Saturday, September 22, 2012

Legal Historians in the Op-Ed Pages: Witt on "Freedom and Restraint"

Today's New York Times "Opinionator" section features an op-ed by John Fabian Witt (Yale Law School). It is part of the NYT's "Disunion" series ("revisit[ing] and reconsider[ing] America's most perilous period -- using contemporary accounts, diaries, images and historical assessments to follow the Civil War as it unfolded").  Here's the first paragraph:
On Sept. 22, 1862 — 150 years ago today — Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, promising to free the slaves in any state still in rebellion on Jan. 1, 1863. Americans have celebrated Lincoln’s proclamation, and argued about its meaning, ever since. But there’s a surprising legacy that few Americans know anything about, one that historians have overlooked, even though it shows just how thoroughly American ideas of freedom reshaped the globe. Emancipation touched off a crisis for the principle of humanitarian limits in wartime and transformed the international laws of war. In the crucible of emancipation, Lincoln created the rules that now govern soldiers around the world.
Read on here. The comments, already flowing, make for interesting reading as well.