Skip to main content
Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Broken Constitution

The Broken Constitution

Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America

Noah Feldman

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

BUY THE BOOK

An innovative account of Abraham Lincoln, constitutional thinker and doer

Abraham Lincoln is justly revered for his brilliance, compassion, humor, and rededication of the United States to achieving liberty and justice for all. He led the nation into a bloody civil war to uphold the system of government established by the US Constitution—a system he regarded as the “last best hope of mankind.” But how did Lincoln understand the Constitution?

In this groundbreaking study, Noah Feldman argues that Lincoln deliberately and recurrently violated the United States’ founding arrangements. When he came to power, it was widely believed that the federal government could not use armed force to prevent a state from seceding. It was also assumed that basic civil liberties could be suspended in a rebellion by Congress but not by the president, and that the federal government had no authority over slavery in states where it existed. As president, Lincoln broke decisively with all these precedents, and effectively rewrote the Constitution’s place in the American system. Before the Civil War, the Constitution was best understood as a compromise pact—a rough and ready deal between states that allowed the Union to form and function. After Lincoln, the Constitution came to be seen as a sacred text—a transcendent statement of the nation’s highest ideals.

The Broken Constitution is the first book to tell the story of how Lincoln broke the Constitution in order to remake it. To do so, it offers a rivet… More…

An innovative account of Abraham Lincoln, constitutional thinker and doer

Abraham Lincoln is justly revered for his brilliance, compassion, humor, and rededication of the United States to achieving liberty and justice for all. He led the nation into a bloody civil war to uphold the system of government established by the US Constitution—a system he regarded as the “last best hope of mankind.” But how did Lincoln understand the Constitution?

In this groundbreaking study, Noah Feldman argues that Lincoln deliberately and recurrently violated the United States’ founding arrangements. When he came to power, it was widely believed that the federal government could not use armed force to prevent a state from seceding. It was also assumed that basic civil liberties could be suspended in a rebellion by Congress but not by the president, and that the federal government had no authority over slavery in states where it existed. As president, Lincoln broke decisively with all these precedents, and effectively rewrote the Constitution’s place in the American system. Before the Civil War, the Constitution was best understood as a compromise pact—a rough and ready deal between states that allowed the Union to form and function. After Lincoln, the Constitution came to be seen as a sacred text—a transcendent statement of the nation’s highest ideals.

The Broken Constitution is the first book to tell the story of how Lincoln broke the Constitution in order to remake it. To do so, it offers a riveting narrative of his constitutional choices and how he made them—and places Lincoln in the rich context of thinking of the time, from African American abolitionists to Lincoln’s Republican rivals and Secessionist ideologues.

Includes 8 Pages of Black-and-White Illustrations

Less…

Noah Feldman

Noah Feldman is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, a columnist for Bloomberg View, and host of Pushkin Industry’s Deep Background podcast. He is the author of ten books, including The Three Lives of James Madison and Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices.

image of Noah Feldmano
Julia Allison

Listen to Authors Podcast on Luminary

Watch Noah's Speeches on Ted.com

Visit the author's faculty profile at Harvard

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Latest on Facebook

LATEST ON TWITTER