The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic and Lincoln’s Constitutional Vision

Here’s Professor Akhil Reed Amar in a discussion at the National Archives about his book, The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic and Lincoln’s Constitutional Vision.  This is really an outstanding discussion.

From the video’s description:  “Renowned legal scholar Akhil Reed Amar illustrates how geography, federalism, and regionalism have influenced some of the biggest questions in American constitutional law. While we may be united under one Constitution, separate and distinct states remain, each with its own constitution and culture. Writing about Illinois, ‘the land of Lincoln,’ Amar shows how our 16th President’s ideas about secession were influenced by his Midwestern upbringing and outlook.”

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5 comments

  1. I wanted to say thank you to you guys for posting this. It was fascinating and it fits right in with my continued research and writing on July 4, 1865. I only have one minor quibble–historians of the Civil War and the Second American Revolution largely follow in the vein of saying that the 14th amendment granted citizenship to everyone born in the United States. I think the folks who make this argument need to go back and read their Vine Delora. The 14th Amendment says “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Because indigenous folks were held to be not subject to the jurisdiction, to use the wording of the amendment, they wouldn’t gain there citizenship until 1924. It does violence to the historical record to say that the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to everyone born in the United States. It simply isn’t true, and I feel that this needs to be taken into account.

    1. You make an excellent point that we have to read the entire clause, not just parts of it.

      “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

      Section 1 of the 14th Amendment.

      1. It’s an important point, and it gets left out of the story of Reconstruction. Ely Parker sat with Grant and Lee at Appomattox court-house and wasn’t granted his citizenship until 1869. The exclusion of indigenous folks from the definition of citizenship after the Civil War would have profound influences. In many ways, as I hope to one day illustrate, the memory of the Civil War led directly to the Dawes Act and that horrors of land ownership in severalty. If the Civil War created the definition of an American nation, then any analysis of that definition has to include some idea of the relationship of the federal government to the peoples that inhabited this continent.

  2. Jerry Doherty · · Reply

    Great lecture. Need to run out and buy one of this guy’s books.

    1. This book looks like it’s going to be pretty good. I think his book, America’s Constitution: A Biography is outstanding. You can get a number of his essays and articles at his website: http://www.law.yale.edu/faculty/amarpublications.htm

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