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Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Seccession and the President's War Powers


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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc; Unabridged edition (1 Dec. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400103312
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400103317
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.8 x 13.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,557,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

Traces the clashes between the sixteenth president and his Chief Justice, profiling their disparate views about African-American rights, the South's legal ability to secede, and presidential constitutional powers during wartime.

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By RBSProds TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 8 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback
Five MONUMENTAL Stars!! Master historian James F. Simon has written a wonderfully-researched and incisively-written book describing a clash of two historical titans at one of the most critical historical crossroads of the United States of America: "the greatest civil war known in the history of the human race." And he hits every salient historical signpost along the way as he patiently develops and delineates the story.

Primarily it's the story of two men rising to the top of their professions amid the ever-present and explosive issue of slavery that ripped apart a still-expanding young nation. But there is much more going on and he lays it out magnificently. Simon details how slavery was always the major issue between slave states and free states, among many other important issues. The description of the institution of slavery, the treatment of blacks, and the central role of the courts in this time period is a very sad, abhorrent chapter in our nation's history. Mr Simon has done the uninitiated reader a favor with his detailed background work on all of the issues and personalities involved.

President Abraham Lincoln and United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, both tall, imposing, God-fearing figures, bitterly opposed each other on three important points: slavery, secession, and President "Lincoln's constitutional authority during the Civil War". And the broad tapestry of this book includes all of the major players of that era: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Nicholas Biddle, John Marshall, James Knox Polk, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, Buchanan, Salmon Chase, and the ubiquitous "triumvirate" of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun, among many more.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 30 reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Lincoln and Taney 11 Jan. 2007
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Professor James Simon of New York Law School has made a specialty of exploring historical conflicts between the executive and judicial branches of the government of the United States. He has written books on the conflict between President Thomas Jefferson and Chief Justice Marshall, on the Supreme Court during the Nixon Presidency, and on the conflict among liberal, conservative and centrist elements on the Rhenquist court. Simon's most recent book, "Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney" is a study of the various conflicts between President Abraham Lincoln and the fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roger Taney, prior to and during the Civil War. Simon offers a thoughtful and timely account, particularly as the Lincoln-Taney conflict involved questions of civil liberties.

The book is cast in the form of a dual biography. Taney's life is much less well-known than Lincoln's and Simon provides valuable biographical insight. Simon points out Taney freed his own slaves and disliked slavery, but that, as Attorney General for President Jackson, Taney wrote a legal memorandum foreshadowing the conclusions he would later reach in the notorious Dred Scott decision. In fact, prior to Dred Scott, Taney was a highly regarded jurist, respected for his legal acumen, thoroughness, and balance.

The book focuses on Lincoln and Taney's respective views on slavery, secession, and the conduct of the Civil War. Simon offers a valuable discussion of the Supreme Court's jurisprudence on slavery before the Dred Scott case and he describes well the process the Court used in reaching its fateful decision in Dred Scott -- generally regarded as the worst moment in the history of the Court. He describes how Lincoln criticized the decision and Taney at length during his 1858 debates with Stephen Douglas and how this criticism helped Lincoln achieve the Presidency. There is little in the book on Taney and secession, but Simon makes clear that Taney was sympathetic to the Southern position and favored a peaceful dissolution of the Union rather than a long and bloody civil war, regardless of its outcome.

The larger portion of Simon's book deals with conflicts between Lincoln and Taney following Lincoln's election. Taney objected to Lincoln's assumption of broad war powers which he viewed as in excess of the executive's power under the Constitution. Simon discusses a famous decision of Taney in the Merryman case which involved Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus in the border state, and Taney's home state, of Maryland. The Merryman decision is still studied today for its discussion of civil rights during war time. Simon also explores Taney's views on matters that did not reach the Supreme Court during the Civil War but that involved expansion of presidential powers -- including the Emancipation Proclamation, the use of paper money called "Greenbacks" to finance the Civil War, and the imposition of an income tax. There is an excellent discussion of a series of cases known as the Prize cases which challenged Lincoln's imposition of a blockade and seizure of ships during the early days of the Civil War. The Court sustained the blockade, based upon military necessity by the narrow vote of 5-4 with Taney voting in the minority. I was unfamiliar with the Prize cases, and Simon describes them well.

The book is jargon free and can be read easily by non-lawyers. In addition to the discussion of the lives of Lincoln and Taney and the discussion of legal issues, Simon gives a broad running history of the battles in the Civil War, similar to the narrative accounts available in many other books. This discussion is not at the level of Simon's legal discussion. Simon's history is full of many small but irritating factual and typographical errors. For many battles in the war, Simon confuses total casualty figures with figures for fatalities. This is a common mistake, and it vastly inflates the number of fatalities -- which were horrendous in any event -- for battles such as Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg. Simon also refers to General U.S. Grant as a "colonel" at the time of the taking of Fort Donelson and Fort Henry. A more careful check of the historical details of the Civil War would have been appropriate and welcome.

