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All the Laws But One


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About the Author

William H. Rehnquist is Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.


Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, discusses pressures upon the federal legislative and executive branches to abridge domestic civil liberties during wartime. He offers lucid historical and legal analyses of relevant factors leading to the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and the imposition of martial law during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Placing particular emphasis upon the Civil War, Rehnquist also gives thoughtful analyses of the political and social environment surrounding major Supreme Court cases involving the suspension of civil liberties during war. He also identifies which early cases‘including World War I antidraft suppression and World War II Japanese relocation cases‘had substantial impact upon future legislative and judicial efforts. Rehnquist discusses the Supreme Court's roles in the American system of government and its ability to declare executive and legislative acts unconstitutional. This highly recommended book will enhance general public understanding of constitutional provisions about the government's ability to suspend regular civil and criminal proceedings during wartime.‘Steven Puro, St. Louis Univ., MO

"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

In this lively account, Chief Justice Rehnquist tests the Roman maxim inter arma silent leges (in time of war the laws are silent) against American history and discusses the judiciary's response to government's wartime lawlessness. He begins with the Civil War, when the Lincoln administration "chose to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, interfere with freedom of speech and of the press, and try suspected political criminals before military commissions." Lincoln's defense of these practices gave the book its title, "Are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself to go to pieces, lest that one be violated?" The tension between individual liberties and wartime necessities runs throughout the work as Rehnquist discusses several celebrated Civil War habeas corpus cases (Ex Parte Merryman and Ex Parte Milligan); political dissent during WWI; the internment of Japanese-Americans; and Hawaii's military government during WWII. Rehnquist reaches the considered conclusion that "the most important task is achieving a proper balance between freedom and order. In wartime, reason and history both suggest that this balance shifts to some degree in favor of order‘in favor of the government's ability to deal with conditions that threaten the national well-being." Nevertheless, since the Civil War, courts have tamed the government's power to restrict civil liberties in wartime. Rehnquist is a diligent scholar and a compelling storyteller, who guides his readers to a consideration of abstract moral and legal issues in the light of specific historical circumstances. (Oct.)

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