can be required for the purposes of the Government? The idea that all the constitutional guarantees of personal liberty are suspended throughout the country at a time of insurrection or invasion in any part of it places us upon a sea of uncertainty, and subjects the life, liberty, and property of every citizen to the mere will of a military commander or what he may say that he considers the public safety requires. Does Your Excellency wish to have it understood that you hold that the rights of every man throughout this vast country are subject to be annulled whenever you may say that you consider the public safety requires it, in time of invasion or insurrection?
You are further reported as having said that the constitutional guarantees of personal liberty have -
No application to the present case we have in hand, because the arrests complained of were not made for treason - that is, not for the treason defined in the Constitution, and upon the conviction of which the punishment is death - nor yet were they made to hold persons to answer for capital or otherwise infamous crimes - nor were the proceedings following in any constitutional or legal sense "criminal prosecutions. " The arrests were made on totally different grounds and the proceedings following accorded with the grounds of the arrests, &c.
The conclusion to be drawn from this position of Your Excellency is that where a man is liable to "a criminal prosecution" or is charged with a crime known to the laws of the land he is clothed with all the constitutional guarantees for his safety and security from wrong and injustice, but that where he is not liable to "a criminal prosecution" or charged with any crime known to the laws if the President or any military commander shall say that he considers that the public safety requires it this man may be put outside of the pale of the constitutional guarantees and arrested without charge of crime, imprisoned without knowing what for and any length of time, or be tried before a court-martial and sentenced to any kind of punishment unknown to the laws of the land which the President or the military commander may see proper to impose. Did the Constitution intend to throw the shield of its securities around the man liable to be charged with treason as defined by it and yet leave the man not liable to any such charge unprotected by the safeguards of personal liberty and personal security? Can a man not in the military or naval service within the field of the operations of the army be arrested and imprisoned without any law of the land to authorize it? Can a man thus in civil life be punished without any law defining the offense and describing the punishment? If the President or a court-martial may prescribe one kind of punishment unauthorized by law, why not any other kind? Banishment is an unusual punishment and unknown to our laws. If the President has the right to prescribe the punishment of banishment, why not that of death and confiscation of property? If the President has the right to change the punishment prescribed by the court-martial from imprisonment to banishment, why not from imprisonment to torture upon the rack or execution upon the gibbet?
If an indefinable kind of constructive treason is to be introduced and ingrafted upon the Constitution unknown to the laws of the land and subject to the will of the President whenever an insurrection or an invasion shall occur in any part of this vast country, what safety or security will be left for the liberties of the people?
The constructive treasons that gave the friends of freedom so many years of toil and trouble in England were inconsiderable compared to this. The precedents which you make will become a part of the Constitution for your successors if sanctioned and acquiesced in by the people now.