The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties

Paperback | February 1, 1972

byMark 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 GoreVidal'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 constitutionalpolicies. 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, theoccupation 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 respondedto 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 withpersecuting 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 civilianhostages. 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 ofthe 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.

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From Our Editors

In a nation at war with itself, a president must make some tough - and controversial - decisions. This is the theme of Mark Neely's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties. From Lincoln's postponement of habeas corpus to the first American draft, Neely uses records of military courts, letters fro...

From the Publisher

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 GoreVidal's depiction of Lincoln as an "absolute ...

Mark E. Neely is Director of the Lincoln Museum, and is the author of The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia and coauthor of The Lincoln Image, and other books on the Civil War era.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9.25 × 6.14 × 0.91 inPublished:February 1, 1972Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195080327

ISBN - 13:9780195080322

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From Our Editors

In a nation at war with itself, a president must make some tough - and controversial - decisions. This is the theme of Mark Neely's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties. From Lincoln's postponement of habeas corpus to the first American draft, Neely uses records of military courts, letters from prisoners, federal archives, memoirs and more, to prove Lincoln's renowned statesmanship remained intact. Neely is the director of the Lincoln Museum and author of The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia.

Editorial Reviews

"[An] excellent study of civil liberties in the North during the Civil War....Neely writes in clear, straightforward prose....An impressive and valuable addition to the literature of the Civil War."--The Journal of American History