will hardly be seriously affirmed that a judge at chambers can entertain an appeal in any form a decision of the President of the United States, and especially in a case purely political.
There is but one sentence in the Constitution which mentions the writ of habeas corpus (art. 1, sec. 9, clause 2), which is the these words: "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. "
Very learned persons have differed widely about the meaning of this short sentence, and I am by no means confident that I fully understand it myself. The sententious language of the Constitution in this particular must I suppose be interpreted with reference to the origin of our people, their historical relations to the mother country and their inchoate political condition at the moment when our Constitution was formed. At that time the United States as a nation had no common law of its own, and no statutory provision for the writ of habeas corpus. Still the people, English by descent, even while in open rebellion against the English Crown claimed a sort of historical right to the forms of English law and the guarantees of English freedom. They knew that the English Crown claimed a sort of historical right to the forms of English law and the guarantees of English freedom. They knew that the English Government had more than once assumed the power to imprison whom it would, and hold them for an indefinite time beyond the reach of judicial examination; and they desired no doubt to interpose a guard against the like abuses in this country. And hence the clause of the Constitution now under consideration. But we must try to construe the words, vague and underterminate as they are, as we find them. "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended," &c. Does that mean that the writ itself shall not be issued, or that being issued the party shall derive no benefit from it? Suspended - does that mean delayed, hung up for a time or altogether denied? The writ of habeas corpus - which writ? In England there were may writs called by that name and used by the courts for the more convenient exercise of their various powers; and our own courts now by acts of Congress, the judiciary act of 1780, section 14, and the act of March 2, 1833, section 7, have I believe equivalent powers.
It has been decided by the Supreme Court and I doubt not correctly (see Bollman Swartwout's Case, 4 C., 93) that "for the meaning of the term habeas corpus resort must be had to the common law, but the power to award the writ by any of the courts of the United States must be given by written law. " And the same high court (judging no doubt by the history of our people and the circumstances of the times) has also decided that the writ of habeas corpus mentioned in the Constitution is the great writ ad subjiciendum.
That writ, in its nature, action and objects is tersely and accurately described by Sir William Blackstone. I adopt his language as found in his Commentaries (book 3, p. 131):
But the great and efficacious writ in all manner of illegal confinement is that of habeas corpus ad subjuciendum, directed to the person detaining another and commanding him to produce the body of the prisoner, with the day and cause of his caption and detention, ad faciendum, subjiciendum, et recipiendum, to do, submit to and receive whatsoever the judge or court awarding such writ shall consider in that behalf. This is a high prerogative writ, and therefore by the common law, issuing out of the court of king's bench not only in term time but also during the vacation by a fiat from the chief justive or any other of the judges, and running into all parts of the king's dominions; for the King is at all times entitled to have an account why the liberty of any of his subjects is restrained, wherever that restraint may be inflicted.
Such is the writ of habeas corpus of which the Constitution declares that the privilege thereof shall not be suspended except when in cases