University of California-Berkeley law professor Daniel Farber spoke in Ferris Lounge on Thursday, September 18 for Constitution Day. His lecture, “Lincoln’s Constitutional Legacy: How Lincoln Finished the Work of the Founding Fathers and Laid the Foundations for Modern America,” went beyond Abraham Lincoln’s influence upon America and delved into how he added meaning through his presidency to more ambiguous parts of the Constitution. It was an appropriate lecture for Lincoln-tied Knox.
“It’s especially nice to be here so close to the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas debate,” said Farber.
Farber highlighted three main gaps in the Constitution that were even thought to have been noticed by James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution.” The first of these was the actual nature of the Constitution and if it truly created a new nation or simply a stronger confederation of states. Because of this, the question of sovereignty was held in constant limbo between the federal government and the states. Farber then directed attention to the ambiguity of the nature of the presidency and the executive office. The Constitution says very little about the powers of the president. The last gap was the failure of the Constitution to protect the rights of Americans from the state.
Because the question of sovereignty was unresolved between the federal and state governments, deciding what the federal government had the right to enforce was impossible based upon the ambiguity of the Constitution.
“Looking back to then it is striking how much the federal government and presidency have changed,” said Farber.
The last two gaps were particularly addressed by Lincoln during his presidency, as he defined the country as an inseparable union and outlined executive powers through major decisions, such as the Emancipation Proclamation.
“I love that he quoted the Gettysburg Address; it’s one of my favorites of all time,” said junior and pre-law major Kelly Walsh after the lecture.
“I thought it was terrific. Very well done,” said President Roger Taylor.