The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties

The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties

by Mark E. Neely
     
 

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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

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199923489
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
08/20/1992
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
991,662
File size:
2 MB

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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