Was the Carthaginian Senate for life or not?

Was the Carthaginian Senate for life or not?

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I've been reading the Federalist Papers and, in the 63rd, Madison writes,

"It adds no small weight to all these considerations, to recollect that history informs us of no long-lived republic which had not a senate. Sparta, Rome, and Carthage are, in fact, the only states to whom that character can be applied. In each of the two first there was a senate for life. The constitution of the senate in the last is less known. Circumstantial evidence makes it probable that it was not different in this particular from the two others. "

I looked into this to see if new evidence had been found on whether or not the senate was for life and I found conflicting evidence. Was the Carthaginian Senate for life or not?


Unfortunately, we can't be sure, but it is likely that the Carthaginian senate was for life at some point during its long history.


The main problem in determining whether or not Carthaginian senators served for life lies in the ancient sources. The qualifications of senators and the precise functions of the senate are also far from clear, and even defining the senate itself is difficult as, in the Punic language,

… there seems not to have existed a word for the 'senate' as a whole.

Source: The Cambridge Ancient History, vol VI

Punic sources are lost so Aristotle provides the most information (in Politics, which has some of the information from his lost work on the Carthagian constitution) but, as the Cambridge Ancient History (CAH) observes,

His aim and method was to generalize not analyse. This led him to compare institutions which seem to have little in common, such as the ephors of Sparta and the Court of the Hundred at Carthage, only because both exercised essentially a right of control.

Dexter Hoyos, in 'The Carthaginians', points to problems with other sources:

Livy once mentions a smaller senatorial body… Greek writers, including Polybius and Diodorus, do not help clarity by mentioning at various times a Carthaginian gerousia ('body of elders'), synkletos ('summoned body') and synedrion ('sitting body'), without explaining the distinctions.

However, the term 'senate' is widely used by modern academics writing about Carthage even though it cannot be clearly defined.

When considering the issue of life-membership, we need to look first at the comparisons made by ancient writers. On this, CAH says

It is certain that supreme authority lay with a senate or council, which Aristotle and Polybius compare with the Spartan gerousia and the Senate of Rome…

This comparison with the Roman senate and the Spartan gerousia is problematic as these two bodies were very different. However, there are similarities in that members of both the Roman senate (initially) and the Spartan gerousia could be broadly described as aristocratic (for Sparta, in the sense that only Spartiates, a small minority in Laconia, were eligible), and they also served for life. It would seem rash to assume that the same held true for Carthaginian senators as we cannot even be certain

how senators themselves were recruited, or even how many there were at any time, although two or even three hundred is likely

(source: Dexter Hoyos, 'The Carthaginians')

That said, if Carthaginian senators were from privileged backgrounds (which seems likely based on the available evidence), it would not be unreasonable to state that lifetime membership was more likely than not. The Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World goes so far as to state

There was a powerful 'senate' of several hundred life-members

but there are few other modern sources which make such a definite statement (here is one).

Finally, we should also not forget that there were several political upheavals in Carthage over the centuries and we certainly cannot assume that life-membership of the senate or the form and power of the senate remained unchanged during all that time.

Other sources:

Richard Miles, 'Carthage Must Be Destroyed'

M. I. Finley, 'Politics in the Ancient World

David Abulafia, 'The Great Sea'

Hannibal was, by all accounts, an extraordinary military leader, He led many successful campaigns, and came within a hair's breadth of taking Rome. Once the Second Punic War ended with his return to Carthage, however, Hannibal became a wanted man. Sought for arrest by the Roman Senate, he lived the rest of his life one step ahead of the Empire.

In Rome, Emperor Scipio was accused by the Senate of sympathizing with Hannibal. He defended Hannibal's reputation for a time, but it became clear that the Senate would demand Hannibal's arrest. Hearing of this, Hannibal fled Carthage for Tyre in B.C.E. 195. Later he moved on to become a counselor to Antiochus II, King of Ephesus. Antiochus, fearing Hannibal's reputation, put him in charge of a naval war against Rhodes. After losing a battle and seeing defeat in his future, Hannibal feared that he would be turned over to the Romans and fled to Bithynia:

Dido Flees Her Homeland

Belus had hoped that after his death, the governance of Tyre would be divided equally between Dido and Pygmalion. This, however, was not to be. When the king died, Pygmalion immediately seized power and had Sychaeus murdered, as he desired his wealth. The ghost of Sychaeus appeared to Dido in a dream, told her the truth about his death, the hidden location of his wealth, and issued a warning to flee from Tyre as Pygmalion would surely kill her next. Therefore, Dido went to retrieve her dead husband’s wealth and fled from the city with her supporters.

Having fled from Tyre, Dido and her band of followers sailed across the Mediterranean and arrived on the coast of North Africa. The former Tyrian princess met a local ruler by the name of Iarbas, who agreed to sell her as much land as the hide of a bull could cover. Dido demonstrated her shrewdness by first cutting the hide into strips and then used it to encircle a large piece of land. It was here that the city of Carthage was founded, and Dido became its first ruler.

Queen Dido building Carthage and the rise of the Carthaginian Empire . (Soerfm / Public Domain )


Carthage was a Phoenician city-state on the coast of North Africa (the site of modern-day Tunis) which, prior the conflict with Rome known as the Punic Wars (264-146 BCE), was the largest, most affluent, and powerful political entity in the Mediterranean. The city was originally known as Kart-hadasht (new city) to distinguish it from the older Phoenician city of Utica nearby. The Greeks called the city Karchedon and the Romans turned this name into Carthago.

It was founded c. 814 BCE by the legendary Phoenician queen Dido, increased in size after an influx of refugees from the city of Tyre following Alexander the Great's conquests of 332 BCE, and afterwards expanded until it was the seat of the Carthaginian Empire with colonies (such as Sabratha) along the North African coast, in Sicily, Spain, and elsewhere these would all be lost following the Punic Wars which elevated Rome to Carthage's former position as the greatest Mediterranean power.


The history of the ancient city is usually divided into five periods:

  • Ancient Carthage (Punic Republic) – c. 814-146 BCE Carthage – 146 BCE - 439 CE Carthage – 439-534 CE Carthage (Exarchate of Africa) – 534-698 CE
  • Muslim Arab Carthage (Islamic Carthage) – 698-1270 CE

Owing to limitations of space, this article will primarily deal with Ancient Carthage/the Punic Republic.


In 698 CE, the city was conquered during the Muslim Arab invasion of North Africa and destroyed. It would be rebuilt, though on a modest scale compared with the city at its height, until it was completely destroyed under the reign of Muhammad I al-Mustansir (r. 1228-1277 CE) after defeating the European Christian invasion of the Eighth Crusade of 1270 CE. The site would continue to be inhabited, though the ancient ruins were neglected until the 1830s CE when modern excavations began.

Foundation & Expansion

According to legend, Carthage was founded by the Phoenician Queen Elissa (better known as Dido) c. 814 BCE although Dido's historicity has been challenged, the founding does date to about this time. Dido was allegedly fleeing the tyranny of her brother Pygmalion of Lebanon, landed on the coast of North Africa, and established the city on the high hill later known as the Byrsa. The legend claims that the Berber chieftain who controlled the region told her she could have as much land as an ox hide would cover Dido cut a single ox hide into thin strips and lay them end-to-end around the hill, successfully claiming it for her people.

