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Class Year

2015

Abstract

When the guns of war fell silent in 1865, Americans throughout the reunited states grappled with the logistics of peace. At virtually every turn lay nebulous but critical questions of race, class, allegiance, and identity. More pragmatic legal stumbling blocks could also be found strewn across the path to Reconstruction; some of them would ensnare the healing nation for decades to come. Among their number was notorious Supreme Court decision United States v. Klein (1872). Born on July 22, 1865 out of a small debate over the wartime seizure of Vicksburg cotton stores, Klein quickly evolved into a legal behemoth. In its tangles with the separation of powers, the presidential power of pardon, and the supremacy of the executive in judicial matters, United States v. Klein would ultimately amount to the very poster child of the snowball effect at work in Reconstruction law. Widely forgotten or overlooked today, the decision of United States v. Klein nonetheless stands as one of the most crucial battles of the American Civil War era.

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