A Libertarian’s Lincoln
We had a guest in my "U.S. History since 1865" classes last week, Thomas Krannawitter from Hillsdale College in Michigan. Krannawitter was in town to lecture on his latest book, Vindicating Lincoln, and address my colleague's political science classes. It fit his schedule to visit my history classes, too. Even though the syllabus indicated that we were heading into the 1960s instead of the 1860s, my guest had no difficulty bridging the chronological gap with an analysis of changing perspectives on the Constitution and what came to be called civil rights.
Before proceeding, let me be clear that I do not know whether Krannawitter would call himself a libertarian. I did not ask him, nor do I know nearly enough about political philosophies to understand who might be flattered or horrified by association with the term. Wikipedia defines at least 10 strains of libertarianism, one of which includes small-government constitutionalists, and that's at least his ballpark. I should also admit that I have not read Vindicating Lincoln, so my comments refer to a guest lecture rather than to any published work. (It seems I'm on a roll with admitting things here. I don't enjoy Tolkien. There. I said it.)
To create a conversation using data points from my History 102 course, I asked Krannawitter, "How did civil rights legislation of the 1950s and ?60s continue or deviate from the Reconstruction Amendments we studied back in January?"
With a little prodding, my students were able to recall those amendments: the 13th, abolishing slavery; the 14th, granting equal protection to all American citizens; and the 15th, granting voting rights regardless of race, color, or prior servitude. Krannawitter then sketched an even longer historical narrative ...