By Jonathan W. White
Within the spring of 1861, Union army specialists arrested Maryland farmer John Merryman on fees of treason opposed to the us for burning railroad bridges round Baltimore so that it will hinder northern infantrymen from attaining the capital. From his felony mobile at castle McHenry, Merryman petitioned leader Justice of the very best court docket Roger B. Taney for liberate via a writ of habeas corpus. Taney issued the writ, yet President Abraham Lincoln neglected it. In mid-July Merryman was once published, purely to be indicted for treason in a Baltimore federal courtroom. His case, even though, by no means went to trial and federal prosecutors eventually disregarded it in 1867.In Abraham Lincoln and Treason within the Civil conflict, Jonathan White finds how the arrest and prosecution of this little-known Baltimore farmer had a long-lasting influence at the Lincoln management and Congress as they struggled to improve guidelines to accommodate either northern traitors and southern rebels. His paintings sheds major new gentle on numerous perennially arguable criminal and constitutional concerns in American background, together with the character and volume of presidential struggle powers, the improvement of nationwide guidelines for facing disloyalty and treason, and the safety of civil liberties in wartime.
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Additional info for Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War: The Trials of John Merryman (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)
In Lincoln’s mind, it was neither of these things. The people’s liberty would be protected, but the government would also flex its muscle enough to stamp out treason and insurrection. ” 40 At this point Lincoln explained the course of action he had taken. ” Still, because Lincoln’s actions were being challenged in the courts and by the Democratic press, Lincoln felt obliged to answer 38 | Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War his detractors with the constitutional grounding for his actions.
The police acted in such a way that I told some of them they were heading the mob,” testified John Ehrman to a federal grand jury. ” Other bystanders corroborated this account: “Police arrested only Union men who were trying to keep down [the] riot,” testified Constable John Plummer. “Wm. Eckart a police man was in the cars with [an] axe breaking open boxes at the orders of the crowd,” recalled another man. ” Rev. ”12 While the Massachusetts soldiers slogged through Baltimore, the Pennsylvania boys found themselves stranded at President Street Station without uniforms, arms, or protection.
It declared that the writ could be suspended, but it never clearly stated by whom. Considering the circumstances—a rebellion gaining momentum and Congress out of session—Lincoln deemed it necessary, expedient, and constitutional to authorize suspension of the writ himself. In so doing, he asserted himself as a final arbiter on the meaning of the Constitution, independent of what Taney or any other member of the judiciary had to say. Lincoln, in effect, gutted Ex parte Merryman of any legal significance and determined that as long as the war lasted Merryman would have no practical effect.