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 So much excitement was caused by some of these arrests that the House of Representatives in special session, July 12, 1861, asked for information regarding them, and for a copy of the opinion of the attorney-general sustaining the right of the President or his subordinates to order such arrests. No action was taken, however, at this time. From the frequency with which these arrests were made on the order of the State Department grew the alleged statement of Secretary Seward to Lord Lyons, the British minister: ‘My Lord, I can touch a bell on my right hand and order the arrest of a citizen of Ohio. I can touch a bell again and order the imprisonment of a citizen in New York. And no power on earth except that of the President can release them. Can the Queen of England do so much?’ This statement, though often quoted, does not appear in any of the published correspondence or papers of Secretary Seward, and it is improbable that it was ever made in these precise words. However, it does express definitely and clearly the actual condition of affairs during the first year of the war. On February 14, 1862, according to the proclamation of President Lincoln, the custody of all prisoners of state was transferred from the Department of State to that of War, and only the latter department was thereafter authorized to make arrests. Secretary Stanton, on the same day, issued an order directing that ‘all political prisoners or state prisoners now held in military custody be released on their subscribing a parole engaging them to render no aid or comfort to the enemies in hostility to the United States. The Secretary of War will, however, in his discretion except . . . others whose release at the present moment may be deemed incompatible with the public safety. . . . Extraordinary arrests will hereafter be made under the direction of the military authorities alone.’ In some cases commissions of two, one a soldier the other a civilian, were authorized to hear the cases ex parte and report. General John A. Dix and Edwards Pierrepont examined the
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