American Legal History
--+ America Almost Guaranteed Universal Secular Education; But "Almost" Ain't Half of It. Too Bad. Dumb Luck.

During President Grant's administration, American society's worst wounds had hardly scabbed. He attempted to enucleate and heighten America's promised freedoms, anyway. His administration struggled for every inch of proto-progressive regime-changing in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin and religion. There were some successes, many failures and much left misunderstood or forgotten. Seminal historical study has touched on or exhausted each of these topics. However, President Grant's near-miss with an landmark constitutional amendment is not well documented.

In 1876, President Grant pushed hard for an amendment to the constitution that would have guaranteed basic secular education in America. Politically, it never stood a chance. The proposed amendment was certainly politically motivated and sui generis. President Grant personally pushed for the amendment in reaction to Reconstruction-era parochial nonsense in the South. President Grant and the proposed amendments' many Northern sponsors sent salvos into intransigent states, aimed at children's minds. I wish it had worked.

According to historians, the agony of civil war remained the base chord of the national ethos throughout Grant's presidency. For his part, President Grant tried to humanize those de-humanized in the decades or centuries before he rose to prominence -- hyphenated Americans, of which Black America was a focal point, immigrants, and Jews became targets for political benefit. Facing the hornets nests in the South and in Congress, President Grant and AG Ackerman pursued a civil rights agenda, if only politically (i.e., symbolically). He also sought to quell the successes of the Klan and similar proto-terrorist groups. The difficulty of these tasks are well stated in James William Hurst's /Law and the Conditions of Freedom in the Nineteenth-Century United States/. Taking Hurst's word as canon, the Grant presidency is arguably typified by the desire to enable and support activity or policy that improved one's freedom -- personal freedoms of movement, gainful employment, social well being, to name a few. The backlash of this so-called movement in favor of novel freedoms was ultimately successful; Jim Crow persisted, for example.

However, Reconstruction-era order was tenuously held, and parochial society crept toward steam mobilization and the blossoming of technological modernity in cities. old America was moving westward and European immigrants

Reconstruction Era Occasioned Communities to Resist Federal Influence, and Vice Versa

A confluence of exogenous pressures and deep seated insecurities during Reconstruction prompted Southerners and rural communities to foment resistance against normative, broad federal powers.

The newly independent empire of the United States in its explosive, expansionist phase was organized by law built around what Willard Hurst called "the release of energy principle." In this section of the course we consider that regime and its effects.


Access materials on the [Course Readings] page.


From the Notebooks of Judge Thomas Rodney of the Mississippi Territory


Law and the Conditions of Freedom in the Nineteenth-Century United States (Wisconsin Press 1956)

Notes and Materials


-- JohnOMeara - 02 Nov 2016



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r2 - 31 May 2017 - 21:18:03 - JohnOMeara
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