Reviews | Lincoln against the Constitution? Not so fast.


For the publisher:

Re “Lincoln Broke the US Constitution,” by Noah Feldman (Opinion guest essay, November 8):

For the first time in over 150 years, there is serious debate over whether the Constitution is so deeply flawed that it needs to be replaced. But Mr. Feldman is wrong: Lincoln did not break the Constitution.

“Contemporary observers … have understood that the Emancipation Proclamation left the original Constitution in tatters,” writes Mr. Feldman. While some thought the proclamation was unconstitutional, Lincoln had carefully crafted the proclamation to fall within his constitutional power.

Mr. Feldman’s article leaves out a critical point. The emancipation proclamation has not free all slaves. He freed the slaves only in territory controlled by the Confederacy. This made it a measure of war sanctioned by the power of the president as commander-in-chief.

We worship Lincoln today, so it’s important to understand his vision. Working within the framework of the document drawn up in 1787, he defends a vision of the Constitution based on equality and freedom.

William M. Treanor
The writer is the Dean of the Georgetown Law Center.

For the publisher:

Noah Feldman’s suggestion that Lincoln “broke” the Constitution turns things around: the Constitution was “broken” by the South when he seceded, not by Lincoln when he tried to keep the Union intact.

Lincoln’s use of force against the South and his emancipation from slaves was not unconstitutional. In fact, Mr. Feldman’s arguments conflict with unreported Supreme Court decisions made during and after the Civil War, including the Price case, in which the court ruled that the blockade of the Union of Southern Ports was constitutional.

The Emancipation Proclamation also fell well within the limits of the Lieber code, which was published in 1863 and established rules of conduct for Union soldiers. It was recognized then and now as the first comprehensive statement of the international law of war.

Robert Fabrikant
The writer, a retired Howard University Law School professor, has written extensively on the legal aspects of the Civil War, focusing on the Emancipation Proclamation.

For the publisher:

If only Noah Feldman sent a copy of his essay to the “originals” of the Supreme Court. Ideally, he would add a question to their thinking: What constitution do you think the country needs now, the seriously compromised one the Founding Fathers felt compelled to adopt, or the evolved one Lincoln employed in a time of national distress?

Our present distress requires our judges to carefully consider their philosophies and hopefully have the vision and courage of Lincoln. Think right to vote! Will our Union evolve or regress?

Hopefully they will take note of the irony that Lincoln was the first Republican to rule our country.

Elizabeth björkman
Lexington, Mass.

For the publisher:

For my part, I am weary of the hysteria, panic, and negativity about supply chain shortages or delays in food or gift items this season. Swapping out a pumpkin pie ingredient or side dish seems like a small adjustment to what’s likely a temporary inconvenience. If we need to change the Thanksgiving menu or switch to our second choice of gift, who cares?

Are we forgetting the isolation, terror, disease and terrors a year ago when Covid ruled the country? And who would trade those adjustments for all of this?

Take perspective, folks! This holiday season we have vaccines, relief, travel, parties, smiles and open schools, stores and restaurants – and an abundance of normalcy.

The pandemic has taught us to appreciate the most important things: connecting with people, health, nature and a more usual vacation time. Gratitude is not stuck in the quagmire of offshore container ships.

This year, whatever the imperfections, we know that “Happy Thanksgiving” is not an empty phrase, but a truly heartfelt sentiment.

Mimi reimel
Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

For the publisher:

Re “Staples Center in Los Angeles to be renamed Arena” (Business, November 18):

When I was little in Baltimore, the Orioles (and Colts) played at Memorial Stadium, named in honor of our veterans. There is no greater symbol of how American values ​​have changed than “ Arena”.

I cry for what we have become.

Charles Merrill
new York

For the publisher:

Re “Rising Winter Heating Bills Loom” (Affairs, November 9):

As winter conditions and the threat of inflation weigh heavily, disparate energy loads faced by people of color, low-income households and those living in rural communities is nothing new.

In very poor rural towns like Albany, Georgia, residents regularly receive electricity bills of up to $ 800 per month, in many cases more than they pay for rent, forcing many families to choose between keeping lights on or have food on the table.

Albany is just one example of a larger national problem, with millions of American adults living in households unable to afford electricityeven in normal times.

We need comprehensive policies that protect consumers from price hikes by utility companies and treat this issue as the crisis it is – not only to bring immediate relief to injured families, but also to ensure that all households are able to affordably access essential public services nationwide year round.

Mica whitfield
The writer is Georgia State Director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.


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