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In 1861, with the survival of the United States in jeopardy, Abraham Lincoln—the Great Emancipator and champion of human freedom—responded to the national threat by suspending the writ of habeas corpus, a traditional bulwark of individual liberty. Lincoln's decision reveals in stark terms a conflict inherent in the practice of American democracy, and in this absorbing new study the Chief Justice of the United States examines the inevitable clash between the demands of a successful war effort and the compelling need to protect civil liberties.
Taking his title from Lincoln's speech before Congress defending his suspension of the writ, William H. Rehnquist relates in vivid detail how the exigencies of wartime have strained, threatened, and ultimately confirmed our most cherished civil liberties. The decisions made by a wartime government are unlike those made in times of peace, and here the Chief Justice guides the reader through the various wartime policies—and the legal decisions that followed—that tested the civil liberties we traditionally enjoy: the Lincoln administration's prosecution of civilians before military tribunals (as well as of the alleged conspirators in the Lincoln assassination); the criminalization in World War I of speech inciting resistance to the draft; the forcible relocation of Japanese-Americans in World War II; and the imposition for nearly three years of martial law in Hawaii.
Each of these instances illustrates the Roman dictum Inter arma silent leges, "In time of war the laws are silent"; but as Rehnquist argues, that silence alternates with voices raised in defense of civil liberties. Written with characteristic grace and authority, All the Laws but One is a fascinating blend of historical narrative and legal analysis, a major contribution to our understanding of the great American experiment.
“Offers intelligent, balanced commentary . . . a valuable book.” —Houston Chronicle
“[Rehnquist is] a most eloquent explicator. . . . All the Laws but One is narrative history of a high order, each episode fixed carefully in its historical context, and not excluding deft characterizations of its principals.” —Washington Times
“A dispassionate and lucid book. . . . A highly original account of the proper role of the Supreme Court, a role that makes most sense in times of war, but that has its attractions whenever the Court is embroiled in great social controversies.” —The New Republic
"Rich in the history of wartime dilemmas." --The Washington Post