Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Monday, April 27, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On April 27, 1861

On this day in 1861, Lincoln authorized suspension of the writ of habeas corpus: if the need should arise, as troops moved into Washington to protect the city along a vital army travel line between Philadelphia and Washington. In other words... through troublesome but neutral Maryland.

Many people have argued that because the now revered Abraham Lincoln authorized the suspension of habeas corpus during his presidency, any president should feel free to do it in a time of war. Any war, in any land.

What they seldom mention is that Lincoln authorized the (in this case) potential suspension, during a time of war between states within our nation, between American citizens, and in order to directly protect the nation's capitol; and that the laws of our own country, in our own country, were being broken by an insurrection -- not a foreign war.

There was much anger and even hatred directed towards Lincoln in his time over this issue, even from fellow northerners. Habeas corpus has always been a touchy issue in this 'land of the free and home of the brave.' Personally... I wish Lincoln had found a way to avoid this act and subsequent suppression of the press. Just as Roosevelt's presidency will always be marred by the US treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII, Lincoln's legacy will always contain the 'habeas corpus question.' It was and remains to this day, a dangerous precedent - one that can easily be misused by less honorable men in more lenient times.

The order sent to General Winfield Scott:

April 27, 1861

To the Commanding General of the Army of the United States:

You are engaged in repressing an insurrection against the laws of the United States. If at any point on or in the vicinity of the [any] military line, which is now [or which shall be] used between the City of Philadelphia and the City of Washington, via Perryville, Annapolis City, and Annapolis Junction, you find resistance which renders it necessary to suspend the writ of Habeas Corpus for the public safety, you, personally or through the officer in command at the point where the [at which] resistance occurs, are authorized to suspend that writ. ABRAHAM LINCOLN

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