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or against whom there is probable cause for suspicion of such criminal complicity,—and also upon his right to refuse to obey a writ of habeas corpus in case of such arrests. The Attorney-General discussed the subject at considerable length, and reached a conclusion favorable to the action of the Government. From that time forward the Government exerted, with vigor and energy, all the power thus placed in its hands to prevent the rebellion from receiving aid from those in sympathy with its objects in the Northern States. A large number of persons, believed to be in complicity with the insurgents, were placed in arrest, but were released upon taking an oath of allegiance to the United States. Baltimore continued for some time to be the head-quarters of conspiracies and movements of various kinds in aid of the rebellion, and the arrests were consequently more numerous there than elsewhere. Indeed, very strenuous efforts were made throughout the summer to induce some action on the part of the Legislature which should place the State in alliance with the rebel Confederacy, and it was confidently believed that an ordinance looking to this end would be passed at the extra session which was convened for the 17th of September; but on the 16th nine secession members of the House of Delegates, with the officers of both houses, were arrested by General McClellan, then in command of the army, who expressed his full approbation of the proceedings, and the session was not held.
The President at the time gave the following statement of his views in regard to these arrests:
The public safety renders it necessary that the grounds of these arrests should at present be withheld, but at the proper time they will be made public. Of one thing the people of Maryland may rest assured, that no arrest has been made, or will be made, not based on substantial and unmistakable complicity with those in armed rebellion against the Government of the United States. In no case has an arrest been made on mere suspicion, or through personal or partisan animosi
ties, but in all cases the Government is in possession of tangible and unmistakable evidence, which will, when made public, be satisfactory to every loyal citizen.
Arrests continued to be made under authority of the State Department, not without complaint, certainly, from large numbers of the people, but with the general acquiescence of the whole community, and beyond all question greatly to the advantage of the Government and the country. On the 14th of February, 1862, an order was issued on the subject, which transferred control of the whole matter to the War Department. The circumstances which had made these arrests necessary are stated with so much clearness and force in that order, that we insert it at length as follows:
EXECUTIVE ORDERS IN RELATION TO STATE PRISONERS.
WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, Feb. 14.
The breaking out of a formidable insurrection, based on a conflict of political ideas, being an event without precedent in the United States, was necessarily attended by great confusion and perplexity of the public mind. Disloyalty, before unsuspected, suddenly became bold, and treason astonished the world by bringing at once into the field military forces superior in numbers to the standing army of the United States. Every department of the Government was paralyzed by treason. Defection appeared in the Senate, in the House of Representatives, in the Cabinet, in the Federal Courts; Ministers and Consuls returned from foreign countries to enter the insurrectionary councils, or land or naval forces; commanding and other officers of the army and in the navy betrayed the councils or deserted their posts for commands in the insurgent forces. Treason was flagrant in the revenue and in the postoffice service, as well as in the territorial governments and in the Indian reserves.
Not only Governors, Judges, Legislators, and ministerial officers in the States, but even whole States, rushed, one after another, with apparent unanimity, into rebellion. The capital was besieged and its connection with all the States cut off.
Even in the portions of the country which were most loyal, political combinations and secret societies were formed furthering the work of
disunion, while, from motives of disloyalty or cupidity, or from excited passions or perverted sympathies, individuals were found furnishing men, money, and materials of war and supplies to the insurgents' military and naval forces. Armies, ships, fortifications, navy yards, arsenals, military posts and garrisons, one after another, were betrayed or abandoned to the insurgents.
Congress had not anticipated and so had not provided for the emergency. The municipal authorities were powerless and inactive. The judicial machinery seemed as if it had been designed not to sustain the Government, but to embarrass and betray it.
Foreign intervention, openly invited and industriously instigated by the abetters of the insurrection, became imminent, and has only been prevented by the practice of strict and impartial justice with the most perfect moderation in our intercourse with nations.
The public mind was alarmed and apprehensive, though fortunately not distracted or disheartened. It seemed to be doubtful whether the Federal Government, which one year before had been thought a model worthy of universal acceptance, had indeed the ability to defend and maintain itself.
