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History > U.S. History > Civil War Era
The Trials of John Merryman
In the spring of 1861, Union military authorities arrested Maryland farmer John Merryman on charges of treason against the United States for burning railroad bridges around Baltimore in an effort to prevent northern soldiers from reaching the capital. From his prison cell at Fort McHenry, Merryman petitioned Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger B. Taney for release through a writ of habeas corpus. Taney issued the writ, but President Abraham Lincoln ignored it. In mid-July Merryman was released, only to be indicted for treason in a Baltimore federal court. His case, however, never went to trial and federal prosecutors finally dismissed it in 1867. In Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War, Jonathan White reveals how the arrest and prosecution of this little-known Baltimore farmer had a lasting impact on the Lincoln administration and Congress as they struggled to develop policies to deal with both northern traitors and southern rebels. His work exposes several perennially controversial legal and constitutional issues in American history, including the nature and extent of presidential war powers, the development of national policies for dealing with disloyalty and treason, and the protection of civil liberties in wartime.
The Legal Career of America's Greatest President
As our nation’s most beloved and recognizable president, Abraham Lincoln is best known for the Emancipation Proclamation and for guiding our country through the Civil War. But before he took the oath of office, Lincoln practiced law for nearly twenty-five years in the Illinois courts. Abraham Lincoln, Esq.: The Legal Career of America’s Greatest President examines Lincoln’s law practice and the effect it had on his presidency and the country. Editors Roger Billings and Frank J. Williams, along with a notable list of contributors, examine Lincoln’s career as a general-practice attorney, looking both at his work in Illinois and at the time he spent in Washington. Each chapter offers an expansive look at Lincoln’s legal mind and covers diverse topics such as Lincoln’s legal writing, ethics, the Constitution, and international law. Abraham Lincoln, Esq. emphasizes this often overlooked period in Lincoln’s career and sheds light on Lincoln’s life before he became our sixteenth president.
What constitutes Lincoln’s political greatness as a statesman? As a great leader, he saved the Union, presided over the end of slavery, and helped to pave the way for an interracial democracy. His great speeches provide enduring wisdom about human equality, democracy, free labor, and free society. Joseph R. Fornieri contends that Lincoln’s political genius is best understood in terms of a philosophical statesmanship that united greatness of thought and action, one that combined theory and practice. This philosophical statesmanship, Fornieri argues, can best be understood in terms of six dimensions of political leadership: wisdom, prudence, duty, magnanimity, rhetoric, and patriotism. Drawing on insights from history, politics, and philosophy, Fornieri tackles the question of how Lincoln’s statesmanship displayed each of these crucial elements.
Providing an accessible framework for understanding Lincoln’s statesmanship, this thoughtful study examines the sixteenth president’s political leadership in terms of the traditional moral vision of statecraft as understood by epic political philosophers such as Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. Fornieri contends that Lincoln’s character is best understood in terms of Aquinas’s understanding of magnanimity or greatness of soul, the crowning virtue of statesmanship. True political greatness, as embodied by Lincoln, involves both humility and sacrificial service for the common good. The enduring wisdom and timeless teachings of these great thinkers, Fornieri shows, can lead to a deeper appreciation of statesmanship and of its embodiment in Abraham Lincoln.
With the great philosophers and books of western civilization as his guide, Fornieri demonstrates the important contribution of normative political philosophy to an understanding of our sixteenth president. Informed by political theory that draws on the classics in revealing the timelessness of Lincoln’s example, his interdisciplinary study offers profound insights for anyone interested in the nature of leadership, statesmanship, political philosophy, political ethics, political history, and constitutional law.
In Abraham Lincoln, Public Speaker, Waldo W. Braden presents a thought-provoking study of the sixteenth president’s rhetorical style. In his discussion of Lincoln’s speaking practices from 1854 through 1865, Braden draws extensively on Lincoln’s papers and the reports of those who knew him and heard him speak. He portrays Lincoln in his various shows how Lincoln adapted to the public’s growing recognition of his political abilities. In separate chapters devoted to Lincoln’s three most famous speeches—the First Inaugural Address, the Gettysburg Address, and the Second Inaugural Address—Braden Analyzes the ways in which each demonstrated Lincoln’s persuasive abilities during the difficult years of the Civil War. Braden does not claim that Lincoln was an orator in the grand, classical style of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, and Charles Summer. But he shows that Lincoln was a gifted speaker in his own right, able to win support by demonstrating that he was a man of common sense and good moral character.
