Hot Best Seller

The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution

Availability: Ready to download

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, an authoritative story of the constitutional changes that built equality into the nation’s foundation. The Declaration of Independence announced equality as an American ideal, but it took the Civil War and the subsequent adoption of three constitutional amendments to establish that ideal as American law. The Reconstruction amendments From the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, an authoritative story of the constitutional changes that built equality into the nation’s foundation. The Declaration of Independence announced equality as an American ideal, but it took the Civil War and the subsequent adoption of three constitutional amendments to establish that ideal as American law. The Reconstruction amendments abolished slavery, guaranteed due process and the equal protection of the law, and equipped black men with the right to vote. The federal government, not the states, was put in charge of enforcement. By grafting the principle of equality onto the Constitution, the amendments marked the second founding of the United States. Eric Foner’s rich, insightful history conveys the dramatic origins of these revolutionary amendments in citizen meetings and political negotiations. He explores the momentous court decisions that then narrowed and even nullified the rights guaranteed in these amendments. Today, issues of birthright citizenship, voting rights, due process, and equal protection are still in dispute, the ideal of equality yet to be achieved.


Compare

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, an authoritative story of the constitutional changes that built equality into the nation’s foundation. The Declaration of Independence announced equality as an American ideal, but it took the Civil War and the subsequent adoption of three constitutional amendments to establish that ideal as American law. The Reconstruction amendments From the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, an authoritative story of the constitutional changes that built equality into the nation’s foundation. The Declaration of Independence announced equality as an American ideal, but it took the Civil War and the subsequent adoption of three constitutional amendments to establish that ideal as American law. The Reconstruction amendments abolished slavery, guaranteed due process and the equal protection of the law, and equipped black men with the right to vote. The federal government, not the states, was put in charge of enforcement. By grafting the principle of equality onto the Constitution, the amendments marked the second founding of the United States. Eric Foner’s rich, insightful history conveys the dramatic origins of these revolutionary amendments in citizen meetings and political negotiations. He explores the momentous court decisions that then narrowed and even nullified the rights guaranteed in these amendments. Today, issues of birthright citizenship, voting rights, due process, and equal protection are still in dispute, the ideal of equality yet to be achieved.

30 review for The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    This is a book that will appeal to a narrow field of readers. While it is about the Reconstruction Period it is really about how the events of that era affected our Constitution and how the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments became necessary. The book then is really a Constitutional history that is shaped by the Civil War and the post war necessity of dealing with the consequences if emancipation. As I mentioned to a friend after reading this book it made realize that, strange as thi This is a book that will appeal to a narrow field of readers. While it is about the Reconstruction Period it is really about how the events of that era affected our Constitution and how the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments became necessary. The book then is really a Constitutional history that is shaped by the Civil War and the post war necessity of dealing with the consequences if emancipation. As I mentioned to a friend after reading this book it made realize that, strange as this may sound, the Civil War was a blessing. That war caused the upheaval of our society that made the passage of these amendments possible. Had there been no war and slavery died a natural death at the hands of industrialization we would probably have become an apartheid nation like South Africa and our race issues would be even worse than they are. It's something to think about and this book does layout the problems that Reconstruction had to deal with and the hoped for solutions that these three amendments would deliver. Sadly through poor drafting, politics, bigotry and a Supreme Court affected by all of these defects the hoped for solutions failed to achieve prompt meaningful success. The book is rather short for such a complex history and its issues. The book is 176 pages of text and 25 pages of notes but it is by no means a quick page turner. Since it is a constitutional history it will probably only be of interest to constitutional wonks (marginally guilty). It was very informative however and illustrated how the war and the post war event caused the transition from government dominated by states rights to a new era where the federal government became the central and key player. I found myself stopping a several places to contemplate alternative scenarios of how our history would have changed had certain things occurred or not occurred. It was during such moments that the realization of the Civil War's advantages became apparent. The war removed the obstructionism of the South and made possible the constitutional changes referred to in this book. Without the Civil War there would never have been a 14th Amendment and I shudder to think of all the advances that have been made because of that amendment. So if you are interested in reading about a very turbulent period of constitutional history then this is a book for you.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Boissonneault

