2013 Annual Symposium: Congress, the Home Front, and the Civil War

“Congress, the Home Front, and the Civil War” is the subject of this year’s annual symposium on Friday, May 3, 2013.  The day-long conference will be held in Room G-50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill at Constitution Avenue and 1st Street, NE. The conference begins at 9:00 and concludes at 4:30 with a reception. The event is free and open to the public but preregistration is requested.

The unfinished Capitol dome formed the backdrop to Lincoln’s first inaugural in 1861. Library of Congress

The unfinished Capitol dome formed the backdrop to Lincoln’s first inaugural in 1861. The continuation of work on the Capitol during the Civil War bolstered Northern morale as a sign of the Union’s strength. Courtesy Library of Congress

Congressional legislation during the Civil War transformed the nation in many ways. The Homestead Act of 1862 opened large areas of the American West to settlement on more affordable terms. The authorization of the transcontinental railroad not only linked east and west coasts but also stimulated economic growth by providing transport to the vast agricultural and livestock areas of the West.  The Morrill Land Grant College Act likewise transformed higher education in ways that were not foreseen at the time. The federal government’s role in fiscal policy expanded with the issuance of greenbacks, the National Banking Acts of 1863 and 1864, and the first federal income tax.

Symposium Director, Paul Finkelman, the President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy at Albany Law School will moderate the conference and present a paper on the federal government’s treatment of Mormons and Jews during the war, with a focus on the Anti-Polygamy Act of 1862. Other speakers include R. Owen Williams, President of Transylvania University, who will discuss the federal judiciary during the war; Jenny Bourne, professor of economics at Carleton College, on the impact of fiscal legislation; Peter Wallenstein, professor of history at Virginia Tech, on the Land Grant College Act; Kenneth J. Winkle, Thomas C. Sorenson Professor of History at the University of Nebraska, on Congress and emancipation and civil rights in the District of Columbia;and Guy Gugliotta, author ofFreedom’s Cap, who will discuss the construction of the Capitol as a symbol of Union.

Symposium Program Schedule

9:00-9:15 Introductions: Donald R. Kennon, V.P., U.S. Capitol Historical Society, and Paul Finkelman, President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law, Albany Law School

9:15-10:00 R. Owen Williams, President, Transylvania University, “The Civil War in America’s Capitol”

10:00-10:45 Jenny Bourne, Professor of Economics, Carleton College, “To Slip the Surly Bonds of State Rights and Form a More Perfect (Financial) Union: One Legacy of the 37th Congress”

10:45-11:00 Break

11:00-11:45 Peter Wallenstein, Professor of History, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, “What Hath Congress Wrought: The Morrill Land-Grant College Act of 1862, Seedbed of the American System of Public Universities”

11:45-12:00 Presentation of 2012 USCHS Student Essay Contest Winners

12:00-1:30 Lunch Break

1:30-2:15 Paul Finkelman, Albany Law School,“‘I Could Not Afford to Hang Men For Votes’: Abraham Lincoln and the Dakota War Pardons”

2:15-3:00 Kenneth J. Winkle, Thomas C. Sorenson Professor of History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, “’The Best Place to Try the Experiment’: Emancipation, Rights, and Racial Equality in Civil War Washington”

3:00-3:15 Break

3:15-4:00 Guy Gugliotta, author of Freedom’s Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War, “The United States Capitol during the Civil War: A National Icon Comes of Age”

4:00-4:30 Panel Discussion

Reception Following