians once called the Era of Good Feeling—was not illusory, but it was far from stable.
The History of Michigan Law offers the first serious survey of Michigan's rich legal past. Michigan legislators have played a leading role in developing modern civil rights law, protecting the environment, and assuring the right to counsel for those accused of crimes. Michigan was the first jurisdiction in the English-speaking world to abolish the death penalty.
More than two centuries after his birth and almost a century and a half after his death, the legendary life and legacy of John Brown go marching on. Variously deemed martyr, madman, monster, terrorist, and saint, he remains one of the most controversial figures in America’s history. Brown’s actions in Kansas and in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, were major catalysts for the American Civil War, and continue today to evoke praise or condemnation.