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Lincoln's 'Great Crime'

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo75.html Lincoln’s Great Crime : The Arrest Warrant for the Chief Justice by Thomas J. DiLorenzo Imagine that
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 19, 2004
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      http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo75.html
      Lincoln�s 'Great Crime': The Arrest Warrant for the
      Chief Justice

      by Thomas J. DiLorenzo

      Imagine that America had a Chief Justice of the United
      States who actually believed in enforcing the
      Constitution and, accordingly, issued an opinion that
      the war in Iraq was unconstitutional because Congress
      did not fulfill its constitutional duty in declaring
      war. Imagine also that the neocon media, think tanks,
      magazines, radio talk shows, and television talking
      heads then waged a vicious, months-long smear campaign
      against the chief justice, insinuating that he was
      guilty of treason and should face the punishment for
      it. Imagine that he is so demonized that President
      Bush is emboldened to issue an arrest warrant for the
      chief justice, effectively destroying the
      constitutional separation of powers and declaring
      himself dictator.

      An event such as this happened in the first months of
      the Lincoln administration when Abraham Lincoln issued
      an arrest warrant for Chief Justice Roger B. Taney
      after the 84-year-old judge issued an opinion that
      only Congress, not the president, can suspend the writ
      of habeas corpus. Lincoln had declared the writ null
      and void and ordered the military to begin imprisoning
      thousands of political dissenters. Taney�s opinion,
      issued as part of his duties as a circuit court judge
      in Maryland, had to do with the case of Ex Parte
      Merryman (May 1861). The essence of his opinion was
      not that habeas corpus could not be suspended, only
      that the Constitution requires Congress to do it, not
      the president. In other words, if it was truly in "the
      public interest" to suspend the writ, the
      representatives of the people should have no problem
      doing so and, in fact, it is their constitutional
      prerogative.

      As Charles Adams wrote in his LRC article, "Lincoln�s
      Presidential Warrant to Arrest Chief Justice Roger B.
      Taney," there were, at the time of his writing, three
      corroborating sources for the story that Lincoln
      actually issued an arrest warrant for the chief
      justice. It was never served for lack of a federal
      marshal who would perform the duty of dragging the
      elderly chief justice out of his chambers and throwing
      him into the dungeon-like military prison at Fort
      McHenry. (I present even further evidence below).

      All of this infuriates the Lincoln Cult, for such
      behavior is unquestionably an atrocious act of tyranny
      and despotism. But it is true. It happened. And it was
      only one of many similar constitutional atrocities
      committed by the Lincoln administration in the name of
      "saving the Constitution."

      The first source of the story is a history of the U.S.
      Marshal�s Service written by Frederick S. Calhoun,
      chief historian for the Service, entitled The Lawmen:
      United States Marshals and their Deputies, 1789�1989.
      Calhoun recounts the words of Lincoln�s former law
      partner Ward Hill Laman, who also worked in the
      Lincoln administration.

      Upon hearing of Laman�s history of Lincoln�s
      suspension of habeas corpus and the mass arrest of
      Northern political opponents, Lincoln cultists
      immediately sought to discredit Laman by calling him a
      drunk. (Ulysses S. Grant was also an infamous drunk,
      but no such discrediting is ever perpetrated on him by
      the Lincoln "scholars".)

      But Adams comes up with two more very reliable
      accounts of the same story. One is an 1887 book by
      George W. Brown, the mayor of Baltimore, entitled
      Baltimore and the Nineteenth of April, 1861: A Study
      of War (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1887). In it
      is the transcript of a conversation Mayor Brown had
      with Taney in which Taney talks of his knowledge that
      Lincoln had issued an arrest warrant for him.

      Yet another source is A Memoir of Benjamin Robbins
      Curtis, a former U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Judge
      Curtis represented President Andrew Johnson in his
      impeachment trial before the U.S. Senate; wrote the
      dissenting opinion in the Dred Scott case; and
      resigned from the court over a dispute with Judge
      Taney over that case. Nevertheless, in his memoirs he
      praises the propriety of Justice Taney in upholding
      the Constitution by opposing Lincoln�s suspension of
      habeas corpus. He refers to Lincoln�s arrest warrant
      as a "great crime."

      I recently discovered yet additional corroboration of
      Lincoln�s "great crime." Mr. Phil Magness sent me
      information suggesting that the intimidation of
      federal judges was a common practice in the early days
      of the Lincoln administration (and the later days as
      well). In October of 1861 Lincoln ordered the District
      of Columbia Provost Marshal to place armed sentries
      around the home of a Washington, D.C. Circuit Court
      judge and place him under house arrest. The reason was
      that the judge had issued a writ of habeas corpus to a
      young man being detained by the Provost Marshal,
      allowing the man to have due process. By placing the
      judge under house arrest Lincoln prevented the judge
      from attending the hearing of the case. The
      documentation of this is found in Murphy v. Porter
      (1861) and in United States ex re John Murphy v.
      Andrew Porter, Provost Marshal District of Columbia (2
      Hay. & Haz. 395; 1861).