    We shouldn’t forget that the original United States Constitution, for all its brilliance, did explicitly condone the practice of slavery. For example, the “three-fifths compromise” counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of calculating state representation in Congress, while Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1 prohibited Congress from passing laws banning slavery until 1808. Additionally, Article 4, Section 2 states, in essence, that escaped slaves must be returned to their owners We shouldn’t forget that the original United States Constitution, for all its brilliance, did explicitly condone the practice of slavery. For example, the “three-fifths compromise” counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of calculating state representation in Congress, while Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1 prohibited Congress from passing laws banning slavery until 1808. Additionally, Article 4, Section 2 states, in essence, that escaped slaves must be returned to their owners in the original state from which they fled. In other words, the Constitution was far from perfect (luckily, it allowed for its own modification). And that’s why many historians consider the “second founding” during the Reconstruction era to be of equal or greater significance than the founding itself. The Reconstruction era that followed the Civil War saw the passage of three amendments that would forever transform politics in the US, both in terms of civil rights and in the balance of power between the federal government and the states. In “The Second Founding,” historian and Reconstruction expert Eric Foner tells the story of how these three amendments—the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth—together represent the foundation for the continuing struggle for universal rights. The abolition of slavery, birthright citizenship, equal protection under the laws, universal suffrage, and the Incorporation Doctrine (which forces the states to honor the Bill of Rights) are all the direct or indirect result of these three crucial amendments. And yet the “second founding” remains less well-known among the public than the first. This book is the remedy for that gap in public knowledge, and is invaluable for understanding not only the Reconstruction era but also the subsequent civil rights movements and the modern conservative attack on equality. Foner shows, for example, how talk of “state rights” has almost always been a cover for blatant discrimination. “State rights” has variously meant the right to enslave, the right to deny the vote to blacks and women, the right to violate the Bill of Rights, and the right to discriminate based on race and gender. As Foner wrote, “Before the war, for example, southern states adopted laws making criticism of slavery a crime without violating the First Amendment since these were state laws and not acts of Congress.” The real danger, in terms of rights violations, has always been greater within the individual states. This book can also act as a good inoculant against conservative rhetoric that hasn’t changed in at least 156 years. The reader will be amused to find the same state’s rights and reverse discrimination arguments throughout the book. Andrew Johnson, for example, in his opposition to the fourteenth amendment, said, “The distinction of race and color is by the bill made to operate in favor of the colored against the white race.” As Foner wrote, “In the idea that expanding the rights of nonwhites somehow punishes the white majority, the ghost of Andrew Johnson still haunts our discussions of race.” The underlying message of the book seems to be that any rights granted by the Constitution are worthless if not enforced. Constitutional rights can be ignored, distorted, or narrowly interpreted to deprive certain groups of equal protection and treatment under the law. But if we can’t even recognize when this is happening—and we don’t properly understand what the second founding was trying to accomplish—then we are all powerless to prevent a regression to discriminatory politics under the guise of “state’s rights,” “originalism,” and all the rest.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Donald Powell

    History is so important. I wish more people would spend more time learning, discussing and making decisions based upon our own, fairly recent, history. Eric Foner is the pre-eminent historian regarding the Reconstruction/Redemption era of the United States. This book is partially a review of his more comprehensive tome regarding these events; however, he does a detailed analysis of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the constitution in this small book. He explains the events, players, politic History is so important. I wish more people would spend more time learning, discussing and making decisions based upon our own, fairly recent, history. Eric Foner is the pre-eminent historian regarding the Reconstruction/Redemption era of the United States. This book is partially a review of his more comprehensive tome regarding these events; however, he does a detailed analysis of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the constitution in this small book. He explains the events, players, politics and ethos of this time in history. He does a thorough explanation of the Supreme Court's impact on history with these amendments. It is an excellent book which anyone involved in politics (all voters?) should read and take to heart. I thoroughly enjoyed this and we could all learn from this review of our tragic and disgraceful past. There is no "fake news" in scholarly historical analysis. What is clear is how the American People, and their "leaders" are plagued by selfish, uninformed, misguided and outright evil motives, with lots of "fake news" (propaganda) feeding the pyres.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rama

