History of the Administration of President Lincoln: Including His Speeches, Letters, Addresses, Proclamations, and Messages. With a Preliminary Sketch of His Life

By Henry J. Raymond | Go to book overview

advent of the new Administration, and when active measures began to be taken for the suppression of the rebellion, the Government found its plans betrayed and its movements thwarted at every turn. Prominent presses and politicians, moreover, throughout the country, began, by active hostility, to indicate their sympathy with those who sought, under cover of opposition to the Administration, to overthrow the Government, and it became speedily manifest that there was sufficient of treasonable sentiment throughout the North to paralyze the authorities in their efforts, aided only by the ordinary machinery of the law, to crush the secession movement. Under these circumstances it was deemed necessary to resort to the exercise of the extraordinary powers with which, in extraordinary emergencies, the Constitution had clothed the Government. That instrument had provided that "the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus should not be suspended; unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety might require it." By necessary implication, whenever, in such cases either of rebellion or invasion, the public safety did require it, the privilege of that writ might be suspended; and, from the very necessity of the case, the Government which was charged with the care of the public safety, was empowered to judge when the contingency should occur. The only' question that remained was, which department of the Government was to meet this responsibility. If the act was one of legislation, it could only be performed by Congress and the President; if it was in its nature executive, then it might be performed, the emergency requiring it, by the President alone. The pressing emergency of the case, moreover, went far towards dictating the decision. Congress had adjourned on the 4th of March, and could not be again assembled for some months; and infinite, and perhaps fatal mischief might be done during the interval, if the Northern allies of the rebellion were allowed with impunity to prosecute their plans.

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History of the Administration of President Lincoln: Including His Speeches, Letters, Addresses, Proclamations, and Messages. With a Preliminary Sketch of His Life
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