desertions from the army; and to leave the Rebellion without an adequate military force to suppress it. He was not arrested because he was damaging the political prospects of the Administration, or the personal interests of the commanding General, but because he was damaging the army, upon the existence and vigor of which the life of the nation depends.
He was warring upon the military; and this gave the military constitutional jurisdiction to lay hands upon him. If Mr. Vallandigham was not damaging the military power of the country, then his arrest was made on mistake of fact, which I would be glad to correct on reasonably satisfactory evidence.
I understand the meeting, whose resolutions I am considering, to be in favor of suppressing the Rebellion by military force — by armies.
Long experience has shown that armies cannot be maintained unless desertions shall be punished by the severe penalty of death.
The case requires, and the law and the Constitution sanction, this punishment.
Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wily agitator who induces him to desert?
This is none the less injurious when effected by getting a father, or brother, or friend, into a public meeting, and there working upon his feelings till he is persuaded to write the soldier boy that he is fighting in a bad cause, for a wicked Administration of a contemptible Government, too weak to arrest and punish him if he shall desert.
I think that, in such a case, to silence the agitator and save the boy is not only constitutional but withal a great mercy.
If I be wrong on this question of constitutional power, my error lies in believing that certain proceedings are constitutional when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety requires them, which would not be constitutional when, in the absence of rebellion or invasion, the public safety does not require them: in other words, that the Constitution is not, in its application, in all respects the same, in cases of rebellion or invasion involving the public safety, as it is in times of profound peace and public security.
The Constitution itself makes the distinction; and I can no more be persuaded that the Government can constitutionally take no strong measures in time of rebellion, because it can be shown that the same could not be lawfully taken in time of peace, than I can be persuaded that a particular drug is not good medicine for a sick man, because it can be shown not to be good food for a well one.
Nor am I able to appreciate the danger apprehended by the meeting, that the American people will, by means of military arrests during the Rebellion, lose the right of public discussion, the liberty of speech and the press, the law of evidence, trial by jury, and habeas corpus, throughout the indefinite peaceful future, which I trust lies before them, any more than I am able to believe that a man could contract so strong an appetite for emetics during a temporary illness as to persist in feeding upon them during the remainder of his healthful life. * * *
One of the resolutions expresses the opinion of the meeting that arbitrary arrests will have the effect to divide and distract those who should be united in suppressing the Rebellion; and I am specifically called on to discharge Mr. Vallandigham.
I regard this as, at least, a fair appeal to me on the expediency of exercising a constitutional power which I think exists.
In response to such appeal, I have to say, it gave me pain when I learned that Mr. Vallandigham had been arrested — that is, I was pained that there should have seemed to be a necessity for arresting him — and that it will afford me great pleasure to discharge him so soon as I can, by any means, believe the public safety will not suffer by it.
Democratic Convention, which met1
, and by acclamation nominated Mr. Vallandigham
as their candidate for Governor, passed resolves strongly condemning his banishment as a palpable violation of four specified provisions of the Federal Constitution
, and appointed their President
(nearly all Members or ex-Members of Congress) a Committee to address the President
in favor of a revocation of the order of banishment.
In obeying this direction, that Committee, claiming to utter the sentiments of a majority of the people of Ohio
Mr. Vallandigham may differ with the President, and even with some of his own political party, as to the true and most effectual means of maintaining the Constitution and restoring the Union; but this difference of opinion does not prove him to be unfaithful to his duties as an American citizen.
If a man, devotedly attached to