New Traveling Exhibition at Pace Law School Tells the Story of Abraham Lincoln’s Struggle to Meet the Constitutional Challenges of the Civil War
“Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War,” a traveling exhibition opening at the Pace Law Library on Monday, March 5, examines how President Lincoln used the Constitution to confront three intertwined crises of the Civil War—the secession of Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties. To celebrate the opening of this prestigious exhibition at Pace Law School, the Library will host a reception on Tuesday, March 6 at 5:00 when Assistant Dean Mark Shulman will discuss “What Abraham Lincoln Can Teach Us about Confronting National Security Threats in the 21st Century.” The event is open to the public.
Lincoln is widely acknowledged as one of America’s greatest presidents, yet his historical reputation is contested. Was he a calculating politician willing to accommodate slavery, or a principled leader justly celebrated as the Great Emancipator? This exhibition provides no easy answers. Rather, it encourages visitors to form a nuanced view of Lincoln by engaging them with Lincoln’s struggle to reconcile his policy preferences with basic American ideals of liberty and equality. This exhibition develops a more complete understanding of Abraham Lincoln as president and the Civil War as the nation’s gravest constitutional crisis.
“We are delighted to have been selected as a site for this exhibition,” said Prof. Marie Stefanini Newman, Pace Law Library Director. “As a new president, Abraham Lincoln was faced with enormous challenges. This exhibition shows how Lincoln struggled with issues of secession, slavery and civil liberties—all questions the Constitution left unanswered. Each section of the exhibit features information about a different aspect ofLincoln’s presidency. For example, the section about slavery examines the various policy optionsLincoln once embraced and how his thoughts about slavery evolved over time. Most importantly, the exhibit helps visitors understand why Lincoln’s struggle with the Constitution still matters today.”
Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860, at a time when the nation was on the brink of war.Lincoln struggled to resolve the basic questions that divided Americans at the most perilous moment in the nation’s history: Was the United States truly one nation, or was it a confederacy of sovereign and separate states? How could a country founded on the belief that “all men are created equal” tolerate slavery? In a national crisis, would civil liberties be secure? President Lincoln used the Constitution to confront these three crises of war, ultimately reinventing the Constitution and the promise of American life.
The National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office organized the traveling exhibition, which was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): great ideas brought to life. The traveling exhibition is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the National Constitution Center.
The traveling exhibition, which is free and open to the public, features informative panels depicting photographic reproductions of original documents, including a draft of Lincoln’s first inaugural speech, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment. School groups are welcome, but the Law Library requests that groups of eight or more make a reservation.
“Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” will be located on the third floor of Pace Law Library, 78 North Broadway, White Plains, NY and will be open during regular library hours as posted on the website (http://www.pace.edu/school-of-law/pace-law-library). The space is accessible to persons with disabilities.
In addition to the opening reception, the library is sponsoring free programs and other events for the public in connection with the exhibition. On Wednesday, March 21 at 5 p.m., Prof. Jeffrey Miller will present a talk entitled, “Lincoln’s Constitution and the Unitary Executive Theory.” Contact Jack McNeill at (914) 422-4414 for more information. “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” will be on display at the Pace Law Library until April 11.