« PreviousContinue »
were fully liberated. A few days more and the judge called Gen. Jackson into court and fined him $1,000 for having arrested him and the others named. The General paid the fine, and there the matter rested for nearly thirty years, when Congress refunded principal and interest. The late Senator Douglas, then in the House of Representatives, took a leading part in the debates, in which the Constitutional question was much discussed. I am not prepared to say whom the journals would show to have voted for the measure.
It may be remarked : First, that we had the same Constitution then as now; secondly, that we then had a case of invasion, and now we have a case of rebellion; and, thirdly, that the permanent right of the people to public discussion, the liberty of speech and of the press, the trial by jury, the law of evidence, and the habeas corpus, suffered no detriment whatever by that conduct of General Jackson, or its subsequent approval by the American Congress.
And yet, let me say that, in my own discretion, I do uot know whether I would have ordered the arrest of Mr. Vallandigham. While I can not shift the responsibility from myself, I hold that, as a general rule, the commander in the field is the better judge of the necessity in any particular case. Of course, I must
practice a general directory and revisory power in the matter.
One of the resolutions expresses the opinion of the meeting that arbitrary arrests will have the effect to divide and distract those who should be united in suppressing the rebellion, and I am specifically called on to discharge Mr. Vallandigham. I regard this as, at least, a fair appeal to me on the expediency of exercising a constitutional power which I think exists. In response to such appeal, I have to say, it gave me pain when I learned that Mr. Vallandigham had been arrested—that is, I was pained that there should have seemed to be a necessity for arresting him—and that it will afford me great pleasure to discharge him as soon as I can, by any means believe the public safety will not suffer by it. I further say that, as the war progresses, it appears to me, opinion and action which were in great confusion at first, take shape and fall into more regular channels, so that the necessity for strong dealing with them gradually decreases.
I have every reason to desire that it should cease altogether; and far from the least is my regard for the opinions and wishes of those who, like the meeting at Albany, declare their purpose to sustain the Government in every constitutional and lawful measure to suppress the rebellion Still, I must continue to do sơ much as may seem to be required by public safety,
A fortnight after this letter was written, a committee of Ohio Democrats waited upon President Lincoln, presenting resolutions of their State Convention, which had seen fit to nominate Vallandigham for Governor, demanding his release from the sentence of exile. The committee backed their appeal by such arguments as the occasion suggested to them. The reply of Mr. Lincoln is a proper pendant to the foregoing letter :
THE PRESIDENT'S REPLY TO THE COMMITTEE FROM ONLIO
URGING THE RECALL OF MR. VALLANDIGHAM.
WASHINGTON, June 29, 1863. GENTLEMEN : The resolutions of the Ohio Democratic State Convention, which you present me, together with your introductory and closing remarks, being, in position and argument, mainly the same as the resolutions of the Democratic mecting at Albany, New York, I refer you to my response to the latter as meeting most of the points in the former.
This response you evidently used in preparing your remarks, und I desire no more than that it be used with accuracy. lui single reading of your remarks, I only discovered one inaccuracy in matter which I suppose you took from that paper. It is where you say, “ The undersigned are unable to agree
with you in the opinion you have expressed that the Constitution is different in time of insurrection or invasion from what it is in time of peace and public security.”
A recurrence to the paper will show you that I have not expressed the opinion you suppose. I expressed the opinion that the Constitution is different in its application in cases of rebellion or invasion involving the public safety, from what it is in times of profound peace and public security. And this opinion I adhere to, simply because, by the Constitution itself, things may be done in the one case which may not be done in the other.
I dislike to waste a word on a merely personal point, but I must respectfully assure you that you will find yourselves at fault should you ever seek for evidence to prove your assumption that I " opposed, in discussions before the people, the policy of the Mexican War."
You say : “ Expunge from the Constitution this limitation upon the power of Congress to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, and yet the other guarantees of personal liberty would remain unchanged.” Doubtless, if this clause of the Consti
tution, improperly called, as I think, a limitation upon the power of Congress, were expunged, the other guarantees would remain the same ; but the question is, not how those guarantees would stand with that clause out of the Constitution, but how they stand with that clause remaining in it, in case of rebellion or invasion involving the public safety. If the liberty could be indulged, in expunging that clause, letter and spirit, I really think the constitutional argument would be with you.
My general view on this question was stated in the Albany response, and hence I do not state it now. I only add that, as seems to me, the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus is the great means through which the guarantees of personal liberty are conserved and made available in the last resort; and corroborative of this view is the fact that Mr. Vallandigham, in the very case in question, under the advice of able lawyers, saw not where else to go but to the habeas corpus. But by the Constitution, the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus itself may be suspended, when, in case of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.
