I sort of get a giggle when I can quote this speech (delivered to the rebel congress in the middle of next month) by the vice president of their treasured Confederacy to the "Unreconstructed Rebels" who come out of the woodwork every now and again. Sometimes it really does pay to know your history. Most of them, in my experience, do not.
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This challenge was particularly sharp when it came to the writ of habeas corpus, considered the most important protection against the wrongful exercise of governmental power. The essentially similar ways in which Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, for all their many differences, limited their respective nations’ citizens access to habeas corpus illustrates the thorny choices forced on leaders during wartime.
As in the North, these measures raised a fair amount of opposition. Alexander Stephens denounced President Davis as a dictator in 1864 and returned home to Georgia, where he delivered a speech on March 16, 1864 to the Georgia legislature attacking various acts of the Davis administration, including the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
Lincoln’s policy of suspension of habeas corpus was not without its foes. Although suspension of habeas corpus was in effect in several border states and in the midwest, Maryland, a border state with strong Confederate sympathies that nevertheless remained with the Union, experienced the most infamous instances of the suspension of habeas corpus.
From 1861 until 1865, the United States split into the Union and the Confederacy in the Civil War. One of the issues that the Union faced was what to do with prisoners of war that were captured on the battlefield, or with Confederate sympathizers who created unrest in the North. Those who were arrested and jailed had the option of filing a habeas corpus petition, challenging their detention, and getting their release.
Suspension and the Confederacy
One of the most precious rights of Americans is the right to force the official who is detaining a prisoner to come before a judge and show cause for the person being detained. When the writ of habeas corpus is suspended, this right is denied, and people may be arrested and detained without cause being given.
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The war now waged by the Government of the United States upon the people of the Confederated States, is unconstitutional in its origin, purposes and conduct, repugnant to civilization and sound policy; subversive of the free principles upon which the Federal Union was founded, and certain to result in the hopeless and bloody overthrow of our existing institutions.
How did Lincoln respond to the possibility that Maryland would join the Confederacy?
As you can see, Washington D.C. is located between Maryland and Virginia, a state that had already seceded. Therefore, if Maryland seceded, Washington D.C. would be impossible to defend, and the war would be lost for the Union.