Timothy S. HuebnerDec 19, 2016
The Civil War Era and American Constitutionalism
University Press of Kansas 2016
Timothy S. Huebner, the Irma O. Sternberg Professor of History at Rhodes College in Memphis, has written Liberty & Union: The Civil War Era and American Constitutionalism (University Press of Kansas, 2016), a one-volume history of the constitutional debates regarding slavery and sovereignty from the Declaration of Independence through the end of Reconstruction. Huebner brings together three strands of history: African American history, military history, and constitutional/political history. In doing so, he joins often disparate areas of inquiry in an account of the unresolved questions from the Founding Era: 1) what would become of slavery? and 2) what was the nature of the Union and how was sovereignty divided between the states and federal government? Huebner reviews the competing theories and political events that repeatedly stoked debate and conflict over how slavery would be handled in a federated constitutional republic. Huebner makes original contributions to the debates about the Civil Wars origins and outcomes by integrating the political and military contributions of African Americans, especially norther free blacks of the antebellum period and blacks from North and South who sought freedom and fought in the war. Additionally, Huebner denotes how the conduct of the war revealed the political and constitutional views of military and civilian commanders on both sides. Huebner concludes that the Civil War and Reconstruction provided definitive answers to the questions of slavery and sovereignty: slavery was extinguished and the sovereignty of the people (rather than the states) had been vindicated. This is a work intended for general readers and professional historians.
Ian J. Drake is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Law at Montclair State University. His scholarly interests include American legal and constitutional history and political theory.