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Francis Lieber
Born Franz Lieber
March 18, 1800(1800-03-18)
Died October 2, 1872 (aged 72)
New York City
Alma mater University of Jena
Notable works Lieber Code

Dr. Francis Lieber (March 18, 1800 – October 2, 1872), originally known as Franz Lieber, was a German-American jurist and political philosopher. Aside from being the first American to take the title of political scientist, he is most widely known as the author of the Lieber Code during the American Civil War, also known as Code for the Government of Armies in the Field (1863), which laid the foundation for conventions governing the conduct of troops during wartime.



Lieber was born in Berlin, the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia. While still in Germany, Lieber joined the Colberg Regiment of the Prussian Army in 1815 during the Napoleonic Wars, and was wounded during the Battle of Waterloo.

Education in Germany

Upon return to Germany after the war, he was persecuted by the authorities for his liberal activities, the chief evidence against him being several songs of liberty which he had written. He was confined for several months, and after his release, without a trial, he was not permitted to attend any university in Prussia. Disillusioned, he obtained a degree at the University of Jena (then in Saxe-Weimar) in 1820, but was again persecuted as a member of a students' society. He then went to Halle; but, being subject to surveillance, he sought refuge in Dresden.

European activities

He fought briefly in the Greek War of Independence, and then spent one year, 1822-1823, in Rome in the family of the historian Niebuhr, then Prussian ambassador, as tutor to his son. While there, he wrote on his sojourn in Greece. The result was published in Leipzig in 1823 and also in Amsterdam under the title The German Anacharsis. He returned to Germany on a royal pardon, but was soon imprisoned once again, this time at Köpenick. There he wrote a collection of poems entitled Wein- und Wonne-Lieder (Songs of wine and bliss), which on his release, through the influence of Niebuhr, were published in Berlin in 1824 under the pen name of “Franz Arnold.” He fled to England in 1825, and supported himself for a year in London, giving lessons and contributing to German periodicals. He also wrote a tract on the Lancasterian system of instruction. Then he was invited to establish a gymnasium in the United States and became a member of Boston society.

American educator and writer

Lieber moved to Boston in 1827, where he became a founder and editor of the Encyclopaedia Americana, after conceiving of the idea of translating the Brockhaus encyclopedia into English. At this time, he also made translations of a French work on the revolution of July, 1830, and of Feuerbach's life of Kaspar Hauser. He was also a confident to Alexis de Tocqueville on the customs of the American people.

Lieber and Charles Follen, believing thoroughly in the importance of training the body along with the mind, were the first to introduce gymnastic training in Boston. Lieber's Boston swimming school, also a new departure in the educational field, became such a feature that John Quincy Adams, then President of the United States, went to see it.[1]

In 1832, he received a commission from the trustees of the newly founded Girard College to form a plan of education. He resided in Philadelphia from 1833 until 1835. Then he became a professor of history and political economics at South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina), where he remained until 1856. From 1856 until 1865, he had the same title at Columbia University (then Columbia College). In 1860, he also became professor of political science in the law school, which post he held until his death. His inaugural address as professor at Columbia, on “Individualism; and Socialism, or Communism,” was published by the college.

Civil War activities

Lieber sided with the North during the American Civil War, even though he had been a resident of South Carolina. As early as 1851, he delivered an address in South Carolina warning the southern states against secession. One of his sons, geologist Oscar Montgomery Lieber (see below), joined the Confederate army and died at the Battle of Williamsburg. During the conflict, he served as the head of the Loyal Publication Society of New York, compiling news articles for dissemination among Union troops and Northern newspapers. More than one hundred pamphlets were issued by it under his supervision, of which ten were by himself. He also assisted the Union War Department and President Abraham Lincoln in drafting legal guidelines for the Union army, the most famous being General Orders Number 100, or the "Lieber Code" as it is commonly known. The Lieber Code would be adopted by other military organizations and go on to form the basis of the first laws of war.

Preserving Confederate documents

After the Civil War, Lieber was given the task of accumulating and preserving the records of the former government of the Confederate States of America. While working in this capacity, Lieber was one of the last known people to possess the infamous Dahlgren Affair papers. Shortly after obtaining them, Lieber was ordered to give them to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who likely disposed of them, as they have not been seen since.


From 1870 until his death in New York City, Lieber served as a diplomatic negotiator between the United States and Mexico.


His son Oscar Montgomery Lieber (8 September 1830 Boston - 27 June 1862 Richmond, Virginia) was a geologist, educated at Berlin, Göttingen, and Freiburg. He was state geologist of Mississippi from 1850 to 1851, engaged in the geological survey of Alabama from 1854 to 1855, and from 1856 until 1860 held the office of mineralogical, geological, and agricultural surveyor of South Carolina. His first annual report of the last-mentioned survey was published in 1857, and the fourth and last in 1860.