This book is valuable for its good, nuanced portrayal of Chief Justice Taney and for its discussion of the legal issues surrounding the Civil War, Lincoln's presidency, and the protection of civil liberties during times of crisis.

Robin Friedman
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
A Solid Treatment of Some Well-Trod Ground 5 Jan. 2007
By Ronald H. Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had some concern when starting this fine book by Professor Simon of New York Law School that it would be highly repetitive of other books and articles focusing on this topic. In actuality, I found his discussion to be fresh and quite intriguing. The "war" between Taney and Lincoln is, of course, well known and has become somewhat pertinent given the current use of the Patriot Act. What Simon does is to put the struggle into a useful context. First, he provides somewhat thorough -- but concise -- discussions of Taney and Lincoln. In this way, the reader develops an understanding of what motivated each of these powerful figures. Next, he discusses key judicial and congressional developments in the period immediately before the outbreak of the Civil War. I thought his chapter on the much discussed Dred Scott decision was particularly effective, since it was obvious given the author's discussion of Taney and the formative influences shaping his outlook why he led the Court to decide this "self-inflicted wound." In addition, the author's discussion of the actual legal warfare between the two is written with clarity and insight, and does not require any legal training to understand the conflicting viewpoints. Finally, even after Taney dies in 1864, Simon still carries on with Lincoln, his views toward Reconstruction, and his successful efforts to bring the war to a conclusion. Along the way, I learned a good deal about Lincoln, including that he was a more complex and interesting figure than I had realized. At around 336 pages, the narrative moves along nicely -- I never felt bogged down -- and helpful bibliographic references are included. A particularly apposite book given the current disputes over the extent of president power during the Iraq episode.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
A CLASH OF TITANS IN A RIVETING HISTORICAL BOOK 18 Nov. 2006
By RBSProds - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Five MONUMENTAL Stars!! Master historian James F. Simon has written a wonderfully-researched and incisively-written book describing a clash of two historical titans at one of the most critical historical crossroads of the United States of America: "the greatest civil war known in the history of the human race." And he hits every salient historical signpost along the way as he patiently develops and delineates the story.

Primarily it's the story of two men rising to the top of their professions amid the ever-present and explosive issue of slavery that ripped apart a still-expanding young nation. But there is much more going on and he lays it out magnificently. Simon details how slavery was always the major issue between slave states and free states, among many other important issues. The description of the institution of slavery, the treatment of blacks, and the central role of the courts in this time period is a very sad, abhorrent chapter in our nation's history. Mr Simon has done the uninitiated reader a favor with his detailed background work on all of the issues and personalities involved.

President Abraham Lincoln and United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, both tall, imposing, God-fearing figures, bitterly opposed each other on three important points: slavery, secession, and President "Lincoln's constitutional authority during the Civil War". And the broad tapestry of this book includes all of the major players of that era: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Nicholas Biddle, John Marshall, James Knox Polk, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, Buchanan, Salmon Chase, and the ubiquitous "triumvirate" of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun, among many more. And then there were the intricacies of the major political parties: Democrats, Whigs, Know-Nothing, American, and Republicans.

He covers the background of Taney and Lincoln in detail. In Lincoln's life we find a man who was always against the institution of slavery. At one point, Taney thought slavery was "evil" and freed his own slaves. But both wound up curiously at odds in later life for different reasons. Lincoln's economic beginnings from postman to early political candidate, Whig party member, and then member of the nascent Republican Party and eventually President were all based on one year of formal education and an unyielding lifelong zest for reading, learning, and memorization. Taney's life is likewise given a detail examination in fascinating prose.

Simon carefully builds both the social/political climates and the laws at issue. He gives an overview of the relevant legal issues of the day: from the "Amistad" case to the Missouri Compromise (1820) to the annexation of Texas and the war with Mexico with it's consequent 'spoils' of half a billion acres of land to the Compromise of 1850 to the Fugitive Slave Act to the tense and bloody period of Dred Scott v. Sandford (where members of congress were armed and a member of the Senate was brutally 'caned' in a crowded Senate chamber) to the Prize Cases, the Conscription Law, and many more. The reader will be 200 pages into the book by the time we get to the point of the book, with the almost unbelievable confrontation in Baltimore between a sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice and the Commander of Fort McHenry.

