previous next

[374] the constitutional guarantees of personal liberty are suspended throughout the country at a time of insurrection or invasion in any part of it, places us upon a sea of uncertainty, and subjects the life, liberty, and property of every citizen to the mere will of a military commander, or what he may say that he considers the public safety requires. Does your Excellency wish to have it understood that you hold that the rights of every man throughout this vast country, in time of invasion or insurrection, are subject to be annulled whenever you may say that you consider the public safety requires it?

You are further reported as having said that the constitutional guarantees of personal liberty have “no application to the present case we have in hand, because the arrests complained of were not made for treason — that is, not for the treason defined in the Constitution, and upon the conviction of which the punishment is death-nor yet were they made to hold persons to answer for capital or otherwise infamous crime; nor were the proceedings following in any constitutional or legal sense ‘criminal prosecutions.’ The arrests were made on totally different grounds, and the proceedings following accorded with the grounds of the arrests,” etc.

The conclusion to be drawn from this position of your Excellency is, that where a man is liable to a “criminal prosecution,” or is charged with a crime known to the laws of the land, he is clothed with all the constitutional guarantees for his safety and security from wrong and injustice; but that, where he is not liable to a “criminal prosecution,” or charged with any crime known to the laws, if the President or any military commander shall say that he considers that the public safety requires it, this man may be put outside of the pale of the constitutional guarantees, and arrested without charge of crime, imprisoned without knowing what for, and any length of time, or be tried before a court-martial and sentenced to any kind of punishment, unknown to the laws of the land, which the President or the military commander may see proper to impose. Did the Constitution intend to throw the shield of its securities around the man liable to be charged with treason as defined by it, and yet leave the man, not liable to any such charge, unprotected by the safeguards of personal liberty and personal security? Can a man not in the military or naval service, nor within the field of the operations of the army, be arrested and imprisoned without any law of the land to authorize it? Can a man thus, in civil life, be punished without any law defining the offence and prescribing the punishment? If the President or a court-martial may prescribe one kind of punishment unauthorized by law, why not any other kind? Banishment is an unusual punishment and unknown to our laws. If the President has a right to prescribe the punishment of banishment, why not that of death and confiscation of property? If the President has the right to change the punishment prescribed by the court-martial, from imprisonment to banishment, why not from imprisonment to torture upon the rack, or execution upon the gibbet?

If an indefinable kind of constructive treason is to be introduced and engrafted upon the Constitution, unknown to the laws of the land, and subject to the will of the President whenever an insurrection or invasion shall occur in any part of this vast country, what safety or security will be left for the liberties of the people? The constructive treasons that gave the friends of freedom so many years of toil and trouble in England, were inconsiderable compared to this. The precedents which you make will become a part of the Constitution for your successors, if sanctioned and acquiesced in by the people now.

The people of Ohio are willing to cooperate zealously with you in every effort, warranted by the Constitution, to restore the Union of the States; but they cannot consent to abandon those fundamental principles of civil liberty which are essential to their existence as a free people.

In their name, we ask that, by a revocation of the order of his banishment, Mr. Vallandigham may be restored to the enjoyment of those rights of which they believe he has been unconstitutionally deprived.

We have the honor to be, respectfully yours, etc.,

M. Birchard, Chairman, Nineteenth District. David A. Houk, Secretary, Third District. George Bliss, Fourteenth District. T. W. Bartley, Eighth District. W. J. Gordon, Eighteenth District. John O'Neill, Thirteenth District. C. A. White, Sixth District. W. E. Finck, Twelfth District. Alexander long, Second District. J. W. White, Sixteenth District. James R. Morris, Fifteenth District. George S. Converse, Seventh District Warren P. Noble, Ninth District. George H. Pendleton, First District. W. A. Hutchins, Eleventh District. Abner L. Backus, Tenth District. J. F. Mckinney, Fourth District. F. C. Le Blond, Fifth District. Louis Schaffer, Seventeenth District.

The reply.

gentlemen: The resolutions of the Ohio Democratic State Convention, which you present me, together with your introductory and closing remarks, being in position and argument mainly the same as the resolutions of the Democratic meeting at Albany, New-York, I refer you to my response to the latter as meeting most of

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Washington (United States) (1)
Ohio (Ohio, United States) (1)
England (United Kingdom) (1)
Albany (New York, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 29th, 1885 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: