Utah’s state constitution bans slavery — mostly

So it turns out Utah’s constitution still allows for slavery, “Except as a punishment for a crime.” This legal loophole was explored in great depth in the excellent Douglas Blackmon book, Slavery By Another Name. (The book was the basis of a PBS documentary, too.) A hundred and fifty plus years after the war ended, it’s amazing to note how slavery’s tendrils are still wound around American laws.

After the Civil War, former slave states leapt to take advantage of the exception carved out by the 13th Amendment, the ACLU of Colorado explained last year in its case for amending the state constitution. African Americans were imprisoned and forced to labor in convict leasing programs that pumped money into the state coffers; more than 70 percent of Alabama’s revenue came from the practice in 1898, the ACLU reported.

Source: Utah’s state constitution bans slavery — mostly. And Rep. Sandra Hollins says mostly isn’t good enough. – The Salt Lake Tribune

Slavery by Another Name

A few updates while I have Internet access!

While coming well into the post-war era, this documentary (based on the book
by Douglas Blackman) shows how poor people – mainly blacks – in the South were reenslaved by means of sneaky laws and sneakier lawmakers. Heartbreaking, but an important piece of history.

Watch The Film | Slavery by Another Name | PBS.

Lincoln’s Pardons

This Disunion piece talks about one case that Lincoln refused to pardon (rightfully so, in my opinion), but spends just as much time discussing his liberal application of the clemency right.  To me, this is one of Lincoln’s most endearingly humane qualities.

There were three areas in which Lincoln’s pardoning power could be applied. The first related to cases in the civil courts. During his tenure, Lincoln reviewed 456 civil cases; 375 of them – over 82 percent — received pardons. The second class had to do with those in rebellion against the government. This being the Civil War, more than half the country qualified.

The third category was in military cases. It was here that Lincoln received the most criticism for what was perceived as his interference in the flow of military justice and discipline. He made it clear from the beginning that he was “unwilling for any boy under 18 to be shot,” and he had a tendency to pardon youths who had fallen asleep on guard duty or had deserted. Gen. Joseph Hooker once sent an envelope to the president containing the cases of 55 convicted and doomed deserters; Lincoln merely wrote “Pardoned” on the envelope and returned it to Hooker.

via The Limits of Lincoln’s Mercy – NYTimes.com.

The Warren Commission…

…of errors, according to Sheridan.

One of the things I was forced to gloss over in yesterday’s podcast was the question of how Gouverneur Warren’s court of inquiry decided.  All the online sources I read claimed he was totally exonerated, but upon reading these findings of the court, I wasn’t so sure. In the end, unable to find any definitive explanations, I omitted the result.  Any military or legal experts care to elucidate on the opinions offered in the official record?

Findings of the Court of inquiry : Warren, Gouverneur Kemble, 1830-1882. [from old catalog] : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive.

The Morrill Act’s Purpose

An insight into the Morrill Act, which is one of those Civil War events whose legacy overshadows its purpose.

The Morrill Act was created to make higher education more accessible and to promote “liberal and practical education.”

This was the same year other notable pieces of legislation were enacted such as the Homestead Act and the bill authorizing the transcontinental railroad. The act granted at least 30,000 acres of federal land per member of Congress each state had as of the 1860 Census. This is the land Purdue resides on, which is why it is known as a “land-grant” institution.

According to Purdue history professor John Contreni, who formerly held the position of the “Justin S. Morrill Dean of the College of Liberal Arts” at Purdue, the act was popular but failed to pass in 1861.

The Civil War changed that.

“These initiatives had been discussed for some time,” Contreni wrote in an email. “but were held up by congressmen from the Southern states. In 1862, the country was in the middle of the Civil War, so the Southern states were out of the picture and the legislation was enacted.”

Contreni added the Southern states were included later after the Civil War, but in another way.

“A corollary to the Morrill Act is what is sometimes called the second Morrill Act of 1890,” Contreni wrote. “This extended the provisions of the act to the states in the south that were formerly in rebellion, except that the act of 1890 gave the states cash instead of land. Many of the country’s historically black colleges and universities were established as a result.”

via Former Dean of Liberal Arts reminds University of Morrill Act’s purpose – Purdue Exponent: Campus.

Civil War’s Legal Legacy

Albany Law School next month will convene a three-day discussion about the legal implications of the war and reconstruction, ranging from the Fugitive Slave Act and emancipation to the suspension of habeas corpus and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln…

“The Civil War not only changed American politics. It also changed our law,” said Albany law professor Paul Finkelman, co-chairman of the conference. “The modern law of war comes directly from the Civil War. The war also fundamentally altered the Constitution, leading to the abolition of slavery, securing citizenship for African Americans and enfranchising backs on the same basis of whites.”

The war’s effect on American law is something that’s still felt to this day.  This upcoming conference of legal academics promises to be very interesting indeed.



Conference examines Civil Wars influence on law.