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Dean's Blog

Mr. Lincoln Comes to SIU Law


Lincoln 10 17

From left: Assistant Professor Steve Macias, Dean Cynthia Fountaine, Law Library Director Doug Lind, and Lincoln Scholar John Lupton.

SIU Law is located deep in the heart of Lincoln country. This is where Abraham Lincoln practiced law, riding circuit throughout Southern Illinois, representing people in “every kind of business that could come before a prairie lawyer.”  Thus, it is especially exciting that we have the opportunity to host the exhibit “Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War” at the law school this fall.  

This exhibit gives us the opportunity to consider Lincoln’s presidency from a scholarly and historical perspective, and to take a fresh look at his impact on our modern understanding of constitutional doctrine and the powers of the presidency of the United States.

When Lincoln was elected president in 1860, he was confronted with enormous challenges. The nation was on the brink of Civil War, and he struggled with issues of secession, slavery, and civil liberties—all  questions our country's founding charter left unanswered. President Lincoln used the Constitution to confront these three intertwined crises of war, ultimately reshaping our constitutional understanding of separation of powers and, especially, the powers of the President to react in crisis situations. As lawyers and life-long students of the law, this exhibit gives us an extraordinary opportunity to develop a more complete understanding of how Abraham Lincoln as a president, who was also a lawyer, handled what is known as the nation's gravest constitutional crisis—the Civil War.

This exhibit was organized by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office.  A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities has made it possible for the exhibit to travel to public libraries and universities across the country.  It will be here at SIU School of Law until the end of November.

To enable us to deeply consider the exhibit themes, we have planned several programs.  Yesterday evening, we hosted the first of these programs.  SIU Law Professor Steve Macias spoke about “John Stuart Mill, Slavery, and the Civil War.” In addition, noted Lincoln scholar John Lupton presented "Was Abraham Lincoln Justified in Suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus." 

On Monday, October 22, SIU Law Professor Doug Lind will join the John A. Logan Museum Director Mike Jones for a program at the Museum in Murphysboro entitled, "Free Speech or Treasonous Talk?  Civilian Arrests in Southern Illinois During the Civil War."

 In addition, on November 8, Brian Andreasen, who is a research historian for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, will join us to present, "Abraham Lincoln and Wartime Civil Liberties."