Page:Suspension of Habeas Corpus during the War of the Rebellion.djvu/30

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No. 3.]
483
SUSPENSION OF HABEAS CORPUS.

complaining. Some wrote learned pamphlets against him, some passed resolutions, and judges filed indignant opinions. They might have spared themselves the trouble. Lincoln never ceased to use his great power, but he used it without tyranny or cruelty. The great mass of the loyal people either thought he was right or forgave him his wrong. Most of them sympathized with his pathetic exclamation, "Are all the laws but one to go unexecuted and the government itself to go to pieces lest that one be violated?" The man who saved the Union in the war of the Rebellion, and the man who shall hereafter save it in some other war, will never be held to a very strict account for violations of the constitution. Events are stronger than the constitution and stronger than constitutional law. What the people permit to be done in violation of the constitution may by continual repetition become part of the constitution. The acquisition by treaty of the Louisiana territory was admitted by its advocates to be unconstitutional; but the people consented to it, and also to subsequent acquisitions, and no one now thinks it worth while to argue against them. May it be said that the consent of the people has given the President power to suspend habeas corpus?

The English nation has had great experience with the habeas corpus question, and it is good proof of the wisdom of their law that Lincoln's method was in almost exact accordance with it. Since the time of William III. it has been the custom in England for the ministry, when the emergency arises, to arrest and hold in defiance of the writ, and afterwards ask Parliament for an Act of Indemnity. The reason is obvious. If they waited to get a bill through Parliament the conspiracy or rebellion might become successful, or, as was the case with ours, gain such headway as to be difficult to subdue. Parliament moreover might not be in session. It was the prompt action of the ministers of the crown that saved the life of William III., and Parliament not only indemnified them, but thanked them for it. Lincoln found himself face to face with a rebellion, and Congress not in session. He called out the militia, increased the army and the navy, and suspended habeas corpus. After-