The book details the fact that Lincoln's problems during the Civil War were harsh and the issues were tricky: the suspension of habeas corpus, censorship, suppression of dissidents, the southern blockade, numerous slavery issues and ultimately the emancipation proclamation, among others. With the trials and tribulations of seceding states, border states with shifting allegiances, British intervention, and military defeats, Lincoln did not need a Supreme Court Chief Justice who publicly challenged the legal validity of Lincoln's decisions at every turn, officially and unofficially, comparing Confederate soldiers to the soldiers of the Revolutionary War and ruling that blacks were permanently excluded from the phrase "all men are created equal" and were nothing more than property. Meanwhile, Lincoln expanded the roles of Commander-in-Chief, Head of State, and Chief Executive by using implied powers of the presidency, walking very close to (if not over) the edge of unconstitutionality (see my second note).

By the time the reader reaches p.306 the fate of the Union, in terms of international law and relations, seems to hang in the balance based on the Court's decision on one matter, the Prize Cases, and the fiery oratory of the author of "Two Years Before The Mast". We know the final outcome but the final chapters of this superb historical book detail how we got here and they are spellbinding.

Lincoln's words at the founding of the Illinois Republican Party are the watchwords of this fabulous historical read: "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable". This is a masterful, mesmerizing historical investigation by James F. Simon and it gets my Highest Recommendation. Five AWESOME Stars!!

(*This review is based on an unabridged eBook digital download in eReader format. Save a tree, download your books.)
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Brief book, tends to gloss over details 27 Mar. 2008
By Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is quite a thin book, but with an engaging writing style. It seems to glass over why Taney made such a seemingly radical decision and why he was able to get 6 others to affirm it. Little treatment of his relationshiop with the Catholic church or even what he thought of blacks as individuals.
Rather jarring discussion of George W. Bush and Rumsfeld, where he takes the predictable liberal positions, while excusing Lincolns' abuse of arresting a sitting Ohio congressman. Not one word about controversy of whether Taney had been targeted for arrest by Abraham Lincoln.

This book whets your appetite for more and is good for someone who doesn't have the time to read a more detailed study.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Two lawyers and a Nation in crisis 5 Oct. 2007
By Forrest Wildwood - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It should be widely known that during the greatest crisis that has faced the US, the Civil War, Lincoln suspended the rights of habeas corpus and essentially bent the Constitution in order to save the Union. In James Simon's book "Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession, and the President's War Powers" he gives us a fairly balanced approach in examining both sides of the issues facing the President and the Supreme Court as it relates to the Constitution and civil liberties. As a law professor Simon examines Justice Taney's rulings and Lincoln's position on civil matters that were affecting the Nation. His book shows how much of an uphill battle Justice Taney had to face when trying to fight the challenges to individual liberties. As the inevitable war approached, Lincoln didn't wait for Congress to return to session. He did all in his power to block any additional states from turning to help the Confederacy. This was especially true in Maryland Justice Taney's home state. Lincoln took the broad approach to Constitutional matters believing that he knew what the Founding Fathers had constitutionally desired for the Nation. Justice Taney maintained a more narrow Jeffersonian state's view. Simon relates Taney's early views expressed in a banking opinion while serving as Andrew Jackson's Attorney General. Reflecting Taney's words Andrew Jackson's states, "The opinion of the Supreme Court Judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of congress has over the Judges, and on that point the President is independent of both" Jackson wrote. "The authority of the Supreme Court must not, therefore, be permitted to control Congress or the Executive when acting in their legislative capacities, but to have only such influence as the force of their reasoning may deserve." As Chief Justice during the Lincoln administration, Taney found himself greatly challenged to maintain this opinion. Simon covers the infamous "Dred Scott vs Sanford" opinion that haunted Taney and how it became a catalyst to move Lincoln forward and into the Presidency. Both Taney and Lincoln had respect for the rule of law. They both desired peace. Taney was willing to allow the states to peaceable leave the Union in order to prevent civil war. Simon reveals that Lincoln's goal was to repair the rupture to the constitutional government established by the framers even if that meant civil war.

This is an important read in helping to understand the extraordinary powers assumed by the executive, with the consent of Congress, in times of emergencies and how when the emergency passes should be yielded up. In the epilogue Simon goes over several later Presidents and their use of war powers. He explains how Congress is the best check on the growing assumptions of Presidential war powers. The Supreme Court has been very reluctant to curb the president's powers especially when the Nation's security is at risk.

Simon revealed how much Lincoln "appreciated that the strength of the Union lay not in the force of arms but in the liberties that were guaranteed by the open, and sometimes heated, exchange of ideas"..."He didn't use this authority to trample on the civil liberties that the writ of habeas corpus was meant to protect". Had Lincoln imprisoned and kept imprisoned anyone just because they were unpopular would have meant the failure of the constitution as well as the failure of civilization and hello totalitarianism. Today as we face issue with regards to our own personal liberties, it is important to stay vigilant so that our rights aren't abused beyond the constitutional law. Simon lays open two legal minds in a time of tremendous pressure. Well worth the read to better understand this critical crossroad in US history.
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