Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation: Constitutional Conflict in the American Civil War

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The Civil War placed the U.S. Constitution under unprecedented--and, to this day, still unmatched--strain. In Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Mark Neely examines for the first time in one book the U.S. Constitution and its often overlooked cousin, the Confederate Constitution, and the ways the documents shaped the struggle for national survival.

Previous scholars have examined wartime challenges to civil liberties and questions of ...

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Chapel Hill 2011 Hardcover 488 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. Brand new book. UNITED STATES CIVIL WAR. The Civil War placed the U.S. Constitution under unprecedented--and, to ... this day, still unmatched--strain. In Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Mark Neely examines for the first time in one book the U.S. Constitution and its often overlooked cousin, the Confederate Constitution, and the ways the documents shaped the struggle for national survival. Previous scholars have examined wartime challenges to civil liberties and questions of presidential power, but Neely argues that the constitutional conflict extended to the largest questions of national existence. Drawing on judicial opinions, presidential state papers, and political pamphlets spiced with the everyday immediacy of the partisan press, Neely reveals how judges, lawyers, editors, politicians, and government officials, both North and South, used their constitutions to fight the war and save, or create, thei Read more Show Less

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Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation: Constitutional Conflict in the American Civil War

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Overview

The Civil War placed the U.S. Constitution under unprecedented--and, to this day, still unmatched--strain. In Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Mark Neely examines for the first time in one book the U.S. Constitution and its often overlooked cousin, the Confederate Constitution, and the ways the documents shaped the struggle for national survival.

Previous scholars have examined wartime challenges to civil liberties and questions of presidential power, but Neely argues that the constitutional conflict extended to the largest questions of national existence. Drawing on judicial opinions, presidential state papers, and political pamphlets spiced with the everyday immediacy of the partisan press, Neely reveals how judges, lawyers, editors, politicians, and government officials, both North and South, used their constitutions to fight the war and save, or create, their nation.

Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation illuminates how the U.S. Constitution not only survived its greatest test but emerged stronger after the war. That this happened at a time when the nation's very existence was threatened, Neely argues, speaks ultimately to the wisdom of the Union leadership, notably President Lincoln and his vision of the American nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bloodier and more destructive than any other American conflict, the Civil War also provoked the nation's severest constitutional crisis. Neely contends in this path-breaking analysis that during the 1860s the constitution was "'twice tested"-in both the Union and in the Confederacy-since the combatant polities had adopted more or less identical charters. Revisiting and expanding on many of the questions addressed in his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties, Neely presents a wide-ranging discussion on federal policy, local activism, legal controversies, and the making of public opinion. Three major issues arise here: the Union's attitudes toward civil liberties, the Confederacy's struggles to overcome state-rights doctrine and create a strong federal power, and the constitutional crisis engendered by the institution of slavery. Of these, the discussion of emancipation is the most significant. Before the war, antislavery advocates had railed against a malignant "Constitutional racism," while finding themselves incapable of stopping it. The Constitution, as ratified in 1787, was powerless to combat slavery as an institution. Rectification of this lacuna required decades of activism, a bloody Civil War, and a series of amendments that would fundamentally rewrite the Constitution, and reimagine the nation as a whole. Neely's argument is much more than a dry recitation of facts; having unearthed numerous anecdotes via scrupulous research, this work is alive with character and narrative.
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From the Publisher
Noteworthy for originality of argument, breadth of subject matter, and felicity of prose . . . it will undoubtedly stimulate further inquiry into the constitutional history of the Civil War and other American wars.--The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Neely has laid bare a new foundation for all future scholarship of Civil War constitutionalism.--The Review of Politics

The profound insights of Neely's research, together with his sharp questioning of conventional and modern interpretations of Civil War constitutionalism, should spur debate and further inquiry about the essence of American nationalism, which even today continues to remain elusive.--American Historical Review

A meditation on the relationship between nationalism and constitutionalism in war, one that is intended to inspire a certain love for constitutional history in the Civil War period, a woefully understudied area.--The Historian

An important book. . . . Neely's account of constitutional matters in the Confederate States is his most important contribution to our knowledge of the Civil War.--North Carolina Historical Review

Library Journal
01/01/2015
This account paints a broad canvas regarding constitutional questions on wartime civil liberties, presidential war powers, party politics, emancipation policy, and states' rights. Neely argues that although Lincoln made many missteps in interpreting laws and promoting his policies, constitutional concerns actually strengthened the Union by invigorating political debate.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807835180
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 11/21/2011
  • Series: Littlefield History of the Civil War Era Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark E. Neely Jr. is McCabe-Greer Professor of Civil War History at Pennsylvania State University. He has written several books, including The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties, which won the Pulitzer Prize for History.
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