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Untrodden GroundHow Presidents Interpret the Constitution$
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Harold H. Bruff

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226211107

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226211244.001.0001

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A Rough Time of It

A Rough Time of It


(p.120) Chapter Five A Rough Time of It
Untrodden Ground

Harold H. Bruff

University of Chicago Press

The extraordinary strain of the Civil War led to many important presidential precedents. Abraham Lincoln transformed the presidency in many lasting ways. His overall constitutional theory that secession was unconstitutional led to war. He delayed calling Congress into session at the outset of the war and took some executive actions that were unauthorized or contrary to statute. He later received congressional ratification for these exercises of prerogative. His suspension of habeas corpus was a response to real emergency conditions, and was lawful. He successfully struggled to control the executive branch and the military. His Emancipation Proclamation was a lawful military order, because it only affected slaves held in rebel areas. Lincoln’s suppression of civil liberties was usually modest, but excessive in some cases. In 1864, he selected a vice president who would undermine some of his legacy. His constitutional approach transformed the United States from a federation into a nation.

Keywords:   Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, secession, presidential prerogative, habeas corpus suspension, Emancipation Proclamation, civil liberties

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