You ask, in substance, whether I really claim that I may override all the guaranteed rights of individuals, on the plea of conserving the public safety—when I may choose to say the public safety requires it. This question, divested of the phraseology calculated to represent me as struggling for an arbitrary personal prerogative, is either simply a question who shall decide, or an affirmation that nobody shall decide, what the public safety does require in cases of rebellion or invasion. The Constitution contemplates the question as likely to occur for decision, but it does not expressly declare who is to decide it. By necessary implication, when rebellion, or invasion comes, the decision is to be made from time to time, and I think the man whom, for the time, the people have, under the Constitution, made their Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy, is the man who holds the power and bears the responsi. bility of making it. If he uses the power justly, the same people will probably justify him; if he abuses it, he is in their hands, to be dealt with by all the modes they have reserved to themselves in the Constitution.
The earnestness with which you insist that persons can only, in times of rebellion, be lawfully dealt with in accordance with the rules for criminal trials and punishments in times of peace, induces me to add a word to what I said on that point in the Albany response.
You claim that men may, if they choose, embarrass those whose duty it is to combat a giant rebellion, and then be dealt with only in turn as if there were no rebel
lion. The Constitution itself rejects this view. The military arrests and detentions which have been made, including those of Mr. Vallandigham, which are not different in principle from the other, have been for prevention, and not for punishmentas injunctions to stay injury, as proceedings to keep the peaceand hence, like proceedings in such cases and for like reasons, they have not been accompanied with indictments, or trial by juries, nor in a single case by any punishment whatever beyond what is purely incidental to the prevention. The original sentence of imprisonment in Mr. Vallandigham's case was to prevent injury to the inilitary service only, and the modificarion of it was made as a less disagrecable mode to him of securing the same prevention.
I am unable to perceive an insult to Ohio in the case of Mr. Vallandigham. Quite surely nothing of this sort was or is in. tended. I was wholly unaware that Mr. Vallandigham was, at the time of his arrest, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor, until so informed by your reading to me the resolutions of the convention. I am grateful to the State of Ohio for many things, especially for the brave soldiers and offi. cers she has given, in the present National trial, to the armies of the Union.
You claim, as I understand, that, according to my own position in the Albany response, Mr. Vallandigham should be released; and this because, as you claim, he has not damaged the military service by discouraging enlistments, encouraging desertions, or otherwisc; and that if he had, he should have been turned over to the civil authorities under the recent act of Congress. I certainly do not know that Mr. Vallandigham has specifically and by direct language advised against enlistments and in favor of desertions and resistance to drafting. We all know that combinations, armed, in some instances, to resist the arrest of deserters, began several months ago; that more recently the like has appeared in resistance to the enrollment preparatory to a draft; and that quite a number of assassinations have occurred from the same animus. These had to be met by military force, and this again has led to bloodshed and death. And now, under a sense of responsibility more weighty and enduring than any which is merely official, I solemnly declare my belief that this hindrance of the military, including maiming and murder, is due to the cause in which Mr. Vallandigham has been engaged, in a greater degree than to any other cause; and it is due to him personally in a greater degree than to any other man.
These th have been notorious, known to all, and of course known to Mr. Vallandigham. Perhaps I would not be wrong
to say they originated with his especial friends and adherents. With perfect knowledge of them he has frequently, if not constantly, made specches in Congress and before popular assemblies; and if it can be shown that, with these things staring him in the face, he has ever uttered a word of rebuke or counsel against them, it will be a fact greatly in his favor with me, and one of which, as yet, I am totally ignorant. When it is known that the whole burden of his speeches has been to stir up men against the prosecution of the war, and that in the midst of resistance to it, he has not been known in any instance to counsel against such resistance, it is next to impossible to repel the inference that he has counseled directly in favor of it.
With all this before their eyes, the convention you represent have nominated Mr. Vallandigham for governor of Ohio, and both they and you have declared the purpose to sustain the National Union by all constitutional means, but, of course, they and you, in common, reserve to yourselves to decide what are constitutional means, and, unlike the Albany meeting, you omit to state or intimate that, in your opinion, an army is a constitutional means of saving the Union against a rebellion, or even to intimate that you are conscious of an existing rebellion being in progress with the avowed object of destroying that very Union. At the same time, your nominee for governor, in whose behalf you appeal, is known to you, and to the world, to declare against the use of an army to suppress the rebellion. Your own attitude, therefore, encourages desertion, resistance to the draft, and the like, because it teaches those who inclinc to desert and to escape the draft to believe it is your purpose to protect them, and the hope that you will become strong enough to do so.
After a personal intercourse with you, gentlemen of the coinmittee, I can not say I think you desire this effect to follow your attitude;
but I assure you that both friends and enemies of the Union look upon it in this light. It is a substantial hope, and by consequence, real strength to the enemy. If it is a false hope, and one which you would willingly dispel, I will make the way exceedingly easy. I send you duplicates of this letter, in order that you, or a majority of you, may, if you choose, indorse your names upon one of them, and return it thus indorsed to me, with the undorstanding that those signing are thereby committed to the following propositions, and to nothing else:
1. That there is now a rebellion in the United States, the object and tendency of which is to destroy the National Union; and that, in your opinion, an army and navy are constitutional means for suppressing that rebellion.