Last Updated 15 Apr 2020

Abraham Lincoln and the Suspension of Habeas Corpus

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Founding father Benjamin Franklin famously said "Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety and will lose both. " Civil Liberties are rights and freedoms that protect an individual from the state. Civil liberties set limits on the government so that its agents cannot abuse their power and interfere unduly with the lives of private citizens.

In America, the founding fathers fought hard for civil liberties during the revolutionary war, and outlined all of them in the Bill of Rights. Abraham Lincoln is considered to be one of the greatest presidents in American history. Lincoln was the father of the civil war, and risked so much in order to insure slavery would be put to an end. While Lincoln is usually talked about in a positive light, he actually violated many civil liberties during the civil war.

During the Civil War, Lincoln appropriated powers no previous President had wielded: he used his war powers to proclaim a blockade, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, spent money before Congress appropriated it, and imprisoned between 15,000 and 18,000 suspected Confederate sympathizers without trial. The biggest suspension of civil liberties in the history of the United States was Lincoln suspending the writ of habeas corpus. Habeas Corpus is a legal action, through which a person can seek relief from unlawful detention, or the relief of another person.

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The writ of habeas corpus protects persons from harming themselves, or from being harmed by the judicial system. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in order to arrest war protesters under military authority; Lincoln did this because he believed state courts would not punish war protestors properly. While Lincoln overall was a great president, he clearly did abuse the power of the presidency during the Civil War. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus without the approval of congress and no one was even consulted to see if a violation of an important civil liberty was worth suspending.

While Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in order to stop protesters from creating a riot or even a counter coalition in the union, suspending civil liberties is never justified, even in times of war. The founding fathers of America fought hard and preached about inalienable rights that all people in America should have. In the constitution Article one Section nine clearly states: The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended. Even though Lincoln was president, he should have never messed with the constitution, the most important document in America.

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