Lincoln's Code The Laws of War in American History

ISBN-10: 1416576177

ISBN-13: 9781416576174

Edition: 2013

Authors: John Fabian Witt

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In the fateful closing days of 1862, three weeks before Emancipation, the administration of Abraham Lincoln commissioned a code setting forth the laws of war for the armies of the United States. The code announced standards of civilized conduct in wartime concerning issues such as torture, prisoners of war, civilians, spies, and slaves. The code Lincoln approved ultimately shaped the course of the Civil War. And when the war was over, the same code reshaped warfare the world over. By the twentieth century, the 157 articles of Lincoln’s code had become the basis of a new international law of war. European powers adopted the American code. International agreements like the Geneva Conventions incorporated and expanded it.In this pathbreaking and deeply original book, John Fabian Witt tells the hidden story of the laws of war in the first century of the United States–and of the extraordinary code that emerged from it to change the course of world history.Lincoln’s Codeis the haunting and inspiring story of an idea in American history: the idea that conduct in war can be regulated by law. For many, the very idea of a law for war has seemed like an oxymoron. But with sweep and vitality, Witt unfolds the story of the cast of characters who invented the modern laws of war. Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin championed Enlightenment rules for civilized warfare.James Madison went to war in 1812 to vindicate them. Indian conflicts challenged and distorted them. The Mexican War quietly revolutionized them. In the Civil War, Lincoln and a small band of now forgotten figures helped remake those same laws to support Emancipation and advance the Union war effort. Three decades later, a new generation of Americans went into a war of American empire in the Philippines equipped with the very rules Lincoln had laid down.In beautifully crafted prose, Witt brings to life the soldiers and the presidents, the war makers and the pacifists, the Indians and the slaves, the cynics, the utopians, and the pragmatists who struggled with enemies and with one another to shape the United States’ vision of the laws of war. A narrative of expansive range and significance,Lincoln’s Codedepicts the drama of armed conflict and the anguish of human beings grappling with such vexing questions as whether prisoners could be executed; whether there were rules in Indian wars; whether military commissions could try unlawful combatants; whether torture might ever be justified; and whether slaves could be freed in wartime. The code Lincoln issued prohibited cruelty and the infliction of pain for its own sake but left room for vast destruction in the name of a just cause. It condoned the devastation inflicted in Sherman’s march to the sea. Yet it also provided a moral foundation for Emancipation and insisted that doing the right thing in situations of grave crisis was indispensable to the legitimacy of modern armies.Witt’s engrossing exploration of the dilemmas at the heart of the laws of war is a prehistory of our own era. Today the world once again confronts raging legal and moral controversy over the conduct of war.Lincoln’s Codereveals that the controversies of the twenty-first century have roots going back to the beginnings of American history. In a time of heated controversy about the nation’s conduct in wartime,Lincoln’s Codeis a compelling story of ideals under pressure and a landmark contribution to our understanding of the American experience.
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Book details

List price: $21.00
Copyright year: 2013
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 7/2/2013
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 512
Size: 5.75" wide x 8.50" long x 1.50" tall
Weight: 0.990
Language: English

John Fabian Witt is Professor of Law and History, Columbia University.

You Have Brought Me into Hell!
The Rights of Humanity
Washington and the Moral Logic of War
Jefferson's Savage Enlightenment
Franklin and the Mythology of the Revolution
The Rules of Civilized Warfare
The Art of Neutrality
A Path to War
American War, American Slavery
A False Feeling of Mercy
Lawyers, Soldiers, and Seamen
The God of Scalps
Andrew Jackson and the Militia Tradition
Rules of Wrong
A Few Things Barbarous or Cruel
We Don't Practise the Law of Nations
A Strange Inconsistency
Dog Eat Dog
Hero of the Hour
Blood Is the Rich Dew of History
Would to God, I, Too, Could Act!
Clausewitz in New York
Guerrillas in Missouri
Act of Justice
Worse Than Savages
The Highest Principles Known to Christian Civilization
Abstain from All Violence
To Save the Country
Simply as Men
Responsible to God
No Distinction of Color
Smashing Things to the Sea
A Most Solemn Obligation
Holt's Bright Young Men
Which Party Can Whip
Soldiers and Gentlemen
To Assassinate Everybody
A Citizen of Indiana
Combatants in Open War
The Howling Desert
Glenn's Brigade
Stay the Hand of Retribution
The House in the Wood
To the Philippines and Back Again
Appendix: Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field
Abbreviations Used in the Notes
Illustration Credits
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