The Lincoln administration arrested 14,401 people… during the Civil War. Most were never indicted and denied a speedy trial. Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus in September of 1861 allowed the detentions to happen. Current Lincoln scholarship trends hold that Lincoln abused civil liberties and that his historical legacy must be drawn into question. A closer examination of the statistics shows that modern researchers are using them merely for shock value and book sales. Compared to other Presidents using the same powers- Lincoln’s actions are clearly justified.
John Merryman was not an innocent victim… of government tyranny as portrayed by Chief Justice Roger Taney. Merryman led a detachment of Maryland militiamen in armed resistance to troops in Federal service. Taney was a partisan Democrat staunchly opposed to Lincoln and supportive of secessionist doctrine. Ex parte Merryman is not legal precedent at all and cannot be cited as such- it is a political document designed to hinder Lincoln’s attempts to protect Washington and preserve the Union. It was issued by Taney alone- scholars often make the mistake of assuming that the Supreme Court concurred with the ruling.
Lincoln faced no mass opposition to these detentions… there were no mass protests, nor mob violence. A closer look into the statistics shows that well over 80% of those arrested were:
- from the Confederacy
- Agitators in border states
- Foreign agents supporting the enemy
- Perpetrators of actual crimes against the Government
Far from indiscriminate arrests, the detentions were almost always a direct result of an attributable illegal act. Rose Greenhow WAS a spy and did pass secrets to the enemy. Clement Vallandigham routinely denounced Lincoln on the floor of the House of Representatives and was never arrested for it- but when he publicly incited recruits to desert- he committed sedition and was arrested.