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The President On Arbitrary Arrests

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From the Journal of Commerce. It must be conceded that the President seems to be sincere when he writes an argument whatever weight we givo to bis reasoning. But sinoere or not, he has certainly written a letter on the subject of arbitrary arrests which indieates a total failure to appreciate tho Constitution he is sworn to defend. We have examined lht letter with profound sorrow. It fails to give U3 confidence in the mind ol the chief magistrate, or in his abiüty to exercise, wiih proper judgment, the high duties imposed on him by his office. The error which underlies his wholo reasoniog is so plain that it mnstbe un. necessury to point it out. Every one has geen this error. Let us, however, glance at it. It is perhaps set forth more clearly than elsewhero in the following sentences : "I concede that the clasa of arresta complained of can be cons'itutional only when, in cases of rebellion or invasión, the public safety may require them; and I insist that in such cases tbey oro constitutional, viherever the public safety does require them, &c." Now tho mislako of Mr. Lincoln, on which his whole letter is based, is in a complete misunderstanding of he constitutional provisión on the subject of the writ of habeas corpus. This mistake is vital. The provisión is in theso words: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when in. cases of rebellioD or iayasion the public safety may requira The President construes this to read as follows : "In cases of rebellion or invasión tho President of the United States is invested with absolute power of arrest and imprisonment over the persons of all eitizens, and may eeize them without complaint, warrant, or ajtion of any court, and hold them at his pleasure; if he thinks the publio safety may require it." The provisiuns relating to habeas corpus confers no power of arrest on the President or any one else. Whether the privilege of the writ is suspended or not, the power of arrest remains unchanged and resides only in those who can use it acenrding to due form of law. This has been fully conceded by the legialation of the late Congresa in ndemoity bilis, and in the provisión relating to such arresta. We must, therefore, regard the President aa standing quite alone in hia view ot his powers of arrest. And. with all respect, we must insist that {e provisions of the Constitution are superior to the President's wil], wbether in war or in peace, and that no provisión is changed by the existence of war, except the mere legal remedy of the habeas corpus The President, instead of imagining that the laws in our country are changed by the exi-tenceofa rebellion, so that be becomes invested with a-n absolute power over the persons and liberty of the peopie by this provisión of the Constitution, should set him8elf diligently to work ti find where the Constitution gives him any such power, either in time of war or in time of peace, It is nowhere given. The Constitution is our law for all times. Mr. Lincoln alao makes a very singular argument or assertion - for it is a mere assertinn, unsustained by argument - that there are crimes unknown to our laws, for which he mav maka arrest. We are here at a loss to know on what basis his mind operates. It is plain enough that there are no such crimes. The fact of the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, when it tukes place, does not créate any new laws, or make any new crimes unknown to the statutes of the land. No crime exists which cannot be proceeded against and punished by the laws of the United States or of the States. It is a grave error to imagine that the existence of the writ of habeas corpus as a remedy is a restraint upon powers which might otherwise be executed. It is purely a writ of relief against wrong. If the" writ is suspended, the wrong is not made rght. The suspension of the writ would not. change one principie of liberty, or exert any effect whatover in the way of authorizing arrests and seizures of "citizens. On the confrary, the Constitution absolulely prohibits these arbitrary arrcstH. The words are olear and expücit. Will any one eontenrl that the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, unde.r another clauso of the Constitution, mispends the clauses whicli forbid arbitrary seizures? The writ oí habeas corpus relates only to the person after au arrest or se.izure has been made. The Constitution protects citizens agninst illegal arresté alwiiys, and the prohibition romains good, uhether there be a habeas corpus provisión or not. All this the President ignores, líe eeems to imagine the who'a Constitution dépeh&erit on the haleas corpus cl a usa. We might direct attention to tho fact that all arrefts havo. beon made in tho rink.s of the oppoeition, while men pouring out trenson with every utteranco on itbolition platforms have been left untonched, or receivt-d into the arms.Öfthe Administration. 'We misht reply t the President' regrot that the peópijè address him asDemocratu," by remiuding our readers of the scores of deputations from Aboütionists, Mothodist-, Prcsbyti-rians, Progressive Quakers, Republicans, &o., &c, whc m he has retoived without any such regret. In fue!, lip strikes a blow nt all these dppu!iti'ir;s, and all the rosolutions of all torta of religious and political bodies that have been sent to bim. We might go on at great length exposing the weaknecs of the President. But the time s too Reriou?. The country is aguin n the midat oi a great excitemont. We prefer at such times-to lay subjects likethis on the shulïi lol' a fovc riays, vvhilo wo give onf attentibn to the mpunding dangcr. But we could not pei rnit thu President'w letttT to go. unanswerud. The tima fnr it is of his choosinp, and we simply place beforo our readers tho correct principlef, na against what wo deern fhe erroneous luw nrH logic throngh wBfuB fRe President labors, pajre alter page, to establish a claim in favor o? a power over the conMitutional freecfom of' the cilvzen. It does not exrst. No citation from Constitution or law in given in favor of it. None can be given. It rests eolely in Ihe imagination of the President, whose letter aesumes for toim all the respotsibility of these ai'ftitFnry proceedings. We trust that he will forbear to act on the theory he sustains. The people tbitik difforently, and the beet nifnd tïirougnout the nation are grieved a-tsuch an effort as this, in favor of what almopt every one believes to be unauthorized eserciso of power.


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Michigan Argus