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Dido's reign is described by the Roman poet Virgil (l. 70-19 BCE), and others, as impressive, noting how the city grew from the small community on the hill to a grand metropolis. This account, and others like it, are legendary but Carthage, which seems to initially have been a minor port on the coast where Phoenician traders stopped to resupply or repair their ships, was clearly a major center of trade by the 4th century BCE.

The city developed significantly following Alexander's destruction of the great industrial and trade center of Tyre (considered Carthage's mother-city) in 332 BCE when Phoenician refugees fled from there to Carthage. These Tyrians arrived with whatever wealth they had and, since many whom Alexander spared were those rich enough to buy their lives, they landed in the city with considerable means which established Carthage as the new center of Phoenician trade.


The Carthaginians then established a working relationship with the tribes known as the Masaesyli and the Massylii of the North African Berber (Imazighen) Kingdom of Numidia who would fill the ranks of their military, primarily as formidable cavalry troops. From a small town on the coast, the city grew in size and grandeur with enormous estates covering miles of acreage. Carthage quickly became the richest and most powerful city in the Mediterranean.

Carthaginian government, formerly a monarchy, was a republic based on meritocracy (rule of the elite) by the 4th century BCE. The top position was held by two elected magistrates known as suffetes (“judges”) who governed in conjunction with a senate of between 200-300 members who held the position for life. Laws were passed by an assembly of citizens who would vote on measures proposed by the suffetes and senate. The aristocrats lived in palaces, the less affluent in modest but attractive homes, and the lower classes in apartments or huts outside the city.

Tribute and tariffs regularly increased the city's wealth on top of the lucrative business in maritime trade. The city's harbors were immense, with 220 docks, and gleaming columns which rose around it in a half-circle, in front of towering arches and buildings ornamented with Greek sculpture. There were two harbors, one for trade and the other for warships, which operated constantly in resupplying, repairing, and outfitting vessels. The Carthaginian trading ships sailed daily to ports all around the Mediterranean Sea while their navy, supreme in the region, kept them safe and, also, opened new territories for trade and resources through conquest as the Carthaginians built their empire.


Affluence & Invasion

The city's wealth was due not only to its advantageous position on the North African coast, from which it could control sea traffic between itself and its colony on Sicily, but also to the people's skill in agriculture. The writer Mago of Carthage (dates unknown) wrote a work of 28 volumes devoted to agriculture and veterinarian science which was considered the most comprehensive on the subject of its time and reflects the Carthaginian's intense interest in farming and animal husbandry. Mago's works were considered so important that they were among the few that would be spared by the Romans after Carthage's final defeat in 146 BCE. Roman references to the books are now all that remain of them.

The Carthaginians planted fruit trees, grapes, olive trees, and vegetables in a ring of gardens irrigated by small canals and then expanded their cultivation outward beyond the city walls to fields of grains. The fertility of the land, and their expertise in cultivation, increased the city's wealth through trade with the interior as well as maritime trade elsewhere as Carthage continued to flourish.


The Punic Wars

Control of Sicily was divided between Rome and Carthage who supported opposing factions on the island which quickly brought both parties into conflict directly with each other. These conflicts would be known as the Punic Wars from the Phoenician word for the citizens of Carthage (given in Greek as Phoinix and in Latin as Punicus). When Rome was weaker than Carthage, they posed no threat. The Carthaginian navy had long been able to enforce the treaty which kept the Roman Republic from trading in the western Mediterranean. When the First Punic War (264-241 BCE) began, however, Rome proved far more resourceful than Carthage could have imagined.

Though they had no navy and knew nothing of fighting on the sea, Rome quickly built 330 ships which they equipped with clever ramps and gangways (the corvus) which could be lowered onto an enemy ship and secured thus turning a sea battle into a land battle. After an initial struggle with military tactics, Rome won a series of victories and finally defeated Carthage in 241 BCE. Carthage was forced to cede Sicily to Rome and pay a heavy war indemnity.

Carthage suffered greatly from the First Punic and Mercenary War and, when Rome occupied the Carthaginian colonies of Sardinia and Corsica, there was nothing the Carthaginians could do about it. They tried to make the best of their situation by expanding holdings in Spain but again went to war with Rome when Hannibal attacked the city of Saguntum, an ally of Rome in Spain, in 218 BCE.

The Second Punic War (218-202 BCE) was fought largely in northern Italy as Hannibal invaded Italy from Spain by marching his forces over the Alps. Hannibal won every engagement against the Romans in Italy. In 216 BCE he won his greatest victory at the Battle of Cannae but, lacking sufficient troops and supplies, could not build on his successes. He was finally drawn from Italy and defeated by the Roman general Scipio Africanus (l. 236-183 BCE) at the Battle of Zama, in North Africa, in 202 BCE and Carthage again sued for peace.

Placed, again, under a heavy war indemnity by Rome, Carthage struggled to pay their debt while also trying to fend off incursions from neighboring Numidia under the king Masinissa (r. c. 202-148 BCE). Masinissa had been Rome's ally in the Second Punic War and was encouraged by Rome to raid Carthaginian territory at will. Carthage went to war against Numidia and, in so doing, broke the peace treaty with Rome which forbid Carthage from mobilizing an army.

Carthage felt it had no choice but to defend itself against Masinissa's invasions but was censured by Rome and ordered to pay a new war debt to Numidia. Having only recently paid off their debt to Rome, they now owed a new crippling war debt. Rome was not concerned with whatever conflict Carthage and Numidia were involved in but did not care for the sudden revitalization of the Carthaginian military.

A Roman embassy to Carthage presented a list of demands which included the stipulation that Carthage be dismantled and then rebuilt further inland, thus negating the long-recognized advantage it had in trade from its position on the coast. The Carthaginians, understandably, refused to do so and the Third Punic War (149-146 BCE) began.

The Roman general Scipio Aemilianus (l. 185-129 BCE) besieged Carthage for three years until it fell. After sacking the city, the Romans burned it to the ground, leaving not one stone on top of another. A modern myth has grown up that the Roman forces then sowed the ruins with salt so nothing would ever grow there again but this claim has no basis in fact. It is said that Scipio Aemilianus wept when he ordered the destruction of the city and behaved virtuously toward the survivors of the siege.

Later History

Utica now became the capital of Rome's African provinces and Carthage lay in ruin until 122 BCE when Gaius Sempronius Gracchus (l. 154-121 BCE) the Roman tribune, founded a small colony there. Gaius' political problems, and the memory of the Punic wars still being too fresh, however, caused the colony to fail. Julius Caesar proposed and planned the rebuilding of Carthage and, five years after his death, Carthage rose again. Power now shifted from Utica back to Carthage – which became Rome's breadbasket owing to the same agricultural success which had enriched it before - and it remained an important Roman colony until it fell to the Vandals under their king Gaiseric (r. 428-478 CE) in 439 CE.

