Page:Lincoln's Suspension of Habeas Corpus.djvu/10

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BULLETIN OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN.

Hard upon this order came the proclamation of May 10, 1861, in which the President authorized the United States commander on the Florida coast to suspend the writ, commanding him "to permit no person to exercise any office or authority upon the islands of Key West, Tortugas and Santa Rosa which may be inconsistent with the laws and the Constitution of the United States, authorizing him at the same time if he shall find it nesessary to suspend there the writ of habeas corpus and to remove from the vicinity of the United States fortresses all dangerous or suspected persons."[1]

These are the two authorizations of suspension which were the text for the habeas corpus debates in the first session of the thirty-seventh Congress. It is not necessary to refer specifically to any of the subsequent orders.[2] The practice which was almost straightway adopted was to dispense with any general order to suspend, and to make extraordinary arrests whenever and wherever necessary, the theory being that such arrests were ipso facto suspensions of the writ. Except at the very beginning of the war there was no hard and fast line to be determined by reference to this or that particular order of suspension beyond which the Government could not consistently, or would not, make summary arrests. No one, by virtue of residence in even the most peaceful portions of Union territory, was safe from executive apprehension.

The extra session of Congress began July 4, 1861, and July 5 the message of the President was read in both Houses.[3] In it he reviewed, among other matters, the measures he had taken to meet the crisis. The relevant portion of the message is as follows: "Recurring to the action of the Government, it may be stated that at first a call was made for seventy-five thousand militia; and rapidly following this a proclamation was issued for closing the ports of the insurrectionary districts by proceedings in the nature of a blockade. So far all was believed to be strictly legal. At this point the insurrectionists announced their purpose to enter upon the practise of privateering.

  1. 115 War Records, p. 19.
  2. They may be found in the War Records.
  3. Globe, 1st S. 37th Cong. pp. 11, 13.