      The second ruling contained a letter from Judge W.M.
      Merrick, the judge of the Circuit Court of the
      District of Columbia, explaining how, after issuing
      the writ of habeas corpus to the young man, he was
      placed under house arrest. Here is the final paragraph
      of the letter:
      After dinner I visited my brother Judges in
      Georgetown, and returning home between half past seven
      and eight o�clock found an armed sentinel stationed at
      my door by order of the Provost-Marshal. I learned
      that this guard had been placed at my door as early as
      five o�clock. Armed sentries from that time
      continuously until now have been stationed in front of
      my house. Thus it appears that a military officer
      against whom a writ in the appointed form of law has
      first threatened with and afterwards arrested and
      imprisoned the attorney who rightfully served the writ
      upon him. He continued, and still continues, in
      contempt and disregard of the mandate of the law, and
      has ignominiously placed an armed guard to insult and
      intimidate by its presence the Judge who ordered the
      writ to issue, and still keeps up this armed array at
      his door, in defiance and contempt of the justice of
      the land. Under the circumstances I respectfully
      request the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court to cause
      this memorandum to be read in open Court, to show the
      reasons for my absence from my place upon the bench,
      and that he will cause this paper to be entered at
      length on the minutes of the Court . . .

      W.M. Merrick
      Assistant Judge of the Circuit Court of the District
      of Columbia

      As Adams writes, the Lincoln Cult is terrified that
      this truth will become public knowledge, for it if
      does, it means that Lincoln "destroyed the separation
      of powers; destroyed the place of the Supreme Court in
      the Constitutional scheme of government. It would have
      made the executive power supreme, over all others, and
      put the president, the military, and the executive
      branch of government, in total control of American
      society. The Constitution would have been at an end."

      Exactly right.

      August 19, 2004
    • tonymaloley
      The nation needed an overhaul, Lincoln was the right man for the job. I don t think Lincoln destroyed any of the constitution, except the rules concerning
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 25, 2004
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        The nation needed an overhaul, Lincoln was the right man for the
        job. I don't think Lincoln "destroyed" any of the constitution,
        except the rules concerning slaves. Yes, he was a technically a
        dictator, but a nice dictator, as evidenced by his re-election in
        1864. No, southern votes didn't count, and he wasn't very nice to
        the south, but I'm glad the little matter of people being property
        was resolved prior to the nuclear age.

        Who is this DiLorenzo guy anyway? "All of this infuriates the
        Lincoln Cult" - I'm in the Lincoln Cult, and I'm not infuriated.

        Let's stop making pennies, they are more trouble than they're worth.
        This infuriates the Church of Lincoln of Latter-Day Saint Lincoln,
        but not the Lincoln cult.

        There is but one Lincoln, and Lincoln is his prophet. - Abraham
        Lincoln
      • greg
        I m not sure who DiLorenzo is except that he sometimes writes for a newsletter I get, lewrockwell.com. They have a libertarian bent and are often amusing. I
        Message 3 of 3 , Aug 25, 2004
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          I'm not sure who DiLorenzo is except that he sometimes writes for a
          newsletter I get, lewrockwell.com. They have a libertarian bent and
          are often amusing.
          I agree with you, Lincoln was the right man for the job. I just think
          it's interesting he would order the Chief Justice arrested because the
          guy disagreed with Lincoln on something. A bit of history you don't
          hear mentioned much.
          --- In prezveepsenator@yahoogroups.com, "tonymaloley" <am7788zz@m...>
          wrote:
          > The nation needed an overhaul, Lincoln was the right man for the
          > job. I don't think Lincoln "destroyed" any of the constitution,
          > except the rules concerning slaves. Yes, he was a technically a
          > dictator, but a nice dictator, as evidenced by his re-election in
          > 1864. No, southern votes didn't count, and he wasn't very nice to
          > the south, but I'm glad the little matter of people being property
          > was resolved prior to the nuclear age.
          >
          > Who is this DiLorenzo guy anyway? "All of this infuriates the
          > Lincoln Cult" - I'm in the Lincoln Cult, and I'm not infuriated.
          >
          > Let's stop making pennies, they are more trouble than they're worth.
          > This infuriates the Church of Lincoln of Latter-Day Saint Lincoln,
          > but not the Lincoln cult.
          >
          > There is but one Lincoln, and Lincoln is his prophet. - Abraham
          > Lincoln
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