Carthage had risen in prominence as Christianity grew and Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine, l. 354-430 CE) contributed to its prestige by living and teaching there. The city was considered so illustrious, in fact, that the Council of Carthage of 397 CE was held there the series of synods which would confirm the biblical canon for the Western Church, legitimizing the narratives which would come to be known as the Bible. The Vandal invasion of North Africa did nothing to halt Christianity's development there, but tensions would rise between the Arian Christians (the Vandals primarily) and Trinitarian Christians just as they did elsewhere.

The Vandals under Gaiseric took full advantage of the location of their new city and plundered passing ships at will while also raiding coastal cities. Roman attempts to dislodge them failed and so a treaty was signed in 442 CE between Gaiseric and Valentinian III (r. 425-455 CE) acknowledging the Vandal Kingdom of North Africa as a legitimate political entity and establishing peaceful relations. When Valentinian III was assassinated in 455 CE, however, Gaiseric disregarded the treaty, believing it was an agreement only between himself and the emperor, and sailed for Rome. He looted the city but, in accordance with the request of Pope Leo I (served 440-461 CE), did not damage it nor harm the populace. The Vandals would continue to hold Carthage, and profit from its location, until after Gaiseric's death.

Under the Byzantines, Carthage prospered through trade and as a major source of grain for the Eastern Roman Empire (the Western Roman Empire having fallen c. 476 CE). Around 585 CE, Carthage became the seat of the Exarchate of Africa under the Byzantine emperor Maurice (r. 582-602 CE), a separate administrative region established for more effective rule of the western areas of the empire.

In 698 CE, the Muslims defeated the Byzantine forces at the Battle of Carthage, destroyed the city completely, and drove the Byzantines from Africa. They then fortified and developed the neighboring city of Tunis and established it as the new center for trade and governorship of the region. Under the Arab Muslims, Tunis fared better than Carthage, but the city continued to thrive until the Eighth Crusade of 1270 CE when it was taken by the European Crusaders who fortified the citadel of the Byrsa. Once they were defeated, Muhammad I al-Mustansir had the city's defenses torn down and many of the buildings razed to prevent any further such occupation.


The site of the ancient city continued to be inhabited and was included in the region taken by the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922 CE) who had no interest in excavating the ruins. The stones of the fallen houses, temples, and walls were carried off for personal or administrative building projects or left where they had been found. Modern archaeological excavation began in the 1830s CE through the efforts of the Danish consulate and continued under the French between c. 1860-1900 CE.

Further work at the site was undertaken throughout the first part of the 20th century CE but, as at Sabratha and other sites, the archaeologists were more interested in the Roman history of Carthage. The political and cultural zeitgeist of the time defined the Carthaginians, who were Semites, as a people of little value, and anti-Semitism significantly influenced not only the interpretation of physical evidence but the choice of what was kept for placement in museums or discarded.

The history of the period of Ancient Carthage, therefore, suffered as much from these modern-day excavations as from the city's destruction by Rome or later conflicts. It was not until after World War II that systematic, unbiased, work at Carthage would begin a paradigm consistent with the excavation and interpretation of many other ancient sites.

Carthage still lies in ruin in modern-day Tunisia and remains an important tourist attraction and archaeological site. The outline of the great harbor can still be seen as well as the ruins of the homes, public baths, temples, and palaces from the time when the city of Carthage ruled the Mediterranean as the most opulent jewel of the North African coast.

First Triumvirate

At the same time Caesar was governing under Pompey, he aligned himself with the wealthy military leader Marcus Licinius Crassus. The strategic political alliance among Caesar, Pompey and Crassus came to be known as the First Triumvirate. 

For Caesar, the First Triumvirate partnership was the perfect springboard to greater domination. Crassus, a leader known as the richest man in Roman history, offered Caesar financial and political support that proved to be instrumental in his rise to power.

Crassus and Pompey, however, were intense rivals. Once again, Caesar displayed his abilities as a negotiator, earning the trust of both Crassus and Pompey and convincing them they&aposd be better suited as allies than as enemies.

Was the Carthaginian Senate for life or not? - History

The Ancient Romans fought many battles and wars in order to expand and protect their empire. There were also civil wars where Romans fought Romans in order to gain power. Here are some of the major battles and wars that the Romans fought.

The Punic Wars were fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 BC to 146 BC. Carthage was a large City located on the coast of North Africa. This sounds like a long way away at first, but Carthage was just a short sea voyage from Rome across the Mediterranean Sea. Both cities were major powers at the time and both were expanding their empires. As the empires grew, they began to clash and soon war had begun.

  • First Punic War (264 - 241 BC): The First Punic War was fought largely over the island of Sicily. This meant a lot of the fighting was at sea where Carthage had the advantage of a much stronger navy than Rome. However, Rome quickly built up a large navy of over 100 ships. Rome also invented the corvus, a type of assault bridge that allowed Rome's superior soldiers to board enemy navy vessels. Rome soon dominated Carthage and won the war.
  • Second Punic War (218 - 201 BC): In the Second Punic War, Carthage had more success fighting against the Roman legions. The Carthage leader and general, Hannibal, made a daring crossing of the Alps to attack Rome and northern Italy. This crossing was made more famous because he also brought a large number of elephants with him. Hannibal was a brilliant general and won several battles against the Romans. However, despite fighting for 16 years, Hannibal wasn't able to conquer the city of Rome. When Rome counterattacked his homeland of Carthage, Hannibal was forced to retreat. The final battle in this war was the Battle of Zama where the Roman general Scipio Africanus defeated Hannibal.
  • Third Punic War (149 - 146 BC): In the Third Punic War Rome attacked the city of Carthage. After three years of laying siege to the city, the Roman army broke through the walls and burned it to the ground.

The Battle of Cynoscephalae (197 BC)

In this battle the Roman Legion under Titus Flamininus soundly defeated the Macedonian Army led by Philip V. This battle was important because the successors of Greek leader Alexander the Great had now been defeated. Rome had become the dominant world power.

Third Servile War (73 - 71 BC)

This war started when 78 gladiators, including their leader Spartacus, escaped and started a rebellion. Soon they had over 120,000 escaped slaves and others traveling with them invading the countryside. They successfully fought back many Roman soldiers until finally an army with a full 8 legions was dispatched to destroy them. The fighting was long and bitter, but eventually Spartacus' army was defeated.

Caesar's Civil War (49 - 45 BC)

This war is also called the Great Roman Civil War. Julius Caesar's legions fought against the Senate supported legions of Pompey the Great. The war lasted for four years until Caesar finally defeated Pompey and became Dictator of Rome. This signaled the end of the Roman Republic.

The famous moment in this war was when Caesar crossed the Rubicon River. This meant he was going to war against Rome. Today the term "crossing the Rubicon" is still used to say that someone had reached the point of no return and can not go back.

The Battle of Actium (31 BC)

In this battle Octavian's forces, led by Marcus Agrippa, defeated the combined forces of Roman general Marc Antony and Egyptian Pharaoh Cleopatra VII. As a result Octavian became the sole power in Rome and would soon become Rome's first Emperor. He would change his name to Augustus when he became emperor.