    The constitutional, political, and social issues after American Civil War This is an historical account of the constitutional, political, and social crisis after the Civil War. United States was faced with an enormous task of ending the slavery constitutionally and offering a solution to institutional racism. The constitutional amendments; Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth were adopted between 1865 and 1870 to guarantee freedom to former slaves and offer equality and citizenship rights. The The constitutional, political, and social issues after American Civil War This is an historical account of the constitutional, political, and social crisis after the Civil War. United States was faced with an enormous task of ending the slavery constitutionally and offering a solution to institutional racism. The constitutional amendments; Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth were adopted between 1865 and 1870 to guarantee freedom to former slaves and offer equality and citizenship rights. The 13th ended slavery. The 14th made anyone born in the U.S. a citizen and a state in the union can't deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. The 15th gave the vote to black men but not any women. What followed their adoption was the way the constitutional power was eroded by state laws and supreme court decisions throughout the late 19th and first half of 20th centuries. The full benefits of these amendments were not realized until the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The reconstruction amendments were nullified in the south, step-by-step with the compliancy of the Supreme Court of the United States. Violent groups like KKK resorted to violence to deprive blacks of their rights. This challenge to the 14th was direct but Supreme Court interpreted that it is not a state action, and the private individuals committing private acts of violence should be handled by state laws. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the states. There were additional challenges associated with slave states like Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri, which had nearly three-quarters of a million slaves. Since the Proclamation was a war measure against the Confederacy, the states that were in the Union retained the constitutional protections of slavery. In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled that the separate but equal facilities in South is constitutional, which suggested that separation is not a form of prejudice or discrimination. It opened the door to all sorts of laws that the Southern states would pass requiring segregation in every phase of life. This became central to the Jim Crow Laws in the 20th century South. This is an exciting book written by Columbia University Professor Eric Foner who has researched this material much of his academic life. The interpretation of constitutional amendments by states and court systems is highly engaging. United States was born with a belief in individual liberty and reconstruction was intended to create a new republic. But it was created in a harsh environment of racism.

  5. 4 out of 5

    C.

    It seems like forever ago that I first read Eric Foner. To be precise, it was 30 years ago, I was a graduate student in history, and his "Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution" blew me away (as it has done to many other readers over the years). To say that Foner is the dean of Civil War and Reconstruction studies in this country doesn't begin to do it justice. It says a lot about Foner that he's still producing ground-breaking scholarship on a subject that he's already writt It seems like forever ago that I first read Eric Foner. To be precise, it was 30 years ago, I was a graduate student in history, and his "Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution" blew me away (as it has done to many other readers over the years). To say that Foner is the dean of Civil War and Reconstruction studies in this country doesn't begin to do it justice. It says a lot about Foner that he's still producing ground-breaking scholarship on a subject that he's already written the book on (literally). But it also says a lot about the subject: there is still much to be studied and considered. And it feels especially relevant at this moment to be reading about both the Civil War and the Constitution. I found much to chew on in Foner's new book. His scholarship is as remarkable as ever, and his writing is lucid and enjoyable. "The Second Founding" is a fine book -- and a necessary one for our times. I hope it finds wide readership. (Thank you to W. W. Norton for an advance copy in exchange for an unbiased review.)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kurt Ronn

    The next time politics of equality enters a conversation and someone says that they are a strict constitutionalist, ask them about forced slavery, women’s rights, and Asian immigrants. Tell them that strict constitutionalism is a bullshit excuse for not supporting equal rights. Tell them to read The Second Founding and then find someone else to talk to at the cocktail party. Recognize, today, all states have laws based on state precedent that unfairly and unevenly limit rights, and federal laws The next time politics of equality enters a conversation and someone says that they are a strict constitutionalist, ask them about forced slavery, women’s rights, and Asian immigrants. Tell them that strict constitutionalism is a bullshit excuse for not supporting equal rights. Tell them to read The Second Founding and then find someone else to talk to at the cocktail party. Recognize, today, all states have laws based on state precedent that unfairly and unevenly limit rights, and federal laws also exist that do not protect the equal rights of Americans. The history of the 13,14, and 15th amendments are the history of American reconstruction. We have come a long way, but we need a Third Founding - a constitutional mandate, an equal rights amendment that federally mandates equality for all. The founding fathers gave us a good start, but they did not provide equal rights for all. It is time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Covers a lot of ground that Foner has gone over before. But it's not for nothing that he is the preeminent historian of the political, legal, and social revolutions that happened during the Civil War and Reconstruction. He ably narrates the political and social construction of the Reconstruction amendments and their subsequent castration by vile systemic racism and a cowardly Supreme Court. Foner also makes plain the direct relevance these amendments and their moment have to the present day.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aletha Pagett

    This book, received from Goodreads, is an in depth exploration of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments. The depth of research and scholarship is superb. This should be a must read in today's volatile society.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adam Shields

