A worthy addition to the thinking person's Civil War library.



An exploration of several legal conundrums of the Civil War.

In this slender volume, prolific historian Hoffer (History/Univ. of Georgia; John Quincy Adams and the Gag Rule, 1835-1850, 2017, etc.) considers a variety of legal issues raised by what he calls "a Civil War by lawyers, of lawyers, and in the end, for lawyers." These include the legality of the states' secession, justifications for the suspension of habeas corpus and the use of military courts in civilian areas, the legitimacy of the blockade and the status of ships and cargo seized as blockade runners, the legal basis for the Emancipation Proclamation, and the debate over the extent and nature of the civil rights of freedmen after the war. Two themes run throughout. The first is that the dominance of lawyer-politicians in both governments and in the leadership of the armies rendered this war "unlike civil wars before and after, remarkably rule-bound" and thus far less savage than it might have been. The second is that the war forced a shift away from an earlier constitutional concept of a federal government of severely limited powers; its aftermath "so fundamentally changed the shape of national law and federalism that it created a second constitution." As the author puts it, "the most lasting achievement of the lawyers in the Civil War era was turning that terrible conflict into a new and lasting regime of law." Hoffer's explication of the legal conflicts is remarkably clear and perceptive, both in the details of the individual issues and in their significance to a contemporary understanding of what the war was about and what the two sides were fighting for. He raises, and then largely answers, questions that even many Civil War buffs have likely never considered, thus providing a rare fresh approach to a conflict that has been exhaustively surveyed.

A worthy addition to the thinking person's Civil War library.

Pub Date: June 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-19-085176-7

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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