Was the Carthaginian Senate for life or not? - History

The story, as Parson Weems tells it, is that in 1754 a strapping young militia officer named George Washington argued with a smaller man, one William Payne, who made up for the disparity in size by knocking Washington down with a stick. It was the kind of affront that, among a certain class of Virginia gentlemen, almost invariably called for a duel. That must have been what Payne was expecting when Washington summoned him to a tavern the following day. Instead, he found the colonel at a table with a decanter of wine and two glasses. Washington apologized for the quarrel, and the two men shook hands.

Whether or not this actually happened—and some biographers believe that it did—is almost beside the point. Weems’ intention was to reveal Washington as he imagined him: a figure of profound self-assurance capable of keeping an overheated argument from turning into something far worse. At a time in America when the code of the duel was becoming a law unto itself, such restraint was not always apparent. Alexander Hamilton was the most celebrated casualty of the dueling ethic, having lost his life in an 1804 feud with Aaron Burr on the fields ofWeehawken, New Jersey, but there were many more who paid the ultimate price— congressmen, newspaper editors, a signer of the Declaration of Independence (the otherwise obscure Button Gwinnett, famous largely for being named Button Gwinnett), two U.S. senators (Armistead T. Mason of Virginia and David C. Broderick of California) and, in 1820, the rising naval star Stephen Decatur. To his lasting embarrassment, Abraham Lincoln barely escaped being drawn into a duel early in his political career, and President Andrew Jackson carried in his body a bullet from one duel and some shot from a gunfight that followed another. Not that private dueling was a peculiarly American vice. The tradition had taken hold in Europe several centuries earlier, and though it was frequently forbidden by law, social mores dictated otherwise. During the reign of George III (1760-1820), there were 172 known duels in England (and very likely many more kept secret), resulting in 69 recorded fatalities. At one time or another, Edmund Burke, William Pitt the younger and Richard Brinsley Sheridan all took the field, and Samuel Johnson defended the practice, which he found as logical as war between nations: “Aman may shoot the man who invades his character,” he once told biographer James Boswell, “as he may shoot him who attempts to break into his house.” As late as 1829 the Duke of Wellington, then England’s prime minister, felt compelled to challenge the Earl of Winchelsea, who had accused him of softness toward Catholics.

In France, dueling had an even stronger hold, but by the 19th century, duels there were seldom fatal, since most involved swordplay, and drawing blood usually sufficed to give honor its due. (Perhaps as a way of relieving ennui, the French weren’t averse to pushing the envelope in matters of form. In 1808, two Frenchmen fought in balloons over Paris one was shot down and killed with his second. Thirty-five years later, two others tried to settle their differences by skulling each other with billiard balls.)

In the United States, dueling’s heyday began at around the time of the Revolution and lasted the better part of a century. The custom’s true home was the antebellum South. Duels, after all, were fought in defense of what the law would not defend—a gentleman’s sense of personal honor—and nowhere were gentlemen more exquisitely sensitive on that point than in the future Confederacy. As self-styled aristocrats, and frequently slaveholders, they enjoyed what one Southern writer describes as a “habit of command” and an expectation of deference. To the touchiest among them, virtually any annoyance could be construed as grounds for a meeting at gunpoint, and though laws against dueling were passed in several Southern states, the statutes were ineffective. Arrests were infrequent judges and juries were loath to convict.

In New England, on the other hand, dueling was viewed as a cultural throwback, and no stigma was attached to rejecting it. Despite the furious sectional acrimony that preceded the Civil War, Southern congressmen tended to duel each other, not their Northern antagonists, who could not be relied upon to rise to a challenge. Consequently, when South Carolina congressman Preston Brooks was offended by Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner’s verbal assault on the congressman’s uncle, he resorted to caning Sumner insensible on the floor of the Senate. His constituents understood. Though Brooks was reviled in the North, he was lionized in much of the South, where he was presented with a ceremonial cane inscribed “Hit Him Again.” (Brooks said he had used a cane rather than a horsewhip because he was afraid Sumner might wrestle the whip away from him, in which case Brooks would have had to kill him. He didn’t say how.)

Curiously, many who took part in the duel professed to disdain it. Sam Houston opposed it, but as a Tennessee congressman, shot Gen. William White in the groin. Henry Clay opposed it, but put a bullet through Virginia senator John Randolph’s coat (Randolph being in it at the time) after the senator impugned his integrity as secretary of state and called him some colorful names. Hamilton opposed dueling, but met Aaron Burr on the same ground in New Jersey where Hamilton’s eldest son, Philip, had died in a duel not long before. (Maintaining philosophical consistency, Hamilton intended to hold his fire, a common breach of strict dueling etiquette that, sadly, Burr didn’t emulate.) Lincoln, too, objected to the practice, but got as far as a dueling ground in Missouri before third parties intervened to keep the Great Emancipator from emancipating a future Civil War general.

So why did such rational men choose combat over apology or simple forbearance? Perhaps because they saw no alternative. Hamilton, at least, was explicit. “The ability to be in future useful,” he wrote, “ . . . in those crises of our public affairs which seem likely to happen . . . imposed on me (as I thought) a peculiar necessity not to decline the call.” And Lincoln, though dismayed to be called to account for pricking the vanity of a political rival, couldn’t bring himself to extend his regrets. Pride obviously had something to do with this, but pride compounded by the imperatives of a dueling society. For a man who wanted a political future, walking away from a challenge may not have seemed a plausible option.

The Lincoln affair, in fact, affords a case study in how these matters were resolved—or were not. The trouble began when Lincoln, then a Whig representative in the Illinois legislature, wrote a series of satirical letters under the pseudonym Rebecca, in which he made scathing fun of State Auditor James Shields, a Democrat. The letters were published in a newspaper, and when Shields sent him a note demanding a retraction, Lincoln objected to both the note’s belligerent tone and its assumption that he had written more of them than he had. (In fact, Mary Todd, not yet Lincoln’s wife, is believed to have written one of the letters with a friend.) Then, when Shields asked for a retraction of the letters he knew Lincoln had written, Lincoln refused to do so unless Shields withdrew his original note. It was a lawyerly response, typical of the verbal fencing that often preceded a duel, with each side seeking the moral high ground. Naturally, it led to a stalemate. By the time Lincoln agreed to a carefully qualified apology provided that first note was withdrawn— in effect asking Shields to apologize for demanding an apology—Shields wasn’t buying. When Lincoln, as the challenged party, wrote out his terms for the duel, hopes for an accommodation seemed ended.

The terms themselves were highly unusual. Shields was a military man Lincoln was not. Lincoln had the choice of weapons, and instead of pistols chose clumsy cavalry broadswords, which both men were to wield while standing on a narrow plank with limited room for retreat. The advantage would obviously be Lincoln’s he was the taller man, with memorably long arms. “To tell you the truth,” he told a friend later, “I did not want to kill Shields, and felt sure that I could disarm him . . . and, furthermore, I didn’t want the damned fellow to kill me, which I rather think he would have done if we had selected pistols.”

