23 Pages

Moral Philosophy, the United States Supreme Court, and the Nation's Character, 1860–1910

WithMark Warren Bailey

The Supreme Court during the period from the end of the Civil War to the New Deal era has been portrayed as having largely abdicated its obligation to protect society's common interests in favour of a laissez-faire constitutionalism reflecting the social and political views of new and powerful economic interests. The charge that the United States Supreme Court exercised a conservative influence upon the nation's constitutional life during the period from 1864 to 1938 is impossible to refute. Donald Meyer and other cultural and intellectual historians have argued that no American educated in the antebellum colleges escaped the pervasive intellectual and normative influence of the senior course in moral philosophy. A comparison of those ideas with the academic moral philosophy of the antebellum college curriculum enables one to reconstruct much of the general philosophy and mentalite that the justices brought to the bench during the period between 1862 and 1911.