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Lincoln's Constitution Hardcover – May 15, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0226237930 ISBN-10: 0226237931 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

In Lincoln's Constitution Daniel Farber leads the reader to understand exactly how Abraham Lincoln faced the inevitable constitutional issues brought on by the Civil War. Examining what arguments Lincoln made in defense of his actions and how his words and deeds fit into the context of the times, Farber illuminates Lincoln's actions by placing them squarely within their historical moment. The answers here are crucial not only for a better understanding of the Civil War but also for shedding light on issues-state sovereignty, presidential power, and limitations on civil liberties in the name of national security-that continue to test the limits of constitutional law even today.

About the Author

Daniel Farber is the Sho Sato Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and the McKnight Presidential Professor of Public Law at the University of Minnesota. He is the author or coauthor of five books, including Eco-pragmatism: Making Sensible Environmental Decisions in an Uncertain World and, with Suzanna Sherry, Desperately Seeking Certainty: The Misguided Quest for Constitutional Foundations, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226237931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226237930
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,307,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By R. Price on January 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
My actual rating would be 3.5 if possible because the book is somewhere between good and very good. I've long been interested in the relationship between the Civil War and the Constitution. At its base the Civil War was a constitutional struggle between two ideologies: the compact theory and the popular theory of the nature of the Constitution. Ultimately this conflict could not be resolved through politics and war became necessary.

The best part of Farber's book is the first half dealing with secession. Farber examines the debate over states' rights and ultimately secession from the Founding up to the actual secession of 1860. By doing this, Farber shows that both sides of the debate had valid historical support for their theories, though he personally sides with Lincoln. All in all, this section provides a clear, concise presentation of secession and its history.

My problem with this book comes from Farber's intent to retroactively validate the constitutionality of Lincoln's presidential power. Lincoln used presidential power in unprecedented ways. Farber notes that the exercise of presidential power had been practically non-existent, with Jackson being the only user of it in a significant manner, and, even then, it did not approach Lincoln's actions. Farber presents Lincoln's theories and support that he gave for his actions, but he goes further and uses subsequent development in executive power to validate most of Lincoln's actions. The problem with this is that in many ways it was the experience under Lincoln that shaped our evolving understanding of executive authority. For example, the three cases from the late 19th century were clearly influenced by Lincoln and the Civil War experience.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Burrus M. Carnahan on June 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"Lincoln's Constitution" first examines the Constitution as Lincoln found it at the beginning of his administration, with emphasis on state - federal relations, including the right of secession. Like most modern legal scholars, Prof. Faber clearly sides with Lincoln on this (and most other constitutional issues), but he is also careful to show that believers in states' rights and secession had good historical reasons for their views. With this background, the author then examines the Constitutional issues Lincoln faced in dealing with the unprecedented challenge of waging the Civil War. Here the focus shifts to presidential war powers and civil liberties in time of war. The author points out where Lincoln was right (in light of later precedents) and where he was wrong. Again, the views of both his supporters and his critics are fully examined. Finally, Faber clearly explains the relevance of all these issues for citizens of our own time.
Authoritative, up-to-date and balanced, "Lincoln's Constitution" is an essential supplement to J.G. Randall's classic (but now dated) "Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alfamil on September 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mr. Farber takes the reader on a trip of background material to help a person learn about the 16th president. He discusses the events before the events. The reader will understand why Lincoln took certain actions that maybe considered unconstitutional for the nation's good. Farber helped me(B.A. in American History and teacher of 35 years in Social Studies) get a better understanding of Lincoln's action.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By César González Rouco on October 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
There are already several good reviews on this book, so I will only suggest reading the following books on the USA in addition to Farber's:

A) On Lincoln and/or the Civil War:

1) "Lincoln: a biography" by Benjamin P. Thomas (a classical biography, written more than half a century ago which has passed the test of time with brilliant qualifications);

2) "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era" by James M. McPherson (nowadays the standard, very readable, one-volume history of US Civil War); and

3) "Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime: From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism" by Geoffrey R. Stone, specially chapter II "The Civil War: Mr. Lincoln's First Amendment" (in fact, all the book is worth-reading);

B) Dealing with constitutional and political ideas:

4) "Constitutional History of the American Revolution" by John Phillip Reid;

5) "America's Constitution: A Biography" by Akhil Reed Amar; and

6) "Liberty's Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote The Federalist, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World" by Michael Meyerson.

C) Other books chosen with a historically impressionistic approach:

7) "The Death Penalty" by Stuart Banner;

8) "The Churching Of America, 1776-2005: Winners And Losers In Our Religious Economy" by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark; and

9) "American Colonies. The settling of North America" by Alan Taylor.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By RuggedShark on January 3, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was looking for an objective account of the impact - permanent and temporary damage to the Constitution that Lincoln caused while executing the Civil War and possibly how things may have been done differently. The author is so far left that his basic misunderstanding of the Constitution keeps bubbling into view. He really does not have a conception of articulated powers or that the states formed the Federal Gov't for very limited and specific purposes. I wasn't able to finish the book because the starting points of the assertions, I thought, were erroneous.
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