Fortunately, perhaps for both men, and almost certainly for one of them, each had friends who were determined to keep them from killing each other. Before Shields arrived at the dueling spot, their seconds, according to Lincoln biographer Douglas L. Wilson, proposed that the dispute be submitted to a group of fair-minded gentlemen—an arbitration panel of sorts. Though that idea didn’t fly, Shields’ seconds soon agreed not to stick at the sticking point. They withdrew their man’s first note on their own, clearing the way for a settlement. Shields went on to become a United States senator and a brigadier general in the Union Army Lincoln went on to be Lincoln. Years later, when the matter was brought up to the president, he was adamant. “I do not deny it,” he told an Army officer who had referred to the incident, “but if you desire my friendship, you will never mention it again.”

If Lincoln was less than nostalgic about his moment on the field of honor, others saw dueling as a salutary alternative to simply gunning a man down in the street, a popular but déclassé undertaking that might mark a man as uncouth. Like so many public rituals of the day, dueling was, in concept at least, an attempt to bring order to a dangerously loose-knit society. The Englishman Andrew Steinmetz, writing about dueling in 1868, called America “the country where life is cheaper than anywhere else.” Advocates of the duel would have said that life would have been even cheaper without it. Of course, the attitudes dueling was meant to control weren’t always controllable. When Gen. Nathanael Greene, a Rhode Islander living in Georgia after the Revolution, was challenged by Capt. James Gunn of Savannah regarding his censure of Gunn during the war, Greene declined to accept. But feeling the honor of the Army might be at stake, he submitted the matter to GeorgeWashington. Washington, who had no use for dueling, replied that Greene would have been foolish to take up the challenge, since an officer couldn’t perform as an officer if he had to worry constantly about offending subordinates. Indifferent to such logic, Gunn threatened to attack Greene on sight. Greene mooted the threat by dying peacefully the following year.

Even more than Captain Gunn, Andrew Jackson was an excitable sort with a famously loose rein on his temper. Asurvivor— barely—of several duels, he nearly got himself killed following a meeting in which he was merely a second, and in which one of the participants, Jesse Benton, had the misfortune to be shot in the buttocks. Benton was furious, and so was his brother, future U.S. senator Thomas Hart Benton, who denounced Jackson for his handling of the affair. Not one to take denunciation placidly, Jackson threatened to horsewhip Thomas and went to a Nashville hotel to do it. When Thomas reached for what Jackson supposed was his pistol, Jackson drew his, whereupon the irate Jesse burst through a door and shot Jackson in the shoulder. Falling, Jackson fired at Thomas and missed. Thomas returned the favor, and Jesse moved to finish off Jackson. At this point, several other men rushed into the room, Jesse was pinned to the floor and stabbed (though saved from a fatal skewering by a coat button), a friend of Jackson’s fired at Thomas, and Thomas, in hasty retreat, fell backward down a flight of stairs. Thus ended the Battle of the City Hotel.

It was just this sort of thing that the code of the duel was meant to prevent, and sometimes it may have actually done so. But frequently it merely served as a scrim giving cover to murderers. One of the South’s most notorious duelists was a hard-drinking homicidal miscreant named Alexander Keith McClung. Anephew of Chief Justice John Marshall—though likely not his favorite nephew, after engaging in a duel with a cousin—McClung behaved like a character out of Gothic fiction, dressing from time to time in a flowing cape, giving overripe oratory and morbid poetry, and terrifying many of his fellow Mississippians with his penchant for intimidation and violence.

A crack shot with a pistol, he preferred provoking a challenge to giving one, in order to have his choice of weapons. Legend has it that after shooting Vicksburg’s John Menifee to death in a duel, the Black Knight of the South, as Mc- Clung was known, killed six other Menifees who rose in turn to defend the family honor. All of this reportedly generated a certain romantic excitement among women of his acquaintance. Wrote one: “I loved him madly while with him, but feared him when away from him for he was a man of fitful, uncertain moods and given to periods of the deepest melancholy. At such times he would mount his horse, Rob Roy, wild and untamable as himself, and dash to the cemetery, where he would throw himself down on a convenient grave and stare like a madman into the sky. . . . ” (The woman refused his proposal of marriage he didn’t seem the domestic type.) Expelled from the Navy as a young man, after threatening the lives of various shipmates, McClung later served, incredibly, as a U.S. marshal and fought with distinction in the Mexican War. In 1855, he brought his drama to an end, shooting himself in a Jackson hotel. He left behind a final poem, “Invocation to Death.”

Though the dueling code was, at best, a fanciful alternative to true law and order, there were those who believed it indispensable, not only as a brake on shoot-on-sight justice but as a way of enforcing good manners. New Englanders may have prided themselves on treating an insult as only an insult, but to the South’s dueling gentry, such indifference betrayed a lack of good breeding. John Lyde Wilson, a former governor of South Carolina who was the foremost codifier of dueling rules in America, thought it downright unnatural. Ahigh-minded gentleman who believed the primary role of a second was to keep duels from happening, as he had done on many occasions, he also believed that dueling would persist “as long as a manly independence and a lofty personal pride, in all that dignifies and ennobles the human character, shall continue to exist.”

Hoping to give the exercise the dignity he felt sure it deserved, he composed eight brief chapters of rules governing everything from the need to keep one’s composure in the face of an insult (“If the insult be in public . . . never resent it there”) to ranking various offenses in order of precedence (“When blows are given in the first instance and returned, and the person first striking be badly beaten or otherwise, the party first struck is to make the demand [for a duel or apology], for blows do not satisfy a blow”) to the rights of a man being challenged (“You may refuse to receive a note from a minor. . . , [a man] that has been publicly disgraced without resenting it. . . , a man in his dotage [or] a lunatic”).

Formal dueling, by and large, was an indulgence of the South’s upper classes, who saw themselves as above the law— or at least some of the laws—that governed their social inferiors. It would have been unrealistic to expect them to be bound by the letter of Wilson’s rules or anyone else’s, and of course they were not. If the rules specified smoothbore pistols, which could be mercifully inaccurate at the prescribed distance of 30 to 60 feet, duelists might choose rifles or shotguns or bowie knives, or confront each other, suicidally, nearly muzzle to muzzle. If Wilson was emphatic that the contest should end at first blood (“no second is excusable who permits a wounded friend to fight”), contestants might keep on fighting, often to the point where regret was no longer an option. And if seconds were obliged to be peacemakers, they sometimes behaved more like promoters.

But if bending the rules made dueling even bloodier than it had to be, strict adherence could be risky too. Some would-be duelists discovered that even the code’s formal preliminaries might set in motion an irreversible chain of events. When, in 1838, Col. James Watson Webb, a thuggish Whig newspaper editor, felt himself abused in Congress by Representative Jonathan Cilley, a Maine Democrat, he dispatched Representative William Graves of Kentucky to deliver his demand for an apology. When Cilley declined to accept Webb’s note, Graves, following what one Whig diarist described as “the ridiculous code of honor which governs these gentlemen,” felt obliged to challenge Cilley himself. Subsequently, the two congressmen, who bore each other not the slightest ill will, adjourned to a field in Maryland to blast away at each other with rifles at a distance of 80 to 100 yards. After each exchange of shots, negotiations were conducted with a view to calling the whole thing off, but no acceptable common ground could be found, though the issues still at stake seemed appallingly trivial. Graves’ third shot struck Cilley and killed him.

