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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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