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Southern Rights: Political Prisoners and the Myth of Confederate Constitutionalism Hardcover – October 29, 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Mark Neely's Southern Rights is a work of major significance that revises many traditional views about civil liberties in the Confederacy. By carefully analyzing the previously ignored arrest records of more than 4,000 political prisoners in the Confederacy, Neely demonstrates that in crucial ways the regulation of dissent was simultaneously more sweeping and less controversial in the Confederacy than in the Union, and in theprocess effectively calls into question the standard paeans to Confederate constitutionalism. Neely's careful scholarship reveals how little we knew previously about the formulation of Confederate policy on this issue or how Confederate laws and policies were actually enforced at the local level. This is a stimulating and provocative work that asks new questions, challenges many reigning beliefs about southern society and values, and points Confederate scholarship in new directions. With implications far beyond its particular subject, Southern Rights is one of the most original and important books on the Confederacy ever published.

(William E. Gienapp, Harvard University)

About the Author

Mark E. Neely Jr., McCabe-Greer Professor of Civil War History at the Pennsylvania State University, won a Pulitzer Prize in history for his book The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties. He is also author of The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America.

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Product Details

  • Series: A Nation Divided: Studies in the Civil War Era
  • Hardcover: 212 pages
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press (October 29, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813918944
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813918945
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,372,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this work Pulitzer prize winning historian Dr. Mark Neely, through diligent original research of the archives, greatly expands our knowledge of the Confederacy's civilian/political prisoners. He has found records of 4,108 civilians east of the Mississippi held at one time or another, and mention of an unidentified 266 on a given date in the trans-Mississippi Dept. On a per capita population basis, these numbers are essentially the same as that of the much maligned Lincoln Administration. Neely exposes the façade that had been maintained during and after the war denying the existence of such a major suspension of civil liberties by the Confederate govt. Davis said one thing while doing essentially the same as Lincoln. Both men did so as a matter of wartime pragmatism.

Neely provides a blistering condemnation of the postwar obfuscation by Davis on the matter, as well as at least one commissioner who had reviewed cases for Davis and wrote scathing criticism of Lincoln's similar acts without ever mentioning that he had been involved in doing exactly the same thing. Neely used the correspondence and notes of these previously unknown commissioners to compile his list.

Neely doesn't spare criticism of modern authors who in his view have misinterpreted the prior existing record and failed to appreciate the gaping holes in the image of the Confederacy as constitutional defenders of white civil liberties. He points to examples where they neglected to identify discrepancies in the wartime and post-war statements, with the actual wartime record of actions. He examines modern historians' lack of discussion of and understanding of the CSA's Alien Enemies Act.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This companion work to Neely's The Fate of Liberty continues the investigation of the incarceration of prisoners, this time in the South. Gleaned from very obscure records by a man with the patience of Job in finding them, Southern Rights provides a unique glimpse into the South and how it treated civil liberties during the war. We have heard so much about Lincoln's dealings in this area but little about Jefferson Davis's. You will be surprised. I find Neely's writing engaging, although you should have an interest in the topic first. Casual reading for the uninitiated it is not. But it does avoid the turgid rhetoric that is far too common in academic works. Highly recommended and different.
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Format: Hardcover
Neely, who also wrote "The Fate of Liberty" which was highly critical of Lincoln's use of Presidential powers, looks at Davis' evolution from a champion of the both the U.S. and Confederate Constitutions to an executive willing to allow even worse excesses than Lincoln as the Civil War dragged on. A great read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gift for my son-in-law. He is a high school history teacher who loves this period. He was very thrilled with it.
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