Though President Van Buren attended Cilley’s funeral, the Supreme Court refused to be present as a body, as a protest against dueling, and Graves and his second, Representative Henry Wise of Virginia, were censured by the House of Representatives. On the whole, though, outrage seemed to play out along party lines, with Whigs less dismayed by the carnage than Democrats. Congressman Wise, who had insisted the shooting continue, over the protests of Cilley’s second, was particularly defiant. “Let Puritans shudder as they may,” he cried to his Congressional colleagues. “I belong to the class of Cavaliers, not to the Roundheads.”

Ultimately, the problem with dueling was the obvious one. Whatever rationale its advocates offered for it, and however they tried to refine it, it still remained a capricious waste of too many lives. This was especially true in the Navy, where boredom, drink and a mix of spirited young men in close quarters on shipboard produced a host of petty irritations ending in gunfire. Between 1798 and the Civil War, the Navy lost two-thirds as many officers to dueling as it did to more than 60 years of combat at sea. Many of those killed and maimed were teenage midshipmen and barely older junior officers, casualties of their own reckless judgment and, on at least one occasion, the by-the-book priggishness of some of their shipmates.

In 1800, Lt. Stephen Decatur, who was to die in a celebrated duel 20 years later, laughingly called his friend Lieutenant Somers a fool. When several of his fellow officers shunned Somers for not being suitably resentful, Somers explained that Decatur had been joking. No matter. If Somers didn’t challenge, he would be branded a coward and his life made unbearable. Still refusing to fight his friend Decatur, Somers instead challenged each of the officers, to be fought one after another. Not until he had wounded one of them, and been so seriously wounded himself that he had to fire his last shot from a sitting position, would those challenged acknowledge his courage.

The utter pointlessness of such encounters became, in time, an insult to public opinion, which by the Civil War had become increasingly impatient with affairs of honor that ended in killing. Even in dueling’s heyday, reluctant warriors were known to express reservations about their involvement by shooting into the air or, after receiving fire, not returning it. Occasionally they chose their weapons—howitzers, sledgehammers, forkfuls of pig dung—for their very absurdity, as a way of making a duel seem ridiculous. Others, demonstrating a “manly independence” that John Lyde Wilson might have admired, felt secure enough in their own reputations to turn down a fight. It may not have been difficult, in 1816, for New Englander Daniel Webster to refuse John Randolph’s challenge, or for a figure as unassailable as Stonewall Jackson, then teaching at the Virginia Military Institute, to order court-martialed a cadet who challenged him over a supposed insult during a lecture. But it must have been a different matter for native Virginian Winfield Scott, a future commanding general of the Army, to turn down a challenge from Andrew Jackson after the War of 1812. (Jackson could call him whatever he chose, said Scott, but he should wait until the next war to find out if Scott were truly a coward.) And it had to be riskier still for Louisville editor George Prentice to rebuke a challenger by declaring, “I do not have the least desire to kill you. . . . and I am not conscious of having done anything to entitle you to kill me. I do not want your blood upon my hands, and I do not want my own on anybody’s. . . . I am not so cowardly as to stand in dread of any imputation on my courage.”

If he did not stand in such dread, others did, since the consequences of being publicly posted as a coward could ruin a man. Yet even in dueling’s heartland south of the Mason- Dixon line, the duel had always had its opponents. Anti-dueling societies, though ineffectual, existed throughout the South at one time, and Thomas Jefferson once tried in vain to introduce in Virginia legislation as strict—though surely not so imaginative—as that in colonial Massachusetts, where the survivor of a fatal duel was to be executed, have a stake driven through his body, and be buried without a coffin.

But time was on the side of the critics. By the end of the Civil War, the code of honor had lost much of its force, possibly because the country had seen enough bloodshed to last several lifetimes. Dueling was, after all, an expression of caste—the ruling gentry deigned to fight only its social nearequals— and the caste whose conceits it had spoken to had been fatally injured by the disastrous war it had chosen. Violence thrived murder was alive and well. But for those who survived to lead the New South, dying for chivalry’s sake no longer appealed. Even among old dueling warriors, the ritual came to seem like something antique. Looking back on life’s foolishness, one South Carolina general, seriously wounded in a duel in his youth, was asked to recall the occasion. “Well I never did clearly understand what it was about,” he replied, “but you know it was a time when all gentlemen fought.”

- ROSS DRAKE is a former editor at People magazine who now writes from Connecticut. This is his first article for SMITHSONIAN.

Abolishing Abortion: The History of the Pro-Life Movement in America

In March 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump argued that women who had abortions should be punished if abortion were made illegal. Trump quickly reversed himself, but the previously pro-choice candidate had stumbled into an argument that pro-life advocates have studiously avoided over the last forty years for fear of being labelled antiwoman. Some social observers looked at such statements and wondered if they signaled the declining importance of pro-life politics, and social conservatism more broadly, to the Republican party. Is the antiabortion movement no longer relevant in the United States? Those who would answer yes might suffer from myopia. In fact, the antiabortion movement, in its many iterations, has radically transformed Americans’ ideas about women’s bodies, reproduction, feminist politics, and of course, fetal life. In the two centuries the movement has existed, its constituencies, tactics, and tools have all changed. But what has remained is the effect this movement has had on women’s lives. In the end, the pro-life movement transformed ideas as it also restricted the real ability of American women to access reproductive healthcare.

Before 1840 abortion was a widespread, largely stigma-free experience for American women. During that period, the American legal system used the quickening doctrine from British common law to decide the legality of abortion. Quickening occurred when the pregnant woman could feel the fetus move, typically between the fourth and sixth month of pregnancy. This was the only sure way to confirm pregnancy before this time, any fetus was considered only a potential life. Women most often used herbal concoctions they had learned from other women, healers, or physicians to cure their “obstructed menses” before quickening. Post-quickening abortion was a crime, but only a misdemeanor. Some historians have suggested that laws against post-quickening abortions were primarily intended to protect the health of the pregnant woman—not fetal life—as it was much more common for women to die during abortions that used instruments rather than herbal abortifacients. Whatever the rationale, few abortions were prosecuted before the mid-nineteenth century because quickening was so difficult to prove. Only women themselves could testify to fetal movement.

This system of legal but quiet abortions fell apart in the mid-nineteenth century. The first “right-to-life” movement was not led by grassroots activists, but rather physicians, anxious about their professional status. Before then, physicians had been a largely unregulated bunch, without the institutional or cultural authority to corner the market on healing. In the early nineteenth century, a variety of other healers competed with physicians for business, especially the business of women’s reproductive healthcare. While many physicians believed that scientific medicine would benefit their patients, some, in order to hurt lay healers’ business, sought governmental licensing and regulation to weed out the competition. Physicians used anti-abortion laws, pushed in state legislatures, to increase their own stature and undermine their opponents.[1]

Of course, many would have narrated this story very differently. Some physicians claimed that this campaign was a product of superior medical knowledge. Many argued that women (and rag-tag group of healers who offered abortion) did not have adequate embryonic knowledge to determine when life began. But historians have noted that this medical insight was not a result of any advancements in embryonic knowledge. In fact, there were none during these campaigns.[2] Instead, the fetus was merely a stand-in for a broader cultural project. Here, the movement tapped into concerns over women’s increasing education, autonomy, and the extension of rights, as it reasserted women’s connection to and limitation by their own reproductive anatomy. Women’s bodies, not their words or actions, confessed to doctors the “naturalness” of uninterrupted reproduction and the “truth” about fetal life.[3] Bodily processes could “speak for themselves,” though they did need doctors to translate.

