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Jurisprudence

Arkansas Law Review

2022

Legal History

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Slavery And The History Of Congress's Enumerated Powers, Jeffrey Schmitt Feb 2022

Slavery And The History Of Congress's Enumerated Powers, Jeffrey Schmitt

Arkansas Law Review

In his first inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln declared, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Like virtually all Americans before the Civil War, Lincoln believed in what historians call the “national consensus” on slavery. According to this consensus, Congress’s enumerated powers were not broad enough to justify any regulation of slavery within the states. Legal scholars who support the modern reach of federal powers have thus conventionally argued …