Abraham Lincoln and Habeas Corpus
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
From time to time I meet those who consider Abraham Lincoln a dictator. Therefore they dislike him and mark him as one of the worst presidents of all time. Whenever I study a subject that has two or more sides, I study them all. When seeing how each side is presented, I can usually see the truth of the subject. It is not because of me, it is because Scripture gives us all principals in which to find out the truth. In applying these principals in research helps me find the real truth of the matter. That is how King Solomon was able to hear the testimony of two harlots and was able to discern who was lying and who was telling the truth. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 1:2 that if we know wisdom we will perceive (discern) the words of understanding.
When it comes to old Abe or anyone else, we need to apply scriptural principals. This begins with the heart. We are told to look for the character of the person and how they acted. The scriptures reveal that we will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7). God’s word also records that a good tree cannot produce bad fruit (Matthew 7). It is not to say that anyone is perfect, but the overall character of a person will be shown. In other words, if a person is good or bad it will become obvious when we look at them in light of God’s word.
In regards to Abraham Lincoln and the suspension of Habeas Corpus, we need to understand the events before and during the time it took place. Habeas Corpus is Latin for “You shall have the body” It is a legal action by means of which detainees can seek relief from unlawful imprisonment. In the U.S. Constitution Article I, section 9 says that Congress can suspend Habeas Corpus but only in an act of a rebellion. That is where the problem starts. To fully understand the problem we need to hear the matter out or we will not be able to come to the right conclusion.
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was running in the new Republican Party. Even though there was such a great number of states and people against him, he won the election with 40% of the votes. Soon after his winning, for the first time in our nation’s history, states started succeeding from the Union. Before Lincoln took office of President, the country was falling apart. The existing president at the time James Buchanan, favored the South, but did not believe they could leave the Union legally. While Buchannan was president, he did nothing to address the problem.
At the time of Lincoln being sworn in, there were threats against this new president’s life that he had to be smuggled into Washington. He and others did not want war and even took steps to work out a solution. There were those in the newly formed Confederacy like Alexander Stephens (vice president of the Confederacy) that did not want to fire upon Ft. Sumter. Jefferson Davis gave the order and the war began.
After the firing of Ft. Sumter, Virginia left the Union and Maryland was divided. If Maryland had succeeded, it would put the nation’s capitol in the middle of a confederate state. Baltimore had become a hotbed for rebellion. Washington was not properly protected and Lincoln called for troops to defend it. In the process, telegraph lines were cut down and bridges were destroyed in an attempt to prevent Union troops from getting to Washington. The scene at this time was very bleak. Lincoln had to try to bring order, Congress was not in session and it was not safe to convene them. Lincoln arrested those who were breaking the law and until control could be established, suspended Habeas Corpus.
The first problem Lincoln had was that The Constitution was silent on the situation at hand. Lincoln believed that when congress was not in secession the responsibilities fell to the executive branch. One of the questions faced was “What if Congress is not in secession to decide measures that a president was faced with that required immediate action? When Congress was called back in session, Lincoln explained his actions to both houses and as a result Congress eventually passed a bill, clearing Lincoln of any wrong doing and further gave him permission to suspend it as long as the Civil War was in effect. Therefore Lincoln was vindicated from any wrong doing.
Did You Know: That during the Civil War, Confederate President Jefferson Davis also suspended Habeas Corpus. When vice president Alexander Stephens returned to his home state of Georgia, he spoke at the state legislature and told of the abuses of power concerning Davis. Stephens made references to Davis as being a Dictator especially in his abuse of the suspension of Habeas. This was due to Northern sympathizers living in the South. It’s amazing that we only hear of Lincoln being a dictator. Also Stephens did not want Georgia to secede from the union and voted no accordingly.
When we study a subject, it is important to get all of the information and not just one side. Since God’s word tells us that in the mouth of two or three witnesses that every word be established (Matthew 18). It is recommended that one should seek two to three sources on both sides. In doing that I check out every book I read by checking the author out. So many times when I read a book, I find the heart of the author to twist truth the truth. That is, only quoting part of the resource that makes their point of view, but not reading the whole quote which tells another story.
If Lincoln was a tyrant, his character did not show one. One is his actions concerning his treatment of the South in the closing of the war. Lincoln could have punished the South as many wanted him to do so, but instead he forgave them and wanted them to come back into the Union. Many have identified Adolf Hitler as a dictator; Hitler had never showed any nation the compassion as Lincoln did to the South.
Eventually our hearts need to be pure before God in each paper we write. If Lincoln was a great man who saved our country from being divided and put an end to slavery, he should be vindicated. If he was a tyrant as some say, then it needs to be vindicated as well. The writer of this article has read several books on both sides and has talked to historians on both sides. It is my humble conclusion that Abraham Lincoln was a great man and one of the greatest presidents this nation ever had. It is not to say that he did not make mistakes as we all do. At a time when our heroes of the past are one by one being attacked it is important that we defend the legacy they left us.