This effort largely succeeded. By 1900 every state had a law forbidding abortion at any stage, whether through the use of drugs or procedures. Almost all the laws passed during this time included a therapeutic exception, where licensed physicians could provide abortions at their own discretion as long as the abortion preserved the life of the mother. While this loophole allowed many women to obtain abortions, it also made doctors the ultimate arbiters of the morality and legality of abortions. These laws also created a large black market for women who could not access or obtain abortions through medical channels.

There was not much of an antiabortion movement between 1900 and 1965 because the state did its work. Police, courts, and lawmakers prosecuted abortionists and harassed women who procured the procedure. [4] But in the 1960s, some Americans began to demand change from their states. In 1959 the American Law Institute, a group of professionals that put together model legislation, advocated for the liberalization of abortion law. They suggested that the law should make exceptions for women who were raped, whose fetuses were deformed, and whose mental or physical health was at stake. The abortion reform movement was made possible by a larger cultural shift in Americans’ ideas about reproduction and abortion. In the 1960s Americans witnessed the heartbreak of infant death and extreme fetal deformity. Thalidomide, a sleeping pill, caused thousands of birth defects in Europe and the United States. Later, an outbreak of German measles produced thousands of stillbirths and cases of babies born with major abnormalities. Images of white middle-class women and their deformed infants peppered American media, capturing the imaginations and parental fears of many Americans. [5] In the late 1960s a nascent feminist movement began to argue that women could not be full citizens unless they could control reproduction. Together these shifts helped push state legislatures to reform their abortion laws. Colorado was the first to amend its law in 1967, followed quickly by others, most famously California in 1967 and New York in 1970.

In the midst of states’ efforts at abortion reform, the modern antiabortion political movement was born. Small groups of Catholic doctors, nurses, lawyers, and housewives joined together to oppose liberalization. In 1967 the National Council of Catholic Bishops aided their campaigns with support, money, and the formation of the National Right to Life Committee. Early Catholic activists were often joined by a handful of non-Catholics, usually Protestants, Mormons, or Orthodox Christians. Supporters of abortion reform argued that “right-to-life” forces were attempting to push Catholic values on a diverse American populace, and consequently many antiabortion groups worked to present themselves as ecumenical or non-denominational. Most of these early groups failed to stop changes in their state’s abortion law but they did have some successes in the early 1970s, suggesting that not every state was ready for abortion reform.[6]

The 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, legalizing abortion in all fifty states, changed everything and nothing. In the 1970s the anti-abortion movement remained heavily Catholic, and they continued to pitch their issue as a rights issue rather than a religious one. But in other essential ways the movement changed. Before Roe, the anti-abortion movement was very small, geographically disperse, and focused on individual state legislatures. After 1973 activists and state legislators alike worried that Roe prescribed a one-size-fits-all abortion law that could only be addressed at the national level. Thus, in the 1970s, activists promoted the Hyde Amendment (which successfully prohibited federal funding of abortions through Medicaid) and pushed, unsuccessfully, a constitutional amendment banning abortion. After 1973 the direction of pro-life activism changed, even as its demographics and core political arguments remained the same.

While antiabortion activists retained their focus on individual fetal rights, they began to develop new ways to convey that message to the public that focused on the fetus and excised the woman. The tools that had the largest effect were graphic pictures of aborted fetuses, the most important drawn from John and Barbara Willke’s Handbook on Abortion.[7] Some later called it the “Bible of the pro-life movement.” The Willkes were a Catholic couple, a doctor and a nurse, who became convinced that pictures would help end legal abortion. The four pictures they put in their book, collected from sympathetic doctors and pathologists, were quickly reproduced and used in all parts of the movement. Their work built on a longer, medical history of viewing and personifying the fetus. Twentieth-century medical advances extended nineteenth-century doctors’ interest in fetal life. After World War II, new medical technologies allowed doctors to view and treat fetuses in new ways, while others examined fetal development for the cures to persistent human problems, ultimately personifying and individualizing the fetus.[8] The Willkes and others simply extended this medical tradition into politics. They became sure that images helped people to understand a fetus, legally and culturally, as a baby. Thus the movement continued to develop new tools and technologies to this end: pictures of fetuses, in utero and aborted, fetal models, and fetuses in jars in the 1970s fetal pins, dolls, jewelry, and clothes in addition to a proliferation of pro-life movies in the 1980s and ultrasound visuals of fetuses in the 1990s and 2000s. Using these images, activists made a political pitch and moved fetal bodies squarely into American political culture.

As activists moved the fetus into the political spotlight, they tried to keep the pregnant woman behind the curtain. Increasingly in the 1970s, they attempted to link their campaign to civil rights and human rights work, which led to increasingly heated rhetoric. Some activists said legal abortion was worse than the Jewish Holocaust. Others argued that the Roe decision was akin to the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which ruled that black people—slave or free—were not U.S. citizens and thus not protected by the Constitution. Both decisions, they argued, made some groups “less than human” and degraded life. While not actually working on civil rights and human rights issues, pro-life activists used those causes to make the fetus a sympathetic victim and pro-life activists into modern day abolitionists. (These arguments also helped redeem the Republican party in the aftermath of “massive resistance” in the South.) But activists avoided discussing what would happen to American women if abortion became illegal. They tried to silence those in their midst who voiced the old argument that pregnancy punished women for promiscuity. Activists instead claimed that abortion providers and the feminists who condoned legal abortion were truly to blame.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, evangelical Christians joined the movement in great numbers, rejuvenating and eventually radicalizing the movement. Previously, in the late 1960s, evangelical scholars, pastors, and physicians could not agree on whether or not abortion was sinful. But by late 1970s and early 1980s, this sentiment had changed. Many evangelical laypeople and clergy opposed legal abortion and joined the fight to end it. Some simply joined existing pro-life groups others formed new, more radical groups that rejected the politics of legislative reform. The most famous of the latter cohort was Operation Rescue, which sought to end abortion by “any means necessary.” Operation Rescue pioneered the pro-life “rescue,” in which thousands of activists created human blockades in front of clinics. In the 1980s and 1990s, Operation Rescue performed such rescues in cities across the nation, tying up the city’s police departments, filling local jails, and making it incredibly difficult to get an abortion. Their national media spectacle sought to attract reporters and stun the American public. Extremists in the movement went even further. Between the early 1980s and the 2000s, there were 153 assaults, 383 death threats, 3 kidnappings, 18 attempted murders, and 9 murders related to abortion providers.[9]

As rescues captured the imaginations, enthusiasm, and anger of many anti-abortion activists, others continued to do the quiet work of incremental legal change. In the 1980s and 1990s, many pro-lifers, especially those who remained in more mainstream right to life groups, focused on making access to abortion more difficult on the state level. Due to their efforts, states across the country passed laws that required parental notification, “informed consent” (mandating women view materials about fetal development and the risks of abortion), and waiting periods between the initial consultation and the abortion. In 1992 the Supreme Court validated the legality of such laws in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, crafting a new rationale to determine the constitutionality of laws regulating abortion. Restrictions were legal as long as they did not place an “undue burden” on women seeking the procedure, validating the work of anti-abortion activists and making abortion increasingly difficult to access—especially for rural or poor women. The radical and moderate groups differed in terms of strategy, but together they succeeded at reorienting the conversation about abortion. Both types of groups worked to make pro-life politics central to social conservatism and by extension the Republican party. They made fetal life central to how many Christians viewed their religion and their politics. They asked conservative children to think of themselves as “survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.” And they helped new “family values” constituents consider the fetus a member of the family and legal abortion the biggest challenge facing the modern family. In all these efforts, activists were successful, not for all Americans but for enough to build an expansive movement with the defense of fetal life as its core.

