A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era is the first comprehensive collection of public policy actions, political speeches, and judicial decisions related to the American Civil War. This three-volume set gives scholars and students easy access to the full texts of both the most important, fundamental documents as well as hard-to-find, rarely published primary sources on this critical period in U.S. history. Volume 2 in the series, Political Arguments , presents the words of politicians, political party platforms, and administrative speeches. It is divided into two sections. The first, Voices of the Politicians and Political Parties, comprises the platforms of the major (and some minor) parties from1856 to 1876. Also included are such pieces as Robert E. Lee's letter of resignation from the U.S. Army, a few key speeches by that rising politician from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, and a letter on the "American Question" written by a European observer, Karl Marx.
Other items include examples of the 1860-1861 state ordinances of secession and addresses on emancipation and Reconstruction by Jefferson Davis and by the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Thaddeus Stevens. Section two, Voices of the Administrations, contains records from the presidencies of James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Rutherford B. Hayes as well as a message from Confederate President Jefferson Davis telling his congress that the Southern cause was "just and holy." Classic documents such as Lincoln's announcement of forthcoming emancipation and the Emancipation Proclamation are here, as are lesser-known but important documents such as Francis Lieber's 1863 revised law code for war, General Order 100, and Attorney General James Speed's 1865 opinion supporting the Johnson administration's decision to try the Lincoln murder conspirators by special military commission and not in the civilian courts. Each of the selections in Political Arguments is preceded by editor Thomas Mackey's introductory headnotes that explain the document's historical significance and trace its lasting impact.
These commentaries provide insight into not just law and public policy but also the broad sweep of issues important to Civil War- era Americans. A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era is an essential acquisition for academic and public libraries in addition to being a valuable resource for courses on the War and Reconstruction, legal history, political history, and nineteenth-century American history.