John Batchelor, John Fabian Witt, Lincoln discussed on John Batchelor


I'm john batchelor this is the john batchelor show i'm speaking with john fabian witt his book is lincoln's code the laws of war in american history and we're going very quickly now rule american history because it's in the minds of men who have city or sitting down in december and january eighteen sixty two into early sixty three to write the rules of war the law the law of war for the union army to conduct against the confederacy in a civil war this ruling one hundred fifty seven rules become part of the conversation for every convention about war since i learned from the professor geneva and and here in the twentieth century rules about the the rules of of torture professor andrew jackson strikes me as a man who is the exception who damages all the rules he conducted war against the indians as a genocide he did it intentionally was he celebrated for it he was but it caused a lot of controversy in the process you know there's a moment in january eighteen nineteen when the united states congress spends one month the whole month in the longest debate that had happened to that point in american history on the floor of the congress arguing about whether or not andrew jackson's should be censured for his behavior in spanish florida toward the toward the indians and most importantly towards british nationals so jackson's behavior gets them into hot water but but also makes them president of the united states the hot water is a debate about whether the indians the native americans should be considered to be honorable foes or foes to be recognized there's this theme always running into american warfare that when you're fighting other europeans other white men you conduct the war this way but when you're fighting savages you conduct it that way is that what jackson relies upon that people know that he's fighting savages with savagery let's seem runs through not just american history but the history of europe and empire generally and in jackson acts like someone who has disdain for the rules when he's fighting against us average opponents i think we look more carefully see that the rules themselves are helping to shape jackson's ideas of what counts as savage and what doesn't so jackson at a very complicated set of rules goes back to his capture as a as a young boy in the american revolution when he's in the south carolina militia and captured with his brother and his mistreated by british officers and he generates a real resentment towards violations of the laws of war from then from that onward there are two men at the center of the debate in eighteen nineteen this is january eighteen nineteen one is named arbothnott arbuthnot and the other is m brewster and i believe jackson arrest them saying that they are europeans they've instigated the native americans the indians in their revolt he he is going to punish them he wants to execute them that seems to be more controversial than all the massacres that he visited upon the indians in florida that's right that's what really is that's really what's getting him in trouble and you know the ambrester and rbis not are back in the news today the the question of military commissions has raised back to public life the president of jackson in florida with ambrester and arbuthnot because they are conducting warfare with enemies of the state and we can't treat them as outlaws because they might actually be volunteers into an into another into a foes service the jackson's view is that they're stirring up indians against americans the the critics see it quite differently because they're critics cd's is to british nationals who are engaged in various forms of commerce with the indians who just run across jackson's ir all right l let's stay with the european way of fighting a war vitelle and the way the british empire applied it why did the ross i believe the commander who rated into washington in the war of eighteen twelve why did he burn only public buildings what was that rule there's a longstanding idea the eighteenth century laws of war stretching into the nineteenth private property something you should at least try to avoid destroying in the course of war but public property is public property of the enemy state you're fighting against the enemy nation subjects to attack and so when the british go into washington in eighteen fourteen that actually quite careful to distinguish between these two forms of property they burn only public buildings and now the twist that i learned from the professor the.

Coming up next