A Confederate History in the Yale Law Journal
10 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2015 Last revised: 24 May 2016
Date Written: November 9, 2015
This essay revisits Yale history professor Allen Johnson’s article “The Constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Acts,” which appeared in the Yale Law Journal in December 1921. Johnson wrote about a law that had been nullified by the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment nearly 70 years before. His article was part of the scholarly reconsideration of the origins of Civil War designed to reconcile North and South. Northerners, especially Northern scholars, blamed the Civil War on fanatics on both sides and in some ways exculpated Southerners for their role in the War.
While scholars of memory have explored the rewriting of history in the early twentieth century, no one has noticed how it stretched outside of history books and into the pages of the distinguished Yale Law Journal. The efforts to re-write constitutional history and to defend the south’s case for one of the most reviled acts in American history reached into territory and to scholars we had not previously known. This essay thus implicates a wider stretch of legal and historical writing than we had known in the efforts to defend the proslavery south.
Keywords: Jim Crow, memory of Civil War, memory of slavery, Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, nineteenth century constitutional history
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