Friday, April 22, 2016

"The Second Freedmen's Bureau Bill's Constitution"

Mark Graber

My latest on SSRN and forthcoming in Texas Law Review on the historical evidence that Republicans understood the Constitution of 1865 as protecting positive rights.  Thanks to Joey Fishkin and Willi Forbath.

This paper focuses on the crucial elements of post-Civil War constitutionalism judges and scholars miss when they give the place of pride to the Civil Rights Act of 1866 at the expense of the Second Freedmen’s Bureau Bill. The Republicans who framed the Second Freedmen’s Bureau Bill recognized that persons could transition from slaves to full citizens only if Congress aggressively exercised national power under Section Two of the Thirteenth Amendment. Given the need for a high degree of nimbleness in the managing of that transition, Congress, rather than the judiciary, had to play the lead role in removing all badges and incidents of slavery in American constitutional life. These framers were concerned with economic inequalities or at least basic economic and social needs, but their concerns were not expressed in the form of judicially enforceable rights. The persons responsible for the post-Civil War Constitution believed the general welfare would best be promoted if the party of the majority of the people who remained loyal during the Civil War had control over all three branches of the national government necessary to enact and implement legislative programs that eradicated all traces of the destitution and dependency that had resulted from slavery and the Civil War.

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