Perhaps most importantly, activists from the 1980s onward reinterpreted women’s relationship to abortion. They brought back the old argument about the “truth” told by women’s bodies and gave it a modern twist. Feminists, they argued, had persuaded women to deny the fundamental truth of fetal life. Abortion damaged women’s bodies, but also their psyches. Women, they argued, were traumatized by abortion and like veterans, suffered from a form of post-traumatic stress. Only the pro-life movement could turn the tide against the psychological and physical damage of abortion and feminism. In the 1980s and 1990s pro-life activists recast themselves as both the protectors of women and the true women’s rights movement. Increasingly, they claimed to be an individual rights movement, a civil rights movement, a family values movement, and a women’s movement. So Trump’s faux pas made two fundamental errors: it denied the fetus the political spotlight while also highlighting the movement’s vexed relationship with American women. But his words also gave the misperception that this movement is increasingly unimportant. Women living in poverty, in rural areas, and in red states, trying to use their constitutionally guaranteed right to an abortion, would tell you a different story.


JENNIFER L. HOLLAND is an assistant professor of history at the University of Oklahoma. She specializes in the histories of the North American West, gender, sexuality, and race. She is currently writing a book about the modern anti-abortion movement in four western states.


[1] James C. Mohr, Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolutions of National Policy, 1800–1900 (1978).

[2] Kristen Luker, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).

[3] Brian Stormer, Articulating Life’s Memory: U.S. Medical Rhetoric about Abortion in the Nineteenth Century (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2002).

[4] Leslie Reagan, When Abortion Was A Crime: Women, Medicine, and the Law, 1867-1973 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

[5] Leslie Reagan, Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).

[6]Gillian Frank, “The Colour of the Unborn: Anti-Abortion and Anti-Bussing Politics in Michigan, United States, 1967-1973,” Gender & History 26, no. 2 (August 2014): 351-78.

[7] Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Willke, Handbook on Abortion (Cincinnati, OH: Hiltz Publishing Co., 1972).

[8]Monica J. Casper, The Making of the Unborn Patient: A Social Anatomy of Fetal Surgery (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998) Sara Dubow, Ourselves Unborn: A History of the Fetus in Modern America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Breaking down the claim

All of which brings us back to the claim that 27 Republicans and 10 Democrats in the Senate “voted for federal agencies to have access to your internet history without obtaining a warrant.”

Firstly, this implies the senators voted to actively allow this, when in fact the vote was against banning it. In other words, they voted to maintain the status quo.

The reference to “your internet history” implies this is a widespread action allowing some kind of sweeping internet data-gathering, in the vein of the phone data mining Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 through publication of classified information. But Section 215 allows this internet data gathering only in relation to foreign intelligence, international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities investigation.

The post also implies unfettered access, but government investigators must get a court to sign off on obtaining this data – even if getting approval requires a lower threshold than a warrant.

Finally, the Facebook post leaves readers with the impression this is an unusual allowance. But gathering internet data without a warrant is already widely allowable under basic criminal law.

“Under criminal law, browser history can be obtained if relevant to any criminal investigation,” Baker said. “That’s probably the best reason not to adopt this (amendment). It makes no sense to say that no warrant or judicial review is needed to obtain such records in an investigation of securities fraud, but one is needed to investigate and try to stop an act of terrorism.”

The House and Senate versions of the surveillance act include a provision specifying Section 215 doesn’t go beyond what can be used in criminal investigations, Baker noted. It says the government cannot seek an order in circumstances where “a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes.”

The page that created the viral post did not respond to requests for comment, and the libertarian group the post credited as a source declined to provide supporting evidence.

Was the Carthaginian Senate for life or not? - History

The U.S. Constitution created a system of checks and balances and three independent branches of government.

Article II of the Constitution created the presidency. The president's powers were stated more briefly than those of Congress. The president was granted "Executive Power," including the power "with the Advice and Consent of the Senate," to make treaties and appoint ambassadors. The president was also to serve as Commander in Chief of the army and navy.

In delegate James Wilson's view, the presidency was "the most difficult [issue] of all on which we have had to decide." Americans had waged a revolution against a king and did not want concentrated power to appear in another guise. The delegates had to decide whether the chief executive should be one person or a committee whether the president should be appointed by Congress and how long the chief executive should serve.

On August 18, 1787, a Pennsylvania newspaper carried a leaked report from the Constitutional Convention. It was the first word on the proceedings that directly quoted a delegate. "We are well informed" of "reports idly circulating, that it is intended to establish a monarchical government. Tho' we cannot, affirmatively, tell you what we are doing, we can, negatively, tell you what we are not doing--we never once thought of a king."

The conflict with royal governors had made the public deeply distrustful of powerful executives. Alexander Hamilton argued for a chief executive to be given broad powers and elected for life. Edmund Randolph of Virginia thought executive power should not be put into the hands of a single person since a single executive would be "the fetus of monarchy."

To ensure a check on presidential power, Congress was given the power to override a presidential veto and to impeach and remove a president. Congress alone was given the power to declare war.

Article III of the Constitution established a Supreme Court.

The Constitution does not specify the size of the Supreme Court. Over the years the designated size of the Supreme Court has varied between six, seven, nine, and even ten members. Nor does the Constitution explicitly grant the courts the power of judicial review--to determine whether legislation is consistent with the Constitution.

Today, no other country makes as much use of judicial review as the United States. Many of our society's policies on racial desegregation, criminal procedure, abortion, and school prayer are the product of court decisions. The concept of judicial review was initially established on the state level and in the debates over the ratification of the Constitution.

In contrast to Britain, American judges do not wear wigs. When the Supreme Court held its first session in 1790, one justice did arrive wearing a wig. But the public expressed derision at wig wearing, and the justice decided that republican judges should not wear wigs.

The Constitution included no property qualifications for voting or officeholding like those found in the state constitutions drafted between 1776 and 1780. In a republican society, officeholding was supposed to reflect personal merit, not social rank.

The Constitution did not bar anyone from voting. It only said that voting for members of the House of Representatives should be the same in each state as that state's requirements for voting for the most numerous branch of the legislature. In order words, qualifications for voting were left to the individual states. The New Jersey constitution allowed women to vote if they met the same property requirements as men.