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

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

by Mark E. Neely
 

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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

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.

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
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

Neely seeks both to reinvigorate the roots and nature of 'nationalism' in the era of the Civil War for both the federal Union and the Confederacy. . . . [Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation] is sure to initiate further research, writing, arguments, incrimination, and vindications.—Louisiana History

Entertains an extended and open-ended analysis. Discursive at times and wide-ranging throughout, Neely challenges, engages, tweaks, and revises the work of dozens of constitutional and civil war historians.—Indiana Magazine of History

Neely's contributions to scholarship in this area are remarkable. . . . His writing style is both scholarly and engaging.—Cercles

A meticulous study of Civil War-era constitutionalism, a complex and multifaceted book that will reward multiple readings to understand fully its meaning and implications. . . . Constitutional and political history at its finest.—Journal of American History

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807869024
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
11/21/2011
Series:
Littlefield History of the Civil War Era
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
519,784
File size:
2 MB

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
This is a sweeping and majestic contribution by an author who has spent a lifetime studying and writing great volumes about Abraham Lincoln, our two-party system, nationalism, and civil liberties during the Civil War. Brilliantly written, Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation is one of the most original and important books on the war ever published. Mark Neely understands, as did President Lincoln, that the struggle for victory was a battle for the survival of the U.S. Constitution. The story told here should be required reading during the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.—Frank J. Williams, retired chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and chair of the Lincoln Forum

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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