John Witt will discuss his book, Lincoln’s Code: The Rule of War in American History. In the fateful closing days of 1862, three weeks before Emancipation, the administration of Abraham Lincoln commissioned a code setting forth the laws of war for the armies of the United States. The code announced standards of civilized conduct in wartime concerning issues such as torture, prisoners of war, civilians, spies, and slaves. The code Lincoln approved ultimately shaped the course of the Civil War. And when the war was over, the same code reshaped warfare the world over. By the twentieth century, the 157 articles of Lincoln’s code had become the basis of a new international law of war. European powers adopted the American code. International agreements like the Geneva Conventions incorporated and expanded it. (publisher)
John Fabian Witt is the Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law at Yale Law School, a professor in the Yale history department, and a Guggenheim Foundation fellow. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, the Harvard Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal, among other publications. Witt is the author of The Accidental Republic, which was awarded book prizes by the Harvard Press Board of Syndics, the American Society for Legal History, and the Law and Society Association. Professor Witt is a graduate of Yale Law School and Yale College and he holds a Ph.D. in history from Yale. Before returning to Yale, he was the George Welwood Murray Professor of Legal History at Columbia University. He served as law clerk to Judge Pierre N. Leval on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.