    Summary: A historical look at the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments in the context of reconstruction history. I am a big fan of Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 by Eric Foner. I have yet to read his biography of Lincoln or his book on the Underground Railroad, but those are both on my list to get to eventually. The Second Founding is mainly looking at the history around the Reconstruction Constitutional Amendments, the 13th, 14th, and 15th. The Second Founding, in some w Summary: A historical look at the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments in the context of reconstruction history. I am a big fan of Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 by Eric Foner. I have yet to read his biography of Lincoln or his book on the Underground Railroad, but those are both on my list to get to eventually. The Second Founding is mainly looking at the history around the Reconstruction Constitutional Amendments, the 13th, 14th, and 15th. The Second Founding, in some ways, is a book-length exploration of what Akhil Reed Amar did in a single chapter in his America’s Constitution: A Biography. The real difference is the greater space given to the historical context in Foner’s Second Founding. There is a theme throughout Foner’s work of the reconstruction being a second founding, and he views that broadly. The way he conceives of the second founding is the expansion of what it means to be a citizen and who is allowed to be citizens so that the promises of liberty and freedom that are implicit in the founding of the US expand gradually, starting in reconstruction to include more and more people. Foner suggests that the implications of the reconstruction amendments are still being felt today (as with the Obergefell case). But whatever its chronological definition, Reconstruction can also be understood as a historical process without a fixed end point— the process by which the United States tried to come to terms with the momentous results of the Civil War, especially the destruction of the institution of slavery. One might almost say that we are still trying to work out the consequences of the abolition of American slavery. In that sense, Reconstruction never ended. The structure of the book is a historical background, a chapter on each of the three amendments individually, and then a concluding contextual section after the passage of the amendments, with a short epilogue. The main amendment chapters are both explorations of the content of the amendments and discussion around the adoption of the amendments. As with many other similar cases, sometimes the controversy at the time is roughly the same as what hist later historical debates are. And sometimes, the past discussions during the passage have almost nothing to do with the controversies that happened after passage. One of the things that comes up here, and came up a number of times in Amar’s book is how much of the constitution has almost no legal precedent. In other words, it is surprising how much of the constitution has not had any court cases that give court insight into how a passage should be understood. It is also interesting how often courts have distorted the words on the page as well. The fourteenth amendment were more likely to be used to give rights to corporations at the end of the 19th century than it was to enforce rights for Black citizens. Separate but equal was a post 14th amendment decision (over 150 cases were decided about corporations referencing the 14th amendment between 1873 and 1900, but only about 20 in regard to Black citizenship and rights.) As always it is also interesting to know how relevant history is to modern discussion. In many ways, while it is not quite the same as during the Civil Rights Era, this quote is still true, "It is worth noting that no significant change in the Constitution took place during the civil rights era. The movement did not need a new Constitution; it needed the existing one enforced." One benefit of reading about the reconstruction era is how overtly many are about White supremacy. There is a widespread belief that people with White skin are superior to people with Black skin, or other minority groups. This belief isn’t just individual animus, although it does include that, but also systemic approaches to law and culture. Even supporters of reconstruction and these constitutional amendments were often clear believers in White supremacy, even if they thought there should be legal equity. Many recent discussions about the role of the federal government or the balance of power between the federal, state, and local governments are echoing arguments around the reconstruction amendments. The expansion of the role of the federal government to act against local or state government and eventually against private businesses (also explored in White Flight around the Civil Rights era) needs to be remembered during current discussions. It is not that all small-government advocates are somehow latently racist, but that the historical reasons for why the balance shifted toward federal power has to be understood. The Cincinnati Commercial Gazette wondered why the federal government was “strong enough to give all men their freedom [and] make them citizens with all that the word implies . . . and yet not strong enough to protect them in the enjoyment of those rights.” Also interesting is the charges of ‘reverse racism’ or fears of eventual White slavery staring almost immediately after the end of the Civil War: "Johnson denied that blacks were qualified for American citizenship and denounced what today is called reverse discrimination: “The distinction of race and color is by the bill made to operate in favor of the colored and against the white race.” Indeed, in the idea that expanding the rights of nonwhites somehow punishes the white majority, the ghost of Andrew Johnson still haunts our discussions of race." As is appropriate, there is also a good discussion about how women, patricianly White