The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984 Page: 224
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Second, the authors place this discussion in two important contexts.
One context is that of the political history of the period. This is po-
litical history broadly construed, and includes more than simply presi-
dential politics. Especially useful is the first chapter, which outlines
"The Democratic Constitution" and places antebellum constitutional
developments within the ideology of the dominant Democratic party.
That party, and the courts that it dominated, faced four key issues:
" (1) the scope of popular sovereignty; (2) democratization of political
mechanisms; (3) maintenance of the American union; and (4) protec-
tion for Afro-American slavery" (p. i). One important idea the authors
develop here (which Wiecek has written about elsewhere) is that Chief
Justice Roger B. Taney ultimately chose to support and protect the
last of these elements of the democratic agenda at the expense of the
The second context for the discussion of constitutional development
is the legal history of the period. Thus Wiecek and Hyman do not con-
fine themselves to Supreme Court cases and high court history. State
legislation, state constitutions, legal theorists, and developments within
the legal profession are integrated into this book. This is an important
step in combining legal and constitutional history. Legal and consti-
tutional developments are placed in the context of American society,
and not in some obscure or arcane vacuum called the "courtroom."
The third accomplishment-and the most important contribution-
of this volume is the development of a framework for understanding
the great constitutional changes of this period. The issue, for judges
and lawyers as well as politicians in this period, was freedom. Freedom
of contract, freedom to move west, and freedom to make money-what
J. Willard Hurst has called the "release of energy"-was part of this.
But freedom for slaves and citizenship for the freedmen were the criti-
cal issues of the period. By beginning with Taney's Court in 1835 (and
persuasively arguing that the Taney Court was a coherent institu-
tion with great continuity despite changes in personnel) and ending
with Chase's Court in 1875, the authors are able to show the gradual
shift in America's legal and political development from slavery to free-
dom. The culmination of this line of reasoning is the critical chapter
entitled "The Fourteenth Amendment in Light of the Thirteenth."
Here the authors argue that the authors of the Thirteenth Amend-
ment-veterans of the struggle against slavery and secession-assumed
that freeing slaves would make them citizens and voters. Thus, the
Fourteenth Amendment must be seen in the light of the antislavery
crusade from 1831 to 1865, and not simply as another addition to the
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984, periodical, 1983/1984; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117150/m1/260/: accessed September 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.