Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, 85 years old when President Lincoln issued the warrant for his arrest and dead before the end of the war, wrote in Ex Parte Merryman
: "If the President of the United States may suspend the writ [of habeas corpus], then the Constitution of the United States has conferred upon him more regal and absolute power over the liberty of the citizen than the people of England have thought it safe to entrust to the crown--a power which the Queen of England cannot exercise to this day, and which could not have been lawfully exercised by the sovereign even in the reign of Charles the First."
Neely reads the case of Ex parte Merryman
as a vital conflict in which "the political future of the United States was at stake" (48).
If they deal with legal issues at all, most Lincoln biographies and general histories of the Civil War era focus on the president's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and the resulting litigation in Ex parte Merryman
, Ex parte Vallandigham, and Ex parte Milligan.
Chief Justice Roger Taney concluded in the case of Ex parte Merryman
that, because the Suspension Clause is in Article I, it must have been understood as a power of Congress rather than the president--a reasonable interpretation, though hardly indisputable.
Ragsdale, Ex Parte Merryman
and Debates of Civil Liberties During the Civil War (Federal Judicial Center 2007).
(145) Taney eventually came down with a decision in Ex parte Merryman, (146) in which he delivered a stinging rebuke to the president, declaring Lincoln's act in suspending the writ unconstitutional.
This consideration is limited to the facts surrounding Ex parte Merryman, 17 F.
In Ex parte Merryman
, Chief Justice Taney, sitting as a circuit court judge, argued that President Lincoln had violated the language of the Suspension Clause.
His actions brought him into personal and professional conflict with Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney, who declared Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus illegal in Ex Parte Merryman
, a decision Lincoln essentially ignored.
Moreover, the ruling of the Supreme Court in Ex parte Merryman
appears to make the military order unconstitutional for resident aliens who are deemed by the President to be subject to the order.
33) When the dispatched marshal was refused entrance at the fort, Taney wrote his famous opinion in Ex parte Merryman
The author covers Abraham Lincoln's actions during the American Civil War and the landmark cases Ex parte Merryman
(1861) and Ex parte Milligan (1866).