women, did and did not support Black male suffrage and how and why Black male suffrage was initially connected to Women’s suffrage and then disconnected. At least part of the problem was the racism within some White women advocates of women’s suffrage and the sexism within White male legislators. It is easy to wonder what would have happened if there could have been universal suffrage instead of just male ballot at the time of the 15th amendment. This summary at the end of the book does capture the spirit of the discussion: The country has come a long way toward fulfilling the agenda of Reconstruction, although deep inequalities remain. Yet key elements of the second founding, including birthright citizenship, equal protection of the laws, and the right to vote, remain highly contested. And in a legal environment that relies so heavily on precedent, crucial decisions of the retreat from Reconstruction, with what Harlan called the Court’s “narrow and artificial” understanding of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, remain undisturbed.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    Very good overview of how our three Reconstruction amendments came to be. The Thirteenth is the most straightforward, and has had the least judicial application since passage. The Fourteenth, on the other hand, outside of the first eight amendments in the Bill of Rights, is arguably THE Amendment to the Constitution today. And, it's very convoluted within its first section, let alone others that have almost zero legal applicability today. Foner discusses why it's that convoluted, with Very good overview of how our three Reconstruction amendments came to be. The Thirteenth is the most straightforward, and has had the least judicial application since passage. The Fourteenth, on the other hand, outside of the first eight amendments in the Bill of Rights, is arguably THE Amendment to the Constitution today. And, it's very convoluted within its first section, let alone others that have almost zero legal applicability today. Foner discusses why it's that convoluted, with all the compromises behind it, and how parts of Section 2 have turned to dust when still theoretically relevant (the loss of House representation for vote infringement, not used during Reconstruction, nor during the 1960s Civil Rights era up to today). He also notes how both this and the Fifteenth Amendment touched on the push for woman's sufferage. The Fifteenth was even more an issue. Most northern states restricted black voting. The Middle Atlantic and New England states also restricted naturalized citizens' voting, with some states having property requirements for them but not the native-born, mainly to restrict Irish Catholics. Foner shows that's part of why poll taxes and literacy tests aren't mentioned in the amendment even though some Congresscritters worried about them at the very time. In all of this, a key figure on the House side was John A. Bingham. The one reason, and only real reason, this book doesn't get a fifth star is its relative slimness, and what Foner could have done with that. For instance, he notes that more than 70 possible amendments were discussed from Lincoln's death up to the Fifteenth Amendment, as well as discussing all the versions of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth. Radical Republicans considered abolishing the Electoral College, for example. Would have been nice to get another 20-30 pages or so to see how close to a vote some of these things came. Also, in reading the "except as a punishment for crime" of the Thirteenth and the "previous condition of servitude" of the Fifteenth made me wonder if there's not an argument for the Constitution declaring that ex-felons have the right to vote once out of jail and off parole, at least. Foner doesn't discuss that or note whether such a play has ever been tried by civil rights lawyers.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    (My copy was given to me for free and was an "Advance Reading Copy", though I did not read it in advance of publication) This is a fairly interesting book of history surrounding the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. It is has the advantage of being, short, readable, and clear in its outlook. Foner explains how the discussion during and after the Civil War led to the amendments, that the amendments can easily be read as having expanded national power (and in doing so, weakened (My copy was given to me for free and was an "Advance Reading Copy", though I did not read it in advance of publication) This is a fairly interesting book of history surrounding the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. It is has the advantage of being, short, readable, and clear in its outlook. Foner explains how the discussion during and after the Civil War led to the amendments, that the amendments can easily be read as having expanded national power (and in doing so, weakened the federalism in the US), and how the law was later interpreted by the US Supreme Court in a much narrower sense. Foner's viewpoint is pretty clearly that federalism has been problematic when it comes to individual states' histories on enforcing the rights and privileges of their citizens. He offers a sound history of the era, and explains how the people who wrote and passed the amendments thought, and then does an equally good job of explaining how and why Supreme Court Justices came to different conclusions. While Foner's viewpoint is clear, I think he does a good job of not simply straw-manning the opposing viewpoint. If you are a strong endorser of the original federalism of the US Constitution or not, I think you will learn what the arguments were and are for interpreting the Constitution with these new amendments. This is a nice short treatise on the subject, which aids in its readability. It gets to the point and doesn't needlessly linger on any point. Well-written, though history with an opinion [which is fine, Foner makes it clear that he is taking a viewpoint].

