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Other titles in the Littlefield History of the Civil War Era series:
With Malice Toward Some: Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era)by William A. Blair
Synopses & Reviews
Few issues created greater consensus among Civil War-era northerners than the belief that the secessionists had committed treason. But as William A. Blair shows in this engaging history, the way politicians, soldiers, and civilians dealt with disloyalty varied widely. Citizens often moved more swiftly than federal agents in punishing traitors in their midst, forcing the government to rethink legal practices and definitions. Ultimately, punishment for treason extended well beyond wartime and into the framework of Reconstruction policies, including the construction of the Fourteenth Amendment. Establishing how treason was defined not just by the Lincoln administration, Congress, and the courts but also by the general public, Blair reveals the surprising implications for North and South alike.
"The dissolution of the Union in 1861 was shocking to most Americans, forcing a public discussion about what constituted treason: how was it expressed in words and actions and who decided what it was? As abolition and the debate over the expansion of slavery began to tear the country apart in the 1850s, Americans contemplated how certain kinds of speech might be classified as treasonous, and historian Blair (Cities of the Dead) found that local residents played a large role in influencing charges and arrests. Emotions ran high in 1859 when John Brown was hanged for treason against the state of Virginia because the slave revolt he led resulted in the deaths of five people. During the war, the Union government struggled to decide whether spying, sabotage, or defecting to the Confederate Army were dangerous enough to constitute treason. How could these actions be sufficiently policed to protect the country? Even at the end, when Confederate soldiers were paroled after Appomattox, legal definitions of treason gave way to the more practical politics of reconciliation and reconstruction. Though Blair mercifully shies away from the complexities of constitutional theory, his emphasis on demonstrable treason is heavily steeped in politics and law, making for slow reading. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
William A. Blair, Liberal Arts Research Professor in U.S. History at the Pennsylvania State University, serves as director of the Richards Civil War Era Center and as editor of the Journal of the Civil War Era.
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