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Executive Precepts

Course Offerings (Spring 2011)


POL 470 – Secession, the Civil War, and the Constitution
Professor Allen C. Guelzo, William Garwood Visiting Professor of Politics

Thursday: 1:30 – 4:20 p.m.

This seminar explores the constitutional and legal issues (and legal in terms of both domestic and international law) posed by the attempted secession of eleven states of the Federal Union in 1860-1865 and the civil war this attempt triggered. The most fundamental issue will be the possibility of secession itself, both in terms of the constitutional controversy posed in 1860-1861 (“the secession winter”) and by modern secession movements (most recently in the old Soviet Union and in southeast Asia).  Along with that, this seminar will examine the development during the American Civil War of the “war powers” doctrine of the presidency and the precedents it set for the use of these “war powers” in subsequent American wars, including the “War On Terror.” Within that question, the suspension by the writ of habeas corpus, the use of military tribunals, and abuses of civil rights on both sides of the Civil War will also be examined. Finally, there are a host of residual questions awakened by the Civil War, including the development of a post-war definition of national citizenship, the use of blockade (under the Paris Convention of 1856) and the so-called “Alabama Claims,” the determination of belligerent status in time of war, and the confiscation of property.  

Reading assignments will include nine required texts.  Class participation will comprise 30% of the final grade, and requires the completion of all readings prior to class. A final examination will comprise an additional 25% percent of the grade, with the final 45% being determined by a paper (20-25 pages) on a selected Civil War era case.

Allen C. Guelzo is Professor of History and Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College.  He is the 2010-11 James Madison Program Garwood Visiting Professor of Politics, and also a Garwood Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program. He is the author of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, which won the Lincoln Prize for 2000, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, which won the Lincoln Prize for 2005, and Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America, which won the Abraham Lincoln Institute Prize for 2008. His most recent work on Lincoln is Abraham Lincoln As A Man of Ideas (a collection of essays published in 2009 by Southern Illinois University Press) and Lincoln, a volume in Oxford University Press's 'Very Short Introductions' series (also 2009).  His articles and essays have appeared in scholarly journals, and also in The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, and he has been featured on NPR, the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic Channel, and Brian's Lamb's BookNotes, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In September, 2005, he was nominated by President Bush to the National Council on the Humanities.  He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania.


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