  12. 4 out of 5

    shoesforall

    A truly impressive and accessible history of the Reconstruction Amendments. The Supreme Court decisions after Reconstruction are not as thoroughly discussed as I would have liked but still are crucial to the thesis of this book. The author brings an impressive scholarship, including a wealth of important primary sources, to bear in addressing the Reconstruction Amendments and arguing for their crucial place in the American social contract and in the jurispudence of the US Supreme Cour A truly impressive and accessible history of the Reconstruction Amendments. The Supreme Court decisions after Reconstruction are not as thoroughly discussed as I would have liked but still are crucial to the thesis of this book. The author brings an impressive scholarship, including a wealth of important primary sources, to bear in addressing the Reconstruction Amendments and arguing for their crucial place in the American social contract and in the jurispudence of the US Supreme Court. While I have a few quibbles, this is undoubtedly an excellent book of accessible and important scholarship that I would recommend to anyone with any interest in racial politics or American history.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Online-University of-the-Left

    Excellent in its detail about the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Then Foner shows how they were largely thwarted in practice, at least for 100 years, and we are still trying to realize their full potential to this day.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christe

    A clear, straightforward account of the development and passage of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments, with their promise of a new fundamental understanding of the rights of citizens and the relationship between the national government and the citizens of the country -- and how that promise was denied, eroded, and ultimately nullified primarily by Supreme Court decisions over a period of eighty years. The fourteenth amendment has never been allowed its true, intended meaning. A clear, straightforward account of the development and passage of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments, with their promise of a new fundamental understanding of the rights of citizens and the relationship between the national government and the citizens of the country -- and how that promise was denied, eroded, and ultimately nullified primarily by Supreme Court decisions over a period of eighty years. The fourteenth amendment has never been allowed its true, intended meaning. Gains made in the 50s, 60s, and until recently have mostly been, through contorted logic, based on the Commerce Clause instead the language of the 14th amendment. For decades, 1870 to 1950, "equal protection under the law" was interpreted mostly to protect the rights of corporations. This history reminds us that the basic arguments about race and civil rights have not changed for 200 years, despite the brief flowering of Reconstruction, and it provides good perspective for these times, when we face a long period of voter suppression and regressive Supreme Court decisions.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Professional Apocalypse

    Good enough. I'm bad with keeping tons of names and dates straight, but there was definitely some good insight into the backstory behind the 13th, 14th and 15th amendment.

  16. 4 out of 5

    gulpo pelicanbreef

    the continued insistence by the country's most prominent "left"-leaning academics that america is a work-in-progress gently rendered egalitarian by a malleable constitution isn't just flimsy, citation-laden kowtowing to the powers that be--it's antithetical to very nature of historical research eric foner?? more like eric BONER!! retire bitch!!!!!! it's remarkable to sit in a room with 6-8 full-time academic historians and listen to them decry foner as "painting the continued insistence by the country's most prominent "left"-leaning academics that america is a work-in-progress gently rendered egalitarian by a malleable constitution isn't just flimsy, citation-laden kowtowing to the powers that be--it's antithetical to very nature of historical research eric foner?? more like eric BONER!! retire bitch!!!!!! it's remarkable to sit in a room with 6-8 full-time academic historians and listen to them decry foner as "painting with a broad brush" and "polemical" knowing they'll inevitably assign his massively overread textbrick in their intro american history courses the following semester. as cool/fine as a lot of his ideas are, nobody represents the status quo better than eric foner; maybe that's why he just can't stop writing despite all signs pointing to a cushy retirement. he certainly isn't convincing any college republican freshmen with his fluffy, anodyne re-re-re-dismantling of the constitution this book doesn't feel like an attempt to write a book; from its very first citation, which directly quotes from the constitution, it feels like an 175-page freshman paper turned in for the very class in which one of foner's painfully elemental books might get assigned (hysterically, on p. 5, foner quotes fucking Webster's Dictionary, lacking the wryness with which a historian who's actually taught in the past five years might do so). and i get it if foner doesn't wanna write books anymore, but cmon: he doesn't have to anymore. he never had to work to get tenure in the first place, let alone now. his About the Author section is two pages long even foner's best contributions are kinda bland and effective in name only. his titular argument--that the US experienced a "second founding" with the creation of the reconstruction amendments, which, like, being amendments, radically changed the american constitution--is little more than a restructuring of his most important career-spanning intervention: the notion that civil rights, the american carceral state, etc. are all exhortations of an ongoing "Second Reconstruction." (this is a killer example of the kinds of in-name-only historiographical non-analyses US historians have been rehashing since their entire discipline found itself outmoded by interdisciplinary postmodernist scholarship and an earnest focus on the country's literal historical subjects left little room for stuffy retellings of the same godawful stories) the problem historians like foner bring to the conversation goes something like this: yeah, most people don't know much about the Reconstruction era of US history, and yeah, the constitutional transformations that occurred during have an indelible impact on their lives. however, they don't need work that eschews complex narratives and creative analyses of that period in favor of a board book with footnotes that spells out the congressional debates behind every word that makes up, for instance, the fifteenth amendment historians' continued refusal to illustrate the content they regard as so necessary to a fundamental understanding of society at large, let alone actually study the interesting aspects of it, remains as astounding as it was thirty years ago. there's an especially heinous passage from The Second Founding that i wanna mention here: At the end of April 1866, after a somewhat disorienting series of further votes, in which language was added and eliminated from [social reformer Robert Dale] Owen's now almost unrecognizable proposal, the Joint Committee [on Reconstruction] approved a five-section Fourteenth Amendment and sent it to Congress. this highlights everything that's wrong with how foner/historians approach history: no attempt is made to communicate with his reader. the sentence itself is unwieldy, evidence of a facts-hamstrung writing style metastasizing from a near-eternity spent in history coursework/dissertation writing. it's lost all touch with actual storytelling, stuck in a hellish microsoft word limbo where topic sentences and thesis statements thwart the basic tenets of writing (btw prof. foner, what is "a somewhat disorienting series of further votes"? do you know? is that actually a thing? before you answer, remember that artificial academic language isn't going to keep funding from going to the engineering chair's salary instead of the grad students who do the vast majority of your research for you) there are bits that work; while foner confines the roles women, workers, and black people to the margins of his line-by-line demarcation of the constitution, when their voices briefly assert themselves, we see the beginnings of a vaguely interesting story. maybe that story is something that foner feels he's already captured in his insane oeuvre, and it's not an unjustified feeling.... it's just that his job isn't done, in that sense. if he wants to keep writing dowdy takes on the constitution that spell out little more than a book-length kamala harris endorsement, then he should probably, like... keep that to himself

