Understanding the Civil War

Ulysses S. Grant Civil War

The Political Thought of the Civil War


JMC faculty partners Alan Levine and James Stoner and JMC fellow Thomas Merrill co-edited a book together, The Political Thought of the Civil WarThis book was be released in August and can be purchased on Amazon.



Book description

Why does the Civil War still speak to us so powerfully? If we listen to the most thoughtful, forceful, and passionate voices of that day we find that many of the questions at the heart of that conflict are also central to the very idea of America—and that many of them remain unresolved in our own time. The Political Thought of the Civil War offers us the opportunity to pursue these questions from a new, critical perspective as leading scholars of American political science, history, and literature engage in some of the crucial debates of the Civil War era—and in the process illuminate more clearly the foundation and fault lines of the American regime.

The essays in this volume use practical dilemmas of the Civil War to reveal and probe fundamental questions about the status of slavery and race in the American founding, the tension between moralism and constitutionalism, and the problem of creating and sustaining a multiracial society on the basis of the original principles of the American regime. Adopting a deliberative approach, the authors revisit the words and deeds of the most important political actors of era, from William Lloyd Garrison, John C. Calhoun, and Abraham Lincoln to Alexander Stephens and Frederick Douglass, with reference to the American Founders and the architects of Reconstruction. The essays in this volume consider the difficult choices each of these figures made, the specific problems they were responding to, and the consequences of those choices. As this book exposes and explores the theoretical principles at play within their historical context, it also offers vivid reminders of how the great controversies surrounding the Civil War continue to shape American political life to this day.

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Professor James R. Stoner, Jr. (Ph.D., Harvard University, 1987) is Hermann Moyse, Jr., Professor and Director of the Eric Voegelin Institute in the Department of Political Science at LSU. He is the author of Common-Law Liberty: Rethinking American Constitutionalism (Kansas, 2003) and Common Law and Liberal Theory: Coke, Hobbes, and the Origins of American Constitutionalism (Kansas, 1992), as well as a number of articles and essays. In 2009 he was named a Senior Fellow of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, New Jersey; he has co-edited three books published by Witherspoon, The Thriving Society: On the Social Conditions of Human Flourishing (with Harold James, 2015), The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (with Donna M. Hughes, 2010), and Rethinking Business Management: Examining the Foundations of Business Education (with Samuel Gregg, 2008). He was the 2010 recipient of the Honors College Sternberg Professorship at LSU.

Dr. Stoner has taught at LSU since 1988, chaired the Department of Political Science from 2007 to 2013, and served as Acting Dean of the Honors College in fall 2010. He was a member of the National Council on the Humanities from 2002 to 2006. In 2002-03 he was a visiting fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, where he returned in the 2013-14 academic year as Garwood Visiting Professor in the fall and Visiting Fellow in the spring. He has teaching and research interests in political theory, English common law, and American constitutionalism.

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Alan LevineAlan M. Levine is the Director of the Political Theory Institute and an Associate Professor in the Department of Government at American University. He has been awarded several grants and fellowships, including those from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Institute for United States Studies within the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, and the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is author of the book Sensual Philosophy: Toleration, Skepticism, and Montaigne’s Politics of the Self (2001). Levine has worked for the U.S. Department of State in Dakar, Senegal. He is a regular consultant for the U.S. State Department’s International Visitors Program.

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Thomas MerrillThomas Merrill is an Associate Professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University. He is the author of Hume and the Politics of Enlightenment (Cambridge, 2015), which won the Delba Winthrop Prize for Best Recent Work in Political Philosophy. He is also the co-editor of three edited volumes, including The Political Thought of the Civil War (University Press of Kansas, summer 2018) and has held fellowships from Harvard, Princeton, and the American Enterprise Institute. He was a senior research analyst for the President’s Council on Bioethics during the George W. Bush administration and is the Associate Director of the Political Theory Institute at American University, which has hosted many public intellectuals from across the political spectrum as well as many academic political theorists. He has served as coordinator of the undergraduate program in Government and, more recently, as chair of the Department of Government.

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