Page images
PDF
EPUB

CLOSE OF THE SESSION.

337

States, could properly and rightfully perform the functions of the civil governor of the State. The committee held that he could, and cited a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, not only recognizing the power of the President to appoint a military governor, but also recognizing both his civil and military functions as of full validity and binding obligation. On the other hand, it was maintained that representatives can be elected to the Federal Legislature only in pursuance of an act of the State Legislature, or of an act of the Federal Congress. In this case neither of these requirements had been fulfilled. The House, however, admitted both these gentlemen to their seats, by a vote of 92 to 44.

Before adjourning, Congress passed an act, approved on the 3d of March, authorizing the President, "in all domestic and foreign wars," to issue to private armed vessels of the United States, letters of marque and reprisal, said authority to terminate at the end of three years from the date of the act. Resolutions were also adopted, in both Houses, protesting against every proposition of foreign interference, by proffers of mediation or otherwise, as "unreasonable and inadmissible," and declaring the "unalterable purpose of the United States to prosecute the war until the rebellion shall be overcome." These resolutions, offered by Mr. Sumner, received in the Senate 31 votes in their favor, while but 5 were cast against them, and in the House 103 were given for their 28 against it.

passage, and

The session closed on the 4th of March, 1863. Its proceedings had been marked by the same thorough and fixed determination to carry on the war, by the use of the most vigorous and effective measures for the suppression of the rebellion, and by the same full and prompt support of the President, which had characterized the preceding Congress.

While some members of the Administration party, becoming impatient of the delays which seemed to mark the progress

of the war, were inclined to censure the caution of the President, and to insist upon bolder and more sweeping assaults upon the persons and property of the people of the Rebel States, and especially upon the institution of slavery-and while, on the other hand, its more open opponents denounced every thing like severity, as calculated to exasperate the South and prolong the war, the great body of the members, like the great body of the people, manifested a steady and firm reliance on the patriotic purpose and the calm sagacity evinced by the President in his conduct of public affairs.

THE MATTER OF ARBITRARY ARRESTS.

339

CHAPTER IX.

ARBITRARY ARRESTS. -THE SUSPENSION OF THE WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS.-THE DRAFT.

Ar the very outbreak of the rebellion, the Administration was compelled to face one of the most formidable of the many difficulties which have embarrassed its action. Long before the issue had been distinctly made by the rebels in the Southern States, while under the protecting toleration of Mr. Buchanan's administration the conspirators were making preparations for armed resistance to the Government of the United States, evidences were not wanting that they relied upon the active co-operation of men and parties in the Northern States, whose political sympathies had always been in harmony with their principles and their action. As early as in January, 1861, while the rebels were diligently and actively collecting arms and other munitions of war, by purchase in the Northern States, for the contest on which they had resolved, Fernando Wood, then Mayor of New York, had apologized to Senator Toombs, of Georgia, for the seizure by the police of New York of "arms intended for and consigned to the State of Georgia," and had assured him that "if he had the power he should summarily punish the authors of this illegal and unjustifiable seizure of private property." The departments at Washington, the army and the navy, all places of responsibility and trust under the Government, and all departments of civil and political activity in the Northern States, were found to be largely filled by persons in active sympathy with the secession movement, and ready at all times to give it all the aid and comfort in their power. Upon the

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.

FIRST SUSPENSION OF THE HABEAS CORPUS. 341

Under the influence of these considerations the President, in his proclamation of the 3d of May, 1861, directing the commander of the forces of the United States on the Florida coast to permit no person to exercise any authority upon the islands of Key West, the Tortugas, and Santa Rosa, which might be inconsistent with the authority of the United States, also authorized him, “if he should find it necessary, to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, and to remove from the vicinity of-the United States fortresses all dangerous or suspected persons." This was the first act of the Administration in that direction; but it was very soon found necessary to resort to the exercise of the same powers in other sections of the country. On the 25th of May, John Merryman, a resident of Hayfield, in Baltimore County, Maryland, known by the Government to be in communication with the rebels, and to be giving them aid and comfort, was arrested and imprisoned in Fort McHenry, then commanded by General Cadwallader. On the same day he forwarded a petition to Roger B. Taney, Chief-Justice of the United States, reciting the circumstances of his arrest, and praying for the issue of the writ of habeas corpus. The writ was forthwith issued, and General Cadwallader was ordered to bring the body of Merryman before the Chief-Justice on the 27th. On that day Colonel Lee presented a written communication from General Cadwallader, stating that Merryman had been arrested and committed to his custody by officers acting under the authority of the United States, charged with various acts of treason, with holding a commission as lieutenant in a company avowing its purpose of armed hostility against the Government, and with having made often and unreserved declarations of his associa tion with this armed force, and of his readiness to co-operate with those engaged in the present rebellion against the Government of the United States. The General added that he was authorized by the President of the United States to suspend

duly

« PreviousContinue »