To state the question more directly, are all the laws but one to go unexecuted and the Government itself go to pieces lest that one be violated? Even in such a case would not the official oath be broken if the Government should be overthrown when it was believed that disregarding the single law would tend to preserve it? But it was not believed that this question was presented. It was not believed that any law was violated.
The provision of the Constitution that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it is equivalent to a provision - is a provision - that such privilege may be suspended when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety does require it. It was decided that we have a case of rebellion and that the public safety does require the qualified suspension of the privilege of the writ which was authorized to be made.
Now it is insisted that Congress and not the Executive is vested with that power. But the Constitution itself is silent as to which or who is to exercise the power; and as the provision was plainly made for a dangerous emergency it cannot be believed the framers of the instrument intended that in every case the danger should run its course until Congress could be called together; the very assembling of which might be prevented as was intended in this case by the rebellion.
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PALOZZO BACIOCCHI, Florence, Italy, July 6, 1861.
Honorable PRESTON KING.
MY DEAR SIR: While taking a social up of tea on the 4th with our consul-general, resident in this city, he informed me that he had recently received one of three letters that had been sent to this city under the cover of the obliging concul of Her Britannic Majesty of England, resident at Richmond, Va., by one of the rebels of that State who is now a soldier in the Army of the Confederate States. The writer of these letters was for several years previous to the breaking out of this atrocious rebellion a resident of this city, but he returned to Virginia in March last and has now as he says in his letters to the consul taken up arms against the Government of the United States.
The letters that this minsguided and foolish fellow was sent here under cover of the British consul at Richmond have simply reference to business and friendly relations and in themselves are of no public importance whatever; but inasmuch as he says in them (one of which I took pains yesterday to get a glance at) that his friend the British consul at Richmond will allow replies from his correspondents here in Florence to go to the writer under his cover (the consul's), it shows how communications may pass between the enemies of our Government which in the present crisis in its affairs may be of vital importance. I said therefore to our consul that I thought he ought at once to apprise the Government of the fact that the British consul at Richmond, Va., was obliging his friends by the use of his official position and privileges in aid of their correspondence in a manner that might be found detrimental to the interests of the country. The consul is by birth a North Carolinian and an appointee of Buchanan and said he did not like the idea of being an informer; but I urged the importance of this fact being communicated to the Government at Washington so strongly that he finally indicated a disposition to write to some one there about it.