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A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era

Volume 3, Judicial Decisions, 1857-1866

Thomas C. Mackey

Publication Year: 2014

A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era is the first comprehensive collection of public policy actions, political speeches, and judicial decisions related to the American Civil War. Collectively, the four volumes in this series give scholars, teachers, and students easy access to the full texts of the most important, fundamental documents as well as hard-to-find, rarely published primary sources on this critical period in U.S. history.
            The first two volumes of the series, Legislative Achievements and Political Arguments, were released last year. The final installments, Judicial Decisions, is split into two volumes, with this one, volume 3, spanning from 1857 to 1866. It contains some of the classic judicial decisions of the time such as the 1857 decision in Dred Scott and the 1861 Ex parte Merryman decision. Other decisions are well known to specialists but deserve wider readership and discussion, such as the October 1859 Jefferson County, Virginia, indictment of John Brown and the decision in the 1864 case of political and seditious activity in Ex parte Vallandigham. These judicial voices constitute a lasting and often overlooked aspect of the age of Abraham Lincoln. Mackey’s headnotes and introductory essays situate cases within their historical context and trace their lasting significance. In contrast to the war, these judicial decisions lasted well past their immediate political and legal moment and deserve continued scholarship and scrutiny.
            This document collection presents the raw “stuff” of the Civil War era so that students, scholars, and interested readers can measure and gauge how that generation met Lincoln’s challenge to “think anew, and act anew.” A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era is an essential acquisition for academic and public libraries in addition to being a valuable resource for courses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, legal history, political history, and nineteenth-century American history.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

This project did not happen without the help of numerous people and they have earned mention and thanks in this acknowledgment. Of course, all errors of omission and commission in this work are mine alone. A good place to start (and a good place to work) would be the University of Tennessee Press. Scot Danforth, director of the Press and specialist in the era of the United States Civil War, has...

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Introduction: A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era

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pp. xi-xx

In 1881, Union Civil War veteran, distinguished law author and attorney, and later Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. published a little book entitled, The Common Law. Although little read in its entirety today, the point of the book continues to influence law academics, historians of the law, and jurisprudents to the current day. Holmes possessed a deep understanding...

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Volume 3: Judicial Decisions, 1857–1866

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pp. 1-4

Readers should not feel surprise in finding a section on how the federal and state courts responded to the events and issues that arose before, during, and after the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. One of the rules of thumb in United States history is that in one form or another, all significant issues in public policy history end up being challenged and analyzed in and before the courts, especially...

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Dred Scott, Plaintiff in Error, v. John F. A. Sandford

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pp. 5-202

One of the most famous and infamous decisions in all United States Supreme Court history, Dred Scott v. Sandford forms one of the turning points in the crisis of the 1850s. In what began as a routine freedom suit by a slave in Missouri, Dred Scott became a vehicle for Chief Justice Roger B. Taney to declare the Missouri...

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Stephen V. R. Ableman, Plaintiff in Error, v. Sherman M. Booth; and The United States, Plaintiff in Error, v. Sherman M. Booth

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pp. 203-218

This case arose from an 1854 fugitive slave recapture in Wisconsin. A slave owner, Benjamin S. Garland, located his runaway slave, Joshua Glover, working at a mill outside Racine. Glover applied to the United States commissioner in Milwaukee for a writ of rendition as authorized under the Fugitive Slave Act of...

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Grand Jury Indictment of John Brown

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pp. 219-224

On October 16, 1859, John Brown and his followers (sixteen whites including John Brown, three free blacks, one freed slave, and one fugitive slave) began their raid on the United States Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). They succeeded in capturing the arsenal but failed in their efforts to spark a...

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Lemmon v. People

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pp. 225-282

Few issues so strained the bonds of friendship and judicial comity (the respect by one state or jurisdiction shown to another state or jurisdiction of the formal paper, status, and property of another state) than the issue of sojourning slaves. Defined as property under the laws and traditions of border and southern states, by...

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In the Matter of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, One of the United States of America, by Beriah Magoffin, Governor, and the Executive Authority Thereof, Petitioner v. William Dennison, Governor and Executive Authority of the State of Ohio

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pp. 283-316

On October 4, 1859, a free African American from Ohio, Willis Lago, allegedly enticed an African American slave woman, Charlotte, to leave her Kentucky owner, cross the Ohio River, and reside with him in Ohio. When this theft of slave property was discovered, the Woodword County, Kentucky, grand jury indicted...

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Ex parte Merryman

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pp. 317-334

In response to the April 14, 1861, firing on Fort Sumter by South Carolina forces of the Confederacy, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling 75,000 militiamen into federal service for ninety days to deal with the southern insurrection. On April 19, Union troops trying to reach Washington, D.C., had

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The Prize Cases

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pp. 335-378

By a 5–4 vote, a majority of the justices of the United States Supreme Court voted to uphold President Abraham Lincoln’s April 19, 1861, declaration of a blockade around the seceded states, even though Congress had not authorized the blockade. In July 1861, Congress did authorize the move, but a number of ships had...

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Ex parte Vallandigham

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pp. 379-388

Antiwar Democrat and negrophobe Clement L. Vallandigham became the center of national attention because of his arrest for his political activities. In early 1863, General Ambrose Burnside took command of the Department of the Ohio and decided to clamp down on “Copperhead” (or pro-Southern) activity in the area...

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Gelpcke et al. v. The City of Dubuque

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pp. 389-418

In the middle to late nineteenth century, cities sought to entice railroads to build lines connecting to them to tie the city to markets and the larger world, which provided income generated from jobs and taxes. Cities often issued bonds to raise money to build and support railroad facilities or to purchase land to encourage the...

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Ex parte Milligan

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pp. 419-514

In this decision, controversial at the time and since, the justices of the United States Supreme Court held that the military trial of civilians in areas not directly in war zones and in times of crisis when the civilian courts were open was unconstitutional, but the justices disagreed on the grounds for the decision. Further, while...

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United States v. Rhodes

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pp. 515-532

Associate Justice Noah H. Swayne in this federal Circuit Court decision provided perhaps the first judicial interpretation of the 1866 Civil Rights Act enacted by Congress, over the veto of President Andrew Johnson, to enforce the 1865 Thirteenth Amendment. Section two of the Thirteenth Amendment states, “Congress...


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pp. 533-538

Selected Readings

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pp. 539-546


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pp. 547-553

E-ISBN-13: 9781621900238
E-ISBN-10: 1621900231
Print-ISBN-13: 9781621900054
Print-ISBN-10: 1621900053

Page Count: 576
Illustrations: 23 photos, 9 maps
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1