Page:Suspension of Habeas Corpus during the War of the Rebellion.djvu/4

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
No. 3.]

habeas corpus was therefore not suspended by Congress until the rebellion was half over. In other words, Lincoln suspended it for two years of his own accord and without authority from any one; for two years he made arrests without warrants and held men in prison as long as he pleased. The first arrests were caused by the attempts of the Baltimoreans to prevent Northern troops from reaching Washington, and by the fear that Maryland would secede. The Mayor and the police commissioners of Baltimore, many members of the Maryland legislature, newspaper editors, and other persons of distinction and influence were given lodgings inside of Fort McHenry and Fort Warren. Afterwards, executive arrests were made all over the country, especially in the West. An order, issued August 8, 1862, authorized marshals and chiefs of police to arrest any one who discouraged volunteer enlistments, gave aid or comfort to the enemy or indulged in any other disloyal practice. Discouraging enlistments and disloyal practices were offences unknown to the law; and the phrase disloyal practice was large enough to include anything.

There are few things in American history more worthy of discussion than the power exercised by Lincoln in those two years. It was absolute and arbitrary and, if unauthorized, its exercise was a tremendous violation of the constitution. Whether it was justifiable and necessary is another matter. If it was unconstitutional and yet necessary in order to save the Union, it shows that the constitution is defective in not allowing the government the proper means of protecting itself. That Lincoln used this power with discretion and forbearance there is no doubt. He was the most humane man that ever wielded such authority. He had no taste for tyranny, and he knew the temper of the American people. But, nevertheless, injustice was sometimes done. His subordinates had not always their master's nature; they sometimes indulged their malice; they sometimes arrested without excuse, and were

tion of any of the prisoners had terminated its session, those who stood unindicted were to be brought before the judge to be discharged if they would take the oath of allegiance.