Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"and all this under the plea of necessity"

Hon. C.L Vallandigham,
Of Ohio,
On The Loan Bill,
In the House of Representatives U.S. Congress,
Wednesday, July 10, 1861.

. . . . As to the pretense, sir, that the President has the constitutional right to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, I will not waste time or breath in arguing it. The case is as plain as plain words can make it. It is a legislative power, it is found only in the legislative article; it belongs to congress only to do it. Subordinate officers have disobeyed it; Gen. Wilkinson disobeyed it, but he sent his prisoners on for judicial trial; Gen. Jackson disobeyed it, and was reprimanded by James Madison; but no President, nobody but congress ever before assumed the right to suspend it. And, sir, that other pretense of necessity, I repeat cannot be allowed. It had no existence in fact. The constitution cannot be preserved by violating it. It is an offense to the intelligence of this house and of the country, to pretend  that all this, and the other gross and multiplied infractions of the constitution and usurpations of power were done by the president and his advisors out of pure love and devotion to the constitution. But if so, sir, then they have but one step farther to take, and declare, in the language of Sir Boyle Roche in the Irish house of commons, that such is the depth of their attachments to it, that they are prepared to give up, not merely a part, but the whole of the constitution, to preserve the remainder. And, sir, if indeed this pretext of necessity be well founded, then let me say, that a cause which demands the sacrifice of the constitution and of the dearest securities of property, liberty, and life, cannot be just, or at least it is not worth the sacrifice.

   Sir, I am obliged to pass by, for want of time, other grave and dangerous infractions and usurpations of the president since the first of April. I only allude casually to the quartering of soldiers in private houses without the consent of the owners, and without any manner having been prescribed by law; to the censorship over the telegraph, and the infringement repeatedly, in one or more of the States, of the right of the people to keep and bear arms for their defense. But if all these things, I ask, have been done in the first two months after the commencement of this war, and by men not military chieftains, and unused to arbitrary power, what may we not expect to see done in three years, and by the successful heroes of the fight? Sir, the power and rights of the States, and the people, and of their representatives, have been usurped; the sanctity of the private house and of private property has been invaded; and the liberty of the person wantonly and wickedly stricken down; free speech, too, has been repeatedly denied; and all this under the plea of necessity. Sir, the right of petition will follow next--nay, it has already been shaken; and the freedom of the press will soon follow after it; and let me whisper in your ear, there will be few to mourn over its loss, unless, indeed, its ancient high and honorable character shall be rescued and redeemed from its present reckless mendacity and degradation. Freedom of religion will yield, too, at last, amid the exultant shouts of millions, who have seen its holy temples defiled and its white robes of a former innocence trampled now under the polluting hoofs of an ambitious and faithless or fanatical clergy. Mean time national banks, bankrupt laws, a vast and permanent public debt, high tariffs, heavy direct taxation, enormous expenditure, gigantic and stupendous speculation, anarchy first and a strong government afterward, no more State lines, no more State governments, and a consolidated monarchy or vast centralized military despotism, must all follow in the history of the future, as in the history of the past they have, centuries ago, been written. Sir, I have said nothing and have time to say nothing now, of the immense indebtedness and the vast expenditures which have already accrued, nor of the folly and mismanagement of the war so far, nor of the atrocious and shameless peculations and frauds which have disgraced it in the State governments and the federal government from the beginning. The avenging hour for all these will come hereafter, and I pass them by now....

- The Memphis Daily Appeal, Friday Morning, July 19, 1861. Pg. 1.

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