Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


David S. Reynolds

Subject Categories

Constitutional Law | International Humanitarian Law | Legal | Legal History | Military History | Military, War, and Peace | Other American Studies | United States History


emancipation, plenary allegiance, habeas corpus, humanitarian


"The Unsuspected Francis Lieber" examines paradoxes in the life and work of Francis Lieber. Lieber is best known as the author of the 1863 "Lieber Code," the War Department's General Order No. 100. It was the first modern statement of the law of armed conflict. This paper questions whether the Lieber Code was truly humanitarian, especially in view of its valorization of military necessity. Also reviewed is the contrast between the Code's extraordinarily favorable treatment of African-Americans and Lieber's personal history of slave-holding.

Lieber's shift from civil libertarian to authoritarian after 1857, as exemplified by his support of Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus and by Lieber's proposal of a constitutional amendment to impose a duty of "plenary allegiance" on citizens, is critically discussed.

To provide context, this paper examines certain nineteenth-century reform movements, events in Lieber's personal life, and Lieber's political philosophy of "institutional liberty" -- all to show their effect on Lieber and his work.