With Malice Toward Some: Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era

William A. Blair. Univ. of North Carolina, $40 (432p) ISBN 978-1-4696-1405-2
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)
Reviewed on: 03/31/2014
Release date: 04/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 432 pages - 978-1-4696-1406-9
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