In 1860 he accompanied the American astronomical expedition to Labrador as geologist. At the beginning of the civil war he joined the Confederate army, and died of wounds that he received in the Battle of Williamsburg.

He was the author of The Assayer's Guide (Philadelphia, 1862), The Analytical Chemist's Assistant, translated from the German of Friedrich Wöhler's Beispiele zur Uebung in der analytischen Chemie, with an introduction (1852), and various articles on mining in New York Mining Magazine.

Lieber's son Hamilton Lieber (7 June 1835 Philadelphia - 18 October 1876 Baden-Baden) entered the volunteer army at the beginning of the civil war as 1st lieutenant, 9th Illinois Regiment, and was badly wounded at Fort Donelson. Afterward he was appointed a captain in the veteran reserve corps, and served during the draft riots in New York City in 1863. In 1866 he was made a captain and military storekeeper in the regular army, and was retired on account of disabilities contracted in the line of duty.

Lieber's son Guido Norman Lieber (b. 21 May 1837 Columbia, South Carolina) was graduated at the University of South Carolina in 1856, and at Harvard Law School in 1859, and in that year was admitted to the bar of New York. At the beginning of the Civil War he became 1st lieutenant in the 11th infantry, U. S. Army, and was appointed regimental adjutant, and served during the peninsular campaign under George B. McClellan, being brevetted captain for gallantry at the Battle of Gaines' Mill, 27 June 1862. He was with his regiment at the Second Battle of Bull Run, being then appointed aide-de-camp to the general-in-chief. In 1862 he was appointed major and judge advocate, and he served in this capacity in the Department of the Gulf, being present in the Teche and Red River campaigns. For gallantry during the latter he received another brevet, and he was brevetted a third time for services during the war. He also served as adjutant general of the department, and as judge of the provost court in New Orleans.

He was then transferred to the judge advocate general's office in Washington, and subsequently appointed assistant to his father in the Bureau of Confederate Archives. He afterward served as judge advocate of various military departments and divisions, being, when stationed in New York, one of the founders of the Military service institution. He was professor of law at the U. S. Military Academy from 1878 until 1882, when he was assigned to duty in Washington in the Bureau of Military Justice. In 1884 he was appointed assistant judge advocate general, with the rank of colonel, and was on duty as acting judge advocate general of the U.S. Army.


External links

  1. ^ Albert Berhardt Faust, The German Element in the United States (2 vols.), Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1909, v. 2, chap. 5, p. 216.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

FRANCIS LIEBER (1800-1872), German-American publicist, was born at Berlin on the 18th of March 1800. He served with his two brothers under Blucher in the campaign of 1815, fighting at Ligny, Waterloo and Namur, where he was twice dangerously wounded. Shortly afterwards he was arrested for his political sentiments, the chief evidence against him being several songs of liberty which he had written. After several months he was discharged without a trial, but was forbidden to pursue his studies at the Prussian universities. He accordingly went to Jena, where he took his degrees in 1820, continuing his studies at Halle and Dresden. He subsequently took part in the Greek War of Independence, publishing his experiences in his Journal in Greece (Leipzig, 1823, and under the title The German Anacharsis, Amsterdam, 182 3). For a year he was in Rome as tutor to the son of the historian Niebuhr, then Prussian ambassador. Returning to Berlin in 1823, he was imprisoned at Koepenik, but was released after some months through the influence of Niebuhr. In 1827 he went to the United States and as soon as possible was naturalized as a citizen. He settled at Boston, and for five years edited The Encyclopaedia Americana (13 vols.). From 1835 to 1856 he was professor of history and political economy in South Carolina College at Columbia, S.C., and during this period wrote his three chief works, Manual of Political Ethics (1838), Legal and Political Hermeneutics (1839), and Civil Liberty and Self Government (1853). In 1856 he resigned and next year was elected to a similar post in Columbia College, New York, and in 1865 became professor of constitutional history and public law in the same institution. During the Civil War Lieber rendered services of great value to the government. He was one of the first to point out the madness of secession, and was active in upholding the Union. He prepared, upon the requisition of the president, the important Code of War for the Government of the Armies of the United States in the Field, which was promulgated by the Government in General Orders No. loo of the war department. This code suggested to Bluntschli his codification of the law of nations, as may be seen in the preface to his Droit International Codifie. During this period also Lieber wrote his Guerilla Parties with Reference to the Laws and Usages of War. At the time of his death he was the umpire of the commission for the adjudication of Mexican claims. He died on the 2nd of October 1872. His books were acquired by the University of California, and his papers were placed in the Johns Hopkins University.

His Miscellaneous Writings were published by D. C. Gilman (Philadelphia, 1881). See T. S. Perry, Life and Letters (1882), and biography by Harby (1899).

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