Dickinson College, Fall 2023

Category: 1860s

Second Founding

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For more information, see Freedom’s Legacy at Dickinson & Slavery and watch this video with the descendants of Henry Spradley and Robert Young.

Discussion Question

  • Did the Second Founding of the Constitution (1865-70) succeed in transforming American society?

Thirteenth Amendment (JAN 1865 / DEC 1865) Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

ORIGINS:  Northwest Ordinance (1787) Art. 6:  There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted…

Lincoln movie

Fourteenth Amendment (1866 / 1868) Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

ORIGINS:  Civil Rights Act of 1866 SEC. 1:  That all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States;


Fifteenth Amendment (1869 / 1870) Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

ORIGINS:  Reconstruction Act (1867) SEC. 5: And be it further enacted, That when the people of any one of said rebel States shall have formed a constitution of government in conformity with the Constitution of the United States in all respects, framed by a convention of delegates elected by the male citizens of said State, twenty-one years old and upward, of whatever race, color, or previous condition


“First Vote” by Alfred Waud for Harpers Weekly, Nov. 17, 1867


Featured Supreme Court Decisions

  • Civil Rights Cases or US v. Stanley (1883): “When a man has emerged from slavery, and, by the aid of beneficent legislation, has shaken off the inseparable concomitants of that state, there must be some stage in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizen and ceases to be the special favorite of the laws, and when his rights as a citizen or a man are to be protected in the ordinary modes by which other men’s rights are protected.” (Majority opinion by Justice Joseph Bradley)
  • Plessy v. Ferguson (1896): “The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country.  And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth, and in power…. But in the view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens.  There is no caste here.  Our Constitution is color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.  In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.” (Dissent by Justice John Marshall Harlan)

Prince Rivers

Prince Rivers (1822-1887)

Prince Rivers (1822-1887)

The story of Prince Rivers embodies many of the insights which Eric Foner tries to convey in the opening chapters of his book, A Short History of Reconstruction (2015 ed.).  Rivers was a “contraband,” a wartime runaway slave, who fled behind Union lines along the South Carolina coast in 1862.  He joined the Union army, serving in one of the first all-black regiments, and became something of a wartime celebrity.  Later, during post-war Reconstruction, he became a political figure in South Carolina.  The sad ending to his career, however, suggests how, as Foner put it, Reconstruction truly became, “America’s Unfinished Revolution.”  You can read about Rivers in the following two posts at the Emancipation Digital Classroom.  Try to use his story to punctuate Foner’s analysis about “Wartime Reconstruction” and the various “Rehearsals for Reconstruction.”

End of Civil War

The end of the Civil War brought about the restoration of the Union and the end of slavery, but were these two objectives really one and the same?  If so, does Abraham Lincoln deserve the lion’s share of the credit for melding them together?  These are the types of questions that historians argue over.  So did nineteenth-century Americans.  One way to engage a fresh perspective on that debate is to examine what a commercial printer in Philadelphia did with a popular image following Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. Here is what the image looked like that year:

Emancipation Banner

Yet here is what the original illustration looked like in January 1863 when Thomas Nast first drew it for Harpers Weekly:

Emancipation OriginalThe difference is more than just color.  Nast’s allegory for emancipation has now been subtly altered to give the martyred president a greater role.

cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-emancipation.jpgEmancipation Detail


Below is a photograph taken at Fort Sumter on Friday, April 14, 1865.  That was a special day for the Union coalition –a kind of “mission accomplished” moment as Col. Robert Anderson returned with a delegation of notables, including abolitionists like Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and William Lloyd Garrison, to raise the American flag once again over the fort in Charleston harbor where the Civil War had begun almost exactly four years earlier.

Sumter 1865 DamagedNote the cracked glass plate from this seemingly ruined photograph now in the collection of the Library of Congress.  But look what happens to this image when it is digitized at a high resolution and then magnified.

Sumter 1865 Enhanced

That’s Rev. Henry Ward Beecher speaking on the afternoon of Friday, April 14, 1865, from what he called “this pulpit of broken stone.”  Originally, scholars, using magnifying glasses, thought that William Lloyd Garrison was perhaps seated on Beecher’s left.

Garrison 1865 Option 1But now we are confident at the House Divided Project that Garrison was actually seated in a special section on Beecher’s right, with other leading abolitionists and Lincoln administration notables.

Garrison 1865 Option 2

Garrison 1865 Detail

It was obviously a moving, reflective moment for Garrison, one captured in this detail image above from right after the ceremony and by the little known story of his visit the following morning to see the grave of secessionist icon John C. Calhoun.  You can read more about this episode here and here.  Sometimes people are surprised by the stories that slip out of public memory and don’t make it into standard textbooks.  The Garrison visit to South Carolina in April 1865 is certainly one of them, but another such lost tale involves a Dickinsonian named John A.J. Creswell, who was deeply involved in the final passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery, which occurred in early January 1865.  Here is the image that appeared in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper to celebrate that moment.

Thirteenth Amendment

You will notice the trio of men in the lower right hand corner, obviously prominent figures according to the illustrator.  We researched them here at the college and were thrilled to discover that one of them was a Dickinsonian.  It turns out that these are three congressman from the Mid-Atlantic (from left to right) Thaddeus Stevens, William D. Kelley, and John A.J. Creswell.  We used a detail from that image for the cover of our first House Divided e-book, which profiles Creswell, a Dickinson graduate and Maryland politician who became one of the nation’s most important wartime abolitionists.  Yet, he’s almost completely forgotten, not even mentioned in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Lincoln” (2012), which concerned passage of the amendment.  You can download a free copy of Creswell’s biography, written by Dickinson college emeritus history professor John Osborne and college librarian Christine Bombaro, here.  Ultimately, that might be the best way to rediscover the drama at the end of the Civil War –by seeing old stories from new perspectives.

Forgotten Abolitionist New Cover

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