Some reverses, which perhaps were unavoidable, suffered by newly levied and inefficient forces, discouraged the loyal, and gave new hopes to the insurgents. Voluntary enlistments seemed about to cease, and desertions commenced. Parties speculated upon the question whether conscription had not become necessary to fill up the armies of the United States.
In this emergency the President felt it his duty to employ with energy the extraordinary powers which the Constitution confides to him in cases of insurrection. He called into the field such military and naval forces, unauthorized by the existing laws, as seemed necessary. He directed measures to prevent the use of the post-office for treasonable correspondenco. He subjected passengers to and from foreign countries to new passport regulations, and he instituted a blockade, suspended the writ of habeas corpus in various places, and caused persons who were represented to him as being or about to engage in disloyal and treasonable practices to be arrested by special civil as well as military agencies, and detained in military custody, when necessary, to prevent them and deter others from such practices. Examinations of such cases were instituted, and some of the persons so arrested have been discharged from time to time, under circumstances or upon conditions compatible, as was thought, with the public safety.
Meantime a favorable change of public opinion has occurred. The line between loyalty and disloyalty is plainly defined; the whole structure of the Government is firm and stable; apprehensions of public danger and facilities for treasonable practices have diminished with the passions which prompted heedless persons to adopt them. The insurrection is believed to have culminated and to be declining.
The President, in view of these facts, and anxious to favor a return to the normal course of the Administration, as far as regard for the public welfare will allow, directs that all political prisoners or State prisoners now held in military custody, be released on their subscribing to a parole engaging them to render no aid or comfort to the enemies in hostility to the United States.
The Secretary of War will, however, at his discretion, except from the effect of this order any persons detained as spies in the service of the insurgents, or others whose release at the present moment may be deemed incompatible with the public safety.
To all persons who shall be so released, and who shall keep their parole, the President grants an amnesty for any past offences of treason or disloyalty which they may have committed.
Extraordinary arrests will hereafter be made under the direction of the military authorities alone.
By order of the President:
EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
On the 27th of the same month, a Commission was appointed by the War Department, consisting of Major-General Dix and Hon. Edwards Pierrepont, of New York, to examine into the cases of the State prisoners then remaining in custody, and to determine whether, in view of the public safety and the existing rebellion, they should be discharged, or remain in arrest, or be remitted to the civil tribunals for trial. These gentlemen entered at once upon the discharge of their duties, and a large number of prisoners were released from custody on taking the oath of allegiance. Wherever the public safety seemed to require it, however, arrests continued to be madethe President, in every instance, assuming all the responsi bility of these acts, and throwing himself upon the Courts
and the judgment of the country for his vindication. But the President himself had not up to this time directed any general suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, or given any public notice of the rules by which the Government would be guided in its action upon cases that might arise. It was left to the Secretary of War to decide in what instances and for what causes arrests should be made, and the privilege of the writ should be suspended. In some of the Courts into which these cases were brought, the ground was accordingly taken that, although the President might have authority under the Constitution, when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety should require it, to suspend the writ, he could not delegate that authority to any subordinate. To meet this case, therefore, the President, on the 24th of September, 1862, issued the following
Whereas, it has been necessary to call into service, not only volunteers, but also portions of the militia of the States by draft, in order to suppress the insurrection existing in the United States, and disloyal persons are not adequately restrained by the ordinary processes of law from hindering this measure, and from giving aid and comfort in various ways to the insurrection,
Now, therefore, be it ordered
First, That during the existing insurrection, and as a necessary measure for suppressing the same, all rebels and insurgents, their aiders and abettors, within the United States, and all persons discouraging volunteer enlistments, resisting military drafts, or guilty of any disloyal practice affording aid and comfort to the rebels against the authority of the United States, shall be subject to martial law, and liable to trial and punishment by courts-martial or military commission.
Second, That the writ of habeas corpus is suspended in respect to all persons arrested, or who are now, or hereafter during the rebellion shall be, imprisoned in any fort, camp, arsenal, military prison, or other place of confinement, by any military authority, or by the sentence of any court-martial or military commission.