The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties / Edition 1

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Overview

If Abraham Lincoln was known as the Great Emancipator, he was also the only president to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Indeed, Lincoln's record on the Constitution and individual rights has fueled a century of debate, from charges that Democrats were singled out for harrassment to Gore Vidal's depiction of Lincoln as an "absolute dictator." Now, in the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Fate of Liberty, one of America's leading authorities on Lincoln wades straight into this controversy, showing just who was jailed and why, even as he explores the whole range of Lincoln's constitutional policies.
Mark Neely depicts Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus as a well-intentioned attempt to deal with a floodtide of unforeseen events: the threat to Washington as Maryland flirted with secession, disintegrating public order in the border states, corruption among military contractors, the occupation of hostile Confederate territory, contraband trade with the South, and the outcry against the first draft in U.S. history. Drawing on letters from prisoners, records of military courts and federal prisons, memoirs, and federal archives, he paints a vivid picture of how Lincoln responded to these problems, how his policies were actually executed, and the virulent political debates that followed. Lincoln emerges from this account with this legendary statesmanship intact—mindful of political realities and prone to temper the sentences of military courts, concerned not with persecuting his opponents but with prosecuting the war efficiently. In addition, Neely explores the abuses of power under the regime of martial law: the routine torture of suspected deserters, widespread antisemitism among Union generals and officials, the common practice of seizing civilian hostages. He finds that though the system of military justice was flawed, it suffered less from merciless zeal, or political partisanship, than from inefficiency and the friction and complexities of modern war.
Informed by a deep understanding of a unique period in American history, this incisive book takes a comprehensive look at the issues of civil liberties during Lincoln's administration, placing them firmly in the political context of the time. Written with keen insight and an intimate grasp of the original sources, The Fate of Liberty offers a vivid picture of the crises and chaos of a nation at war with itself, changing our understanding of this president and his most controversial policies.

If Lincoln was known as the Great Emancipator, he was also the only president to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Indeed, Lincoln's record on the Constitution and individual rights has fueled a century of debate, and he has even been viewed as a dictator. Now, the Director of the Lincoln Museum wades into this controversy to set the record straight in this Pulitzer Prize-winning work.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195080322
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/28/1992
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 9.25 (w) x 6.13 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark E. Neely is McCabe-Greer Professor of the History of the Civil War Era at Penn State University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xi
1. Actions without Precedent 3
2. Missouri and Martial Law 32
3. Low Tide for Liberty 51
4. Arrests Move South 75
5. The Dark Side of the Civil War 93
6. Numbers and Definitions 113
7. The Revival of International Law 139
8. The Irrelevance of the Milligan Decision 160
9. The Democratic Opposition 185
10. Lincoln and the Constitution 210
Epilogue 223
Notes 237
Index of Prisoners of State 269
Index 273
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