The last work of Abraham Lincoln’s law of war expert Francis Lieber was long considered lost—until Will Smiley and John Fabian Witt discovered it in the National Archives. Lieber’s manuscript on emergency powers and martial law addresses important contemporary debates in law and political philosophy and stands as a significant historical discovery.Here are some endorsements:
As a key legal advisor to the Lincoln White House, Columbia College professor Francis Lieber was one of the architects and defenders of Lincoln’s most famous uses of emergency powers during the Civil War. Lieber’s work laid the foundation for rules now accepted worldwide. In the years after the war, Lieber and his son turned their attention to the question of emergency powers. The Liebers’ treatise addresses a vital question, as prominent since 9/11 as it was in Lieber’s lifetime: how much power should the government have in a crisis? The Liebers present a theory that aims to preserve legal restraint, while giving the executive necessary freedom of action.
Smiley and Witt have written a lucid introduction that explains how this manuscript is a key discovery in two ways: both as a historical document and as an important contribution to the current debate over emergency powers in constitutional democracies.
“When arguments for a legally unrestrained executive are again in fashion, this retrieval of Lincoln’s lawyer’s theory of appropriate legal restraint during wartime emergency could not be more timely.”—David Dyzenhaus, University of Toronto
“Smiley and Witt have unearthed a lost treasure. As we debate how our constitutional democracy handles great stress, this work helps us understand how the system has survived so far.”—Matthew C. Waxman, Columbia University
“Through their extraordinary discovery of Francis Lieber’s unpublished notes, Smiley and Witt not only provide a crucial new primary source that contextualizes Lieber’s role in the development of laws of war but also, amazingly enough, a fruitful way to reconsider the old, vital question of what constraints law can offer in times of war. A book every historian of the Civil War and every scholar of laws of warfare should rush to read.”—Gregory P. Downs, author of After Appomattox: Military Occupation and the Ends of War
“The manuscripts that Smiley and Witt have recovered should be required reading for anyone who cares about the operation of the Constitution in wartime and more generally about what legal limits should—or should not—constrain the government in confronting emergencies.”—Amanda L. Tyler, University of California, Berkeley School of Law