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Our Secret ConstitutionHow Lincoln Redefined American Democracy$
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George P. Fletcher

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195156287

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195156285.001.0001

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The Argument for the Secret Constitution

The Argument for the Secret Constitution

(p.1) The Argument for the Secret Constitution
Our Secret Constitution

George P. Fletcher (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that the Civil War began with one set of purposes, and ended with another. The original motive for resisting Southern secession was preserving the Union, but the final goal was to abolish slavery and reinvent the United States on the basis of a new set of principles – at the heart of which lay the Reconstruction Amendments. The principles of this new legal regime are so radically different from our original constitution that they deserve to be recognized as a second American constitution. Where the first constitution was based on principles of nationhood as a voluntary association, individual freedom, and republican elitism, the guiding premises of the second constitution are organic nationhood, equality of all persons, and popular democracy – all themes signaled in Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address.

Keywords:   Civil War, equality, Gettysburg Address, individual freedom, nationhood, popular democracy, Reconstruction Amendments, republican elitism, slavery

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