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    Amazing; enlightening; distressing. Well worth a second read. Having come of age in what I believed to be a fundamentally stable democracy. I thought I knew what it meant to be a United States citizen; I believed that the bad things that happened to black folks after abolition came about from intransigence in southern states. The three constitutional amendments passed after the civil war were meant to codify how former slaves should be treated. The decades that followed showed how those amendmen Amazing; enlightening; distressing. Well worth a second read. Having come of age in what I believed to be a fundamentally stable democracy. I thought I knew what it meant to be a United States citizen; I believed that the bad things that happened to black folks after abolition came about from intransigence in southern states. The three constitutional amendments passed after the civil war were meant to codify how former slaves should be treated. The decades that followed showed how those amendments were ignored and eviserated by the federal government, state governments and even by the Supreme Court. Eric Foner shows how our democracy is still a work in progress. There are forces working today to deny basic civil rights to portions of the American population and their arguments can be traced all the way back to the Revolutionary period.

  18. 5 out of 5

    A

    Not that great. Better off with the full Reconstruction tome by the same fellow. This follows the career of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, along with the 1866 Civil Rights act - but to my reading in a bit of muddled way. Meaning he sorts of drifts between the contemporaneous debates on these items and the many changes / compromises that were part of that record, and then hearkens forward to later application of the item under discussion. Probably it is on me and my too casual reading (sorry Not that great. Better off with the full Reconstruction tome by the same fellow. This follows the career of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, along with the 1866 Civil Rights act - but to my reading in a bit of muddled way. Meaning he sorts of drifts between the contemporaneous debates on these items and the many changes / compromises that were part of that record, and then hearkens forward to later application of the item under discussion. Probably it is on me and my too casual reading (sorry) but I got muddled up often enough about just where we were and what we were talking about. Well intentioned of course and history with an agenda...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Daniel A Littman

