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432 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, appends., notes, bibl., index

Littlefield History of the Civil War Era

ISBN  978-1-4696-1405-2
Published: June 2014

With Malice toward Some

Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era

By William A. Blair

Awards & Distinctions

Finalist, 2015 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

Few issues created greater consensus among Civil War-era northerners than the belief that the secessionists had committed treason. But as William A. Blair shows in this engaging history, the way politicians, soldiers, and civilians dealt with disloyalty varied widely. Citizens often moved more swiftly than federal agents in punishing traitors in their midst, forcing the government to rethink legal practices and definitions. In reconciling the northern contempt for treachery with a demonstrable record of judicial leniency toward the South, Blair illuminates the other ways that northerners punished perceived traitors, including confiscating slaves, arresting newspaper editors for expressions of free speech, and limiting voting. Ultimately, punishment for treason extended well beyond wartime and into the framework of Reconstruction policies, including the construction of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Establishing how treason was defined not just by the Lincoln administration, Congress, and the courts but also by the general public, Blair reveals the surprising implications for North and South alike.

About the Author

William A. Blair, Liberal Arts Research Professor in U.S. History at the Pennsylvania State University, serves as director of the Richards Civil War Era Center and as editor of the Journal of the Civil War Era.


"Blair found that local residents played a large role in influencing [treason] charges and arrests."
--Publishers Weekly

“This book is not only a great reference for any Civil War Historian to have on their shelf, but it is a great explanation for those who have been confused about the legal status of treason and the ways in which it was combated during the Civil War.”
--Gettysburg Chronicle

“[A] carefully constructed narrative. . . . Blair’s book deserves a wide audience of scholars and general readers of history.”

“In this wide-ranging book. . . one of Blair’s great accomplishments [is] that he can effectively consider the issue [of treason] on so many levels, making this both a sophisticated and fascinating study of the effort to define and stamp out disloyalty in the Civil War era.”
--America’s Civil War

With Malice Toward Some is an important book that will surely and deservedly attract great attention from students of the Civil War era for many years to come.”
--Civil War Book Review

"Blair has richly illustrated how free speech and Union cohesiveness butted heads during the Civil War. . . . Highly recommended for those with an interest in Union politics or the Northern home front."
--Civil War News

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