Friday, May 27, 2011

SCOTUS: Suspension of habeas corpus unconstitutional

Roger taneyImage via Wikipedia
Chief Justice Taney
Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney issues a writ of habeas corpus to be heard before him today in Baltimore, but Gen. Cadwalader, in command at Fort McHenry, refuses to execute the writ. Taney then issues a writ for the person of Gen. Cadwalader for contempt, but Cadwalader refuses to charge himself as well. 
List of American Civil War generalsImage via Wikipedia
MG Geo. Cadwalader
Taney realizes that neither writ can be executed by force, so he refers the case to President Lincoln with an admonition that the laws of the U.S. need be respected and enforced. 

Ex Parte Merryman is argued with considerable heat on both sides.Taney contends that: 1. according to the Constitution, the President has no right to suspend the writ of habeas corpus; and 2. The military can only arrest persons subject to the rules and articles of war. 

The Lincoln Administration and military argue that Lincoln’s Proclamation 94 suspending the writ permitted Merryman’s arrest and imprisonment. The Administration further holds that in time of rebellion such actions are required in the interest of public safety.   

But Chief Justice Roger B. Taney dissents, ruling that the President does not have the power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, even in time of rebellion. Thus, the arrest and detention of John Merryman is illegal. President Lincoln, who has offended the Constitution with impunity already several times, simply ignores the Court’s ruling, defies the rule of law, and continues to lock up anyone his Administration suspects of disloyal thoughts, words, or actions for any length of time they want without showing just cause for charging them./1861
    • Union troops under Gen. Benjamin F. Butler occupy Newport News Point, Virginia, and construct Camp Butler as part of the Federal naval blockade. Federal control of this point closes the river link between Norfolk and Richmond./1861
    • In western Virginia, Colonel Benjamin F. Kelley and his 1st Virginia (Federal) Infantry along with troops that would become the 2nd West Virginia Infantry depart Wheeling at sunrise to move on Grafton, western Virginia, to protect the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. In coordination, the 14th Ohio Infantry under Colonel Steedman arrives in Parkersburg, western Virginia./1861

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