    Another excellent book from Eric Foner. Well written, good narrative pacing, strong history. In many ways it is a sad, depressing story, of what might have beens in the era after the Civil War, about how the Civil War & half-hearted Reconstruction did little to affect racist (& sexist) beliefs among the dominant white males, those in the highest levels of power & those on the ground fighting hard to continue their dominance. In the south and in the north. Foner is able to show t Another excellent book from Eric Foner. Well written, good narrative pacing, strong history. In many ways it is a sad, depressing story, of what might have beens in the era after the Civil War, about how the Civil War & half-hearted Reconstruction did little to affect racist (& sexist) beliefs among the dominant white males, those in the highest levels of power & those on the ground fighting hard to continue their dominance. In the south and in the north. Foner is able to show the “why’” of all this, which sounds familiar even in this day, 150 years later. But also that it was not inevitable.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    A brief overview of the effect that the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments have had on American jurisprudence since the Civil War and Reconstruction ended. The author tells of the struggles African Americans have faced (and continue to face) in their quest for full and equal citizenship before the law. I had read one of the author's previous books about Reconstruction, but found this book much more reader-friendly. Overall, a good quick one volume study of parts of the Constitution often overlooked A brief overview of the effect that the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments have had on American jurisprudence since the Civil War and Reconstruction ended. The author tells of the struggles African Americans have faced (and continue to face) in their quest for full and equal citizenship before the law. I had read one of the author's previous books about Reconstruction, but found this book much more reader-friendly. Overall, a good quick one volume study of parts of the Constitution often overlooked in today's society.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ed Barton

    An excellent look at the 13th 14th and 15th Amendments. Covering the political and social implications of the amendments and taking the reader from the Missouri Compromise through Plessy v. Ferguson, the book is a sort but extraordinarily well written account of the Reconstruction Amendments and the promise of the "Second Founding". The author, a noted historian, writes for the interested reader in a format that is more narrative and less textbook. A phenomenal read, and one that serves as a rem An excellent look at the 13th 14th and 15th Amendments. Covering the political and social implications of the amendments and taking the reader from the Missouri Compromise through Plessy v. Ferguson, the book is a sort but extraordinarily well written account of the Reconstruction Amendments and the promise of the "Second Founding". The author, a noted historian, writes for the interested reader in a format that is more narrative and less textbook. A phenomenal read, and one that serves as a reminder of both how far we came, and how far we have to go. Highly recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    John Munro

    An interesting account of the events surrounding the adoption of the Reconstruction amendments to the constitution. The author describes how they established the locus of rights guarantees in the federal government, and how Reconstruction ebbed as the South resisted the idea that former slaves had the same rights as white men. A curious element of the book is the Appendix, which covers much of the same ground as the main text. All in all, an excellent read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A good look at the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments and their impact on the Reconstruction, American democracy and jurisprudence in the 19th and 20th centuries. Unfortunately, the amendments lost much, if not all of their punch for protection and equality of the very people it was suppose to benefit. A sad indictment on how the Constitution can be ignored or misrepresented. It is an education none the less.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Allen

    A vital book for our times. Foner looks at the Reconstruction Constitutional amendments, their origins, passage, and subsequent careers. We are seeing the continuing ill effects of the failure to provide a positive right to vote in the 15th amendment, and an abridgement of the guarantees of equality in the 14th. And sadly, the 13th was never used to fight the lingering “badges and incidents” of slavery.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joe Armao

    An illuminating and compelling analysis of the policy and politics that gave birth to the Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution, with a critical look at the narrow-minded and bigoted Supreme Court decisions that served to eviscerate their spirit and vision. A compelling and well researched book about our nation's second founding--the long and turbulent struggle to achieve the goal of national citizenship for all Americans.

  26. 4 out of 5

    John C Havekotte

    The best of intentions fizzled away! Having educated myself in other areas, it seemed appropriate to begin learning about our Constitution and it's jurisprudence. Since I am a liberal and a humanitarian, I was buoyed by the results of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Unfortunately, real life often strays from the ideals that may so inspire us. Best not to give up but to persevere!

  27. 4 out of 5

    John P. Davidson

    An excellent overview of the three Reconstruction amendments to the American constitution: the one that abolished slavery, the one that guaranteed due process and the equal protection of the law, and finally, the amendment that gave black men the right to vote. Foner writes well and I would definitely recommend this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Well written, well-researched book. I enjoyed how the author made what could seem like "old History" relevant to life today. The book is very timely considering at least one of the Amendments concerns birthright citizenship which has been under attack in recent times.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Four chapters comprise the meat of the book: one on the debate surround the ratification of each amendment, and one on the subsequent legislation and jurisprudence. Overall it provides a good overview of the spectrum of the arguments about and applications of the civil war amendments.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gloria Zak

    First, thank you to the author for allowing me to read the book through the Goodreads giveaway program. The book was well written, thoroughly researched with tremendous detail. However, reading it was nice like reading a text book, so it takes fortitude and time to complete the read.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.