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Martin Kelly

Lincoln Suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus

By October 23, 2010

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Restraints on legal rights during wartime is not a new thing. On October 23, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in Washington, D.C. for all military-related cases. Article I of the Constitution say this: "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." Lincoln's actions were taken in response to riots and local militias during the early stages of the Civil War. Lincoln ignored the ruling of the US Circuit Court against his order.


October 28, 2008 at 12:52 am
(1) civilwarhistory says:

My research indicates this isn’t the only time Lincoln disobeyed federal law during the war. The list seems to be quite long.

October 25, 2009 at 8:39 am
(2) Sandi says:

I am confused. Article One states it may be suspended in the case of rebellion and invasion. Does that not describe the Civil War?

October 27, 2009 at 11:53 pm
(3) JBL says:

This article does not tell even the whole truth & nothing but the truth. Many northern newspaper men, & even folks speaking their 1st ammendment rights, were imprissoned in misserable cells with no charge for years.

October 28, 2009 at 7:54 pm
(4) Donald Moeser says:

It’s amazing just how much info about Lincoln is withheld.

Had he not been murdered, he would rack right down with Harding.

Being a martyr, has it’s rewards.

October 29, 2009 at 6:54 am
(5) Paul T Caple says:

Lincoln, was a terrorist.
The invasion of the South, was wrong, the truth
is, was war of northern aggression.
The spoil of war, victors write the history.
The northern occupation was brutal and continue
today, The occupation of Japan and Germany only
lasted four years and the occupiers rebuilt both

October 29, 2009 at 10:53 am
(6) Duneman says:

The Civil War should be renamed The Slaveholders’ Rebellion. Lincoln a terrorist? People who say that never seem to volunteer to become slaves themselves…..

May 11, 2010 at 12:22 pm
(7) Sandi says:

Lincoln was a terrorist? Either someone needs to study more history or learn the meaning of the word.

August 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm
(8) BP says:

Everyone needs to do a little research here. Lincoln’s own words were that the war was to ‘preserve the union’ the war had nothing to do with slavery while it was being raged. Lincoln himself was in favor of upholding the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Please research states rights issues before and after the civil war. It’s very enlightening.

October 24, 2010 at 5:26 pm
(9) Jim says:

The Confederacy wasn’t trying to destroy the Federal government. They were trying to leave it. Had the Southern States been left to their desires, the Federal government would have continued without them.

October 28, 2010 at 7:59 am
(10) Eric says:

If the war wasn’t about slavery, why is slavery the reason given for secession, as stated in the secessions statements of the rebelling states? One would have to purposefully ignore these statements to unequivocally state that “the war had nothing to do with slavery while it was being waged”. It was, in fact, the right of the seceding states to have slavery that the war was fought in the first place. If not, then why is it both defended and used as the reason for secession by the seceding states themselves?

October 28, 2010 at 12:30 pm
(11) mred says:

As I understand it, the Civil War was not about freeing the slaves. It was about preserving the union; keeping the U.S. intact. Abolishing salvery was simply a tool, or tactic, to create turmoil in the South, which helped the Northern war effort a bit.

Donald Moeser’s comments (Item #4) about Lincoln’s list of wrongdoings and being a “marytr,” so to speak, is factual, and unfortunately, few know of this and instead always place Lincoln on a pesdestal.

Slavery itself is inhumane and should never occur, but ending it was not Lincoln’s original intent for the war, as I understand this history.

October 29, 2010 at 10:43 pm
(12) tarheelchief says:

Lincoln did like most lawyers,he interpreted the law as well as he could given the outrageous behavior of his opponents.
You have citizens firing on Federal Property and Federal Troops.
You have taken the tax revenues of several states and set up your own diplomatic corps against every rule in the Constitution.
You have engaged in deluding and defrauding numberless officers who had been educated by Federal tax money and who swore to uphold the Constitution.
Now you want to talk about suspending the writ of habeas corpus.
I doubt if any English lawyer would argue the US had already established this precedent during the Revolution against the English four score and seven years before.
During WWI and WWII the government simply took all the property of the enemy,and froze all their accounts,and refused to pay any debts owed to the enemy.
There are two legal states within the Constitution,one is for peacetime,and one is for wartime. Once the Congress agrees to go to war,all sorts of powers transfer directly to the President.

March 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm
(13) SonofLiberty says:

@ Sandi,
In the Constitution the part about suspending the Writ of Habeus Corpus is under the powers of Congress not the President. The powers of the President are under a different Section. This follows along the lines of how the powers are structured in that Congress as our Representatives.
Congress in almost every manner FIRST come up with the law, Declaration of War etc… Then the President “Executes” or carries out the new law etc.. In other words the President cannot make law or do much else on his own.

Read Federalist Papers # 69 about his Role as Commander In Chief and I think you will be really suprised. The sixth paragraph down.

March 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm
(14) Gerald Lane Summers says:

Traditionally, during a time of war, the rules are all off. I’m surprised Lincoln was able to avoid violating even more of the constitution than he did. That he refused to follow the Supreme Court decision is even more telling. We have three branches of government and each of them have their own unique powers. During time of war, the Supreme Court can’t interfere as directly as that court attempted to do. Again, later, President Jackson refused to accept the court’s decision with regard to the Cherokee removal act. He is reputed to have asked the question as to what army the Supreme court would use to enforce its decree. The powers of the president in time of war is essentially as unlimited as he wants it to be.

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