This collection is, simply put, excellent. The twelve separate chapters (two of them by Michael Les Benedict) offer extraordinarily rich reflections on an 1866 case, Ex parte Milligan, in which the Supreme Court invalidated the conviction (and death penalty) of Lambdin Milligan, after trial before a military commission. Milligan supported the Confederacy, no small matter in a de facto border state like Indiana, which was sharply divided between supporters and skeptics of forcible prevention of secession.

Justice David Davis, who had been Abraham Lincoln’s campaign manager and an Illinois state trial judge for fourteen years prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court, wrote a self-consciously broad opinion, which gained five votes, that he hoped would ring down through the ages as a defense of basic civil liberties even during times of war. He declared that so long as civil courts were available, it was unconstitutional to try a...

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