With characteristic foresight, Benjamin Franklin famously warned that “those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Equally valid, however, is Justice Robert Jackson's admonition more than a century later that “the constitutional Bill of Rights” is not a “suicide pact.” Between these two poles lies the difficult task of balancing dissent in wartime.
With these equally important interests in mind, Thomas C. Mackey performs a great service in narrating and analyzing Abraham Lincoln's broad use of executive power in confronting dissent and disloyalty during the unparalleled crisis of the Civil War. He provides a highly readable yet nuanced case study of the historical context that begins with a concise overview of the sectional conflict leading up to secession. He then turns to “the Eighty Days,” the crucial interval between the first shot at Fort Sumter on 12 April 1860 and Lincoln's special message to Congress on 4 July 1861, in which he sought to justify these actions. While Congress was out of session, the President undertook extraordinary measures to suppress the rebellion and save the country. Mackey reminds us of the perilous circumstances faced by Lincoln: the Confederacy had been established, the border states were teetering
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