I'm delighted to say that an article I've worked on for many years now, "The Road to the Gettysburg Address," is out in the Florida State Law Review. I wrote this for a terrific conference at the Library Company of Philadelphia back in 2010 on Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. I use cemetery dedication addresses as a way of gauging attitudes towards constitutionalism.
My focus was on addresses dedicating cemeteries from 1831 (when Justice Joseph Story dedicated Mount Auburn in Cambridge) to Gettysburg in November 1863. And while I'm deeply interested in -- and love -- Lincoln's Gettysburg address, I focus on the addresses before Lincoln remade the genre. Those addresses --- which unfortunately very frequently weren't all that great as oratory -- reveal a fairly unified approach. They celebrate the cemeteries for the lessons they teach about the Union and Constitution. The cemeteries spoke to the heart and the dead through the lessons of patriotism and Union they communicated -- and also because their physical beauty.
The addresses with few exceptions (like those by Story, Justice John McClean, and Ralph Waldo Emerson) were given by pretty obscure speakers. Sometimes they were by important lawyers like Daniel Barnard and Oliver Baldwin. More often they were by ministers -- but largely across the board, the orators focused on the political and constitutional lessons and role of cemeteries. The cemetery companies were charitable organizations that harnessed the corporate form to create a place where the entire community could learn about the virtues of a national, Christian republic. The cemeteries, it was often said, served as models of a republican government.
This article has been years in the pipeline -- I think I actually started working on this in November 2009 and had, of course, been working on oratory in the pre-Civil War era for years and years before that. I can recall photocopying Daniel Barnard's address to the Albany Cemetery probably back in 1998, before I realized how many other addresses there were. And while I'm not sure I have the time -- or energy, to use a Donald Trump term -- to write something like this right now, I hope to get back to the cemetery dedication addresses after the Civil War. Because I think the addresses at southern cemeteries in the several decades after Civil War are also very useful in explaining ideas of southern constitutionalism -- and they often reflect back on southern nationalism. And maybe one of these days in the not too distant future I'll finally get back to ideas about jurisprudence in pre-Civil War Phi Beta Kappa addresses and also in pre-Civil War addresses to southern literary societies. But the next paper I'll post is, I suspect, on the rule of law and the Klan in 1870s North Carolina....