previous next

[447] the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus may be suspended when the public safety re quires it, and the dangerous person may be arrested and held without bail or mainprise. This provision overrides the Constitution of the State of Delaware, or any statute that may be enacted by her Legislature.

To whom the right to decide when the exigency has happened requiring the exercise of the power of suspension, is a question of constitutional construction upon which jurists differ. That it is a necessary power is admitted. That it exists, there can be no doubt. Whoever is invested with the power to suspend is the sole judge of the occasion of its exercise. Being incidental to the general duty of the enforcement of the laws and now called into exercise for the suppression of armed insurrection, I am satisfied that it properly be-longs to the National Executive, and in my official acts I shall regard it as vested in the President of the United States.

The preservation of the Government is the highest duty of those charged with its administration, and the personal liberty of the individual is only to be regarded when compatible with its safety. That the citizens should have the right fairly to discuss public measures is true. That the people should be permitted peaceably to assemble, and petition for a redress of grievances is undeniable. But there is a wide difference between the exercise of this right and the disloyal opposition which proceeds from sympathy with a public enemy. The former supposes that all parties are well affected toward the common Government, and differ only as to the mode of its administration. The latter is based upon hostility to existing institutions and aims at their forcible subversion. The idea that the Government is bound to await the development of a conspiracy until the actors shall have perfected their plans and committed some overt act necessary to bring them within the technical definition of treason, is, to my mind, absurd. The object is not punishment, but prevention. That the power is liable to abuse is true; all discretionary powers necessarily are so. To decide against its existence because it is capable of excess would destroy all human government. The best mode to avoid liability to arrest is to be faithful. No man who is truly and unequivocally loyal has ever been in danger of being molested by the National Government.

Still, it is possible that arrests may be improperly and unadvisedly made, and while it is my duty to cooperate with the General Government in the maintenance of its authority, I will, at the same time, to the extent of my power, protect peaceful and loyal citizens, whatever may be their political sentiments. While, however, such is my purpose in relation to them, it is also my duty to take care that the State of Delaware shall not be made the refuge of foreign traitors or domestic conspirators.

That there has been from the beginning of the rebellion, a considerable number of our people ready to participate in armed resistance to the lawful authorities, whenever a fair opportunity should occur, I have no doubt. Sympathy with the Southern States in insurrection is sympathy with the overthrow of the National Government. No man can hear with gratification a reverse to our arms, who is not at heart a traitor.

My predecessor, in an official communication, expressed the opinion that “a majority of our citizens, if not in all of our counties, at least in the two lower ones, sympathize with the South.” Without admitting the correctness of his estimate of numbers, I do not doubt of the existence of wide-spread disaffection. That there has been no out-break here is the result of want of opportunity. It is the duty of the Executive, not only of the United States, but of this State, to take care that no opportunity shall be afforded. If, to secure the public peace, and to prevent insurrection, it becomes necessary to arrest any individual within this State, whether he be a citizen or a non-resident, I will not only assent to the act, but will maintain it.

Invested by the Constitution with no power of veto or review of the action of the Legislature, the Governor has a general control over the operation of criminal enactments, and such control I will exercise to its uttermost extent to protect any person acting under the authority of the President of the United States, or any citizen aiding such person in bringing to light any conspiracy, or in arresting any one guilty of disloyal practices or treasonable designs against the Government.

I shall issue my proclamation in conformity with these views, giving to the people of the State of Delaware information of my intended action.

Soon after the promulgation of these documents, the Legislature of Delaware passed the following:

Whereas, The Government of the United States and the several States are governments of law, within the limits of which all officials find rightful powers, and outside of which no official has any just claim to power or to obedience from his fellow-citizens; and whereas William Cannon, the Governor of this State, in his inaugural address, has avowed the false and dangerous doctrine that “reasonable ground for suspicion” can justify the arbitrary arrest and incarceration in prisons, far removed from the district of their residence, of citizens against whom no warrant has been issued or charge made according to law, and has unblushingly published his approval of these cruel and lawless arrests of his own fellow-citizens; and whereas he has thus proved him-self, by his own avowal, the weak but willing tool of Federal usurpation, and a Governor unworthy the respect and confidence of his fellow-citizens, one to whom they can look for no just protection of their rights of persons and property: therefore,

Resolved, That the doctrines of Governor Cannon's address, in regard to arbitrary and lawless arrests, are, if carried out, fatal to constitutional

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.
United States (United States) (4)
Delaware (Delaware, United States) (4)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
William Cannon (1)
Cannon (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: