Review of "The Second Founding"

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Whenever I teach courses in American politics, I talk about how the Civil War changed the concept of the United States from a collective body (a federation of sovereign states) to a singular political entity. Foner’s book shows that this was not just a rhetorical shift but became law.

After a short introduction to describe the politics of that period, he dedicates a chapter to each of the amendments. By treating each amendment separately, he can document the debate surrounding each. While we normally think of these as a single set of amendments, the discussion of each dealt with separate and not always related issues. The relatively short book ends with a chapter on the impact reflecting his historical view of the impact.

Although never specifically stated, the discussions of the amendments show their continued impact in areas such as defining citizenship and the development of the concept of birthright citizenship.



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