The Observations of John G. Nicolay and John Hay
Editor Michael Burlingame sifted through the original forty-seven-hundred-page work and selected only the personal observations of the secretaries during the Lincoln presidency, placing ten excerpts in chronological order in Abraham Lincoln: The Observations of John G. Nicolay and John Hay. The result is an important collection of Nicolay and Hay’s interpretations of Lincoln’s character, actions, and reputation, framed by Burlingame’s compelling preface, introduction, chapter introductions, and notes. The volume provides vivid descriptions of such events as Election Day in 1860, the crisis at Fort Sumter, the first major battle of the war at Bull Run, and Lincoln’s relationship with Edwin Stanton and George McClellan.
In this clear and captivating new work, Burlingame has made key portions of Nicolay and Hay’s immense biography available to a wide audience of today’s readers.
The New Orleans Race Riot of July 30, 1866
In the summer of 1866, racial tensions ran high in Louisiana as a constitutional convention considered disenfranchising former Confederates and enfranchising blacks. On July 30, a procession of black suffrage supporters pushed through an angry throng of hostile whites. Words were exchanged, shots rang out, and within minutes a riot erupted with unrestrained fury. When it was over, at least forty-eight men—an overwhelming majority of them black—lay dead and more than two hundred had been wounded. In An Absolute Massacre, James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., examines the events surrounding the confrontation and offers a compelling look at the racial tinderbox that was the post-Civil War South.
The Culture of Commemoration among Civil War Veterans
Long after the Civil War ended, one conflict raged on: the battle to define and shape the war's legacy. Across the Bloody Chasm deftly examines Civil War veterans' commemorative efforts and the concomitant -- and sometimes conflicting -- movement for reconciliation.
Though former soldiers from both sides of the war celebrated the history and values of the newly reunited America, a deep divide remained between people in the North and South as to how the country's past should be remembered and the nation's ideals honored. Union soldiers could not forget that their southern counterparts had taken up arms against them, while Confederates maintained that the principles of states' rights and freedom from tyranny aligned with the beliefs and intentions of the founding fathers. Confederate soldiers also challenged northern claims of a moral victory, insisting that slavery had not been the cause of the war, and ferociously resisting the imposition of postwar racial policies. M. Keith Har-ris argues that although veterans remained committed to reconciliation, the sectional sensibilities that influenced the memory of the war left the North and South far from a meaningful accord.
Harris's masterful analysis of veteran memory assesses the ideological commitments of a generation of former soldiers, weaving their stories into the larger narrative of the process of national reunification. Through regimental histories, speeches at veterans' gatherings, monument dedications, and war narratives, Harris uncovers how veterans from both sides kept the deadliest war in American history alive in memory at a time when the nation seemed determined to move beyond conflict.
Union Soldiers View the Northern Home Front
Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the Law of War
In his first inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln declared that as president he would “have no lawful right” to interfere with the institution of slavery. Yet less than two years later, he issued a proclamation intended to free all slaves throughout the Confederate states. When critics challenged the constitutional soundness of the act, Lincoln pointed to the international laws and usages of war as the legal basis for his Proclamation, asserting that the Constitution invested the president “with the law of war in time of war.” As the Civil War intensified, the Lincoln administration slowly and reluctantly accorded full belligerent rights to the Confederacy under the law of war. This included designating a prisoner of war status for captives, honoring flags of truce, and negotiating formal agreements for the exchange of prisoners—practices that laid the intellectual foundations for emancipation. Once the United States allowed Confederates all the privileges of belligerents under international law, it followed that they should also suffer the disadvantages, including trial by military courts, seizure of property, and eventually the emancipation of slaves. Even after the Lincoln administration decided to apply the law of war, it was unclear whether state and federal courts would agree. After careful analysis, author Burrus M. Carnahan concludes that if the courts had decided that the proclamation was not justified, the result would have been the personal legal liability of thousands of Union officers to aggrieved slave owners. This argument offers further support to the notion that Lincoln’s delay in issuing the Emancipation Proclamation was an exercise of political prudence, not a personal reluctance to free the slaves. In Act of Justice, Carnahan contends that Lincoln was no reluctant emancipator; he wrote a truly radical document that treated Confederate slaves as an oppressed people rather than merely as enemy property. In this respect, Lincoln’s proclamation anticipated the psychological warfare tactics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Carnahan’s exploration of the president’s war powers illuminates the origins of early debates about war powers and the Constitution and their link to international law.