WASHINGTON, June 29, 1863.
Messrs. M. BIRCHARD [and others]: *
GENTLEMEN: The resolutions of the Ohio Democratic State convention which you present me together with your introductory and closing remarks, being in position and argument mainly the same as the resolutions of the Democratic meeting at Albany, N. Y., I refer you to my response+ to the latter as meeting most of the points in the former.
This response you evidently used in preparing your remarks and I desire no more than that it be used with accuracy. In a singly reading of your remarks I only discovered one inaccuracy in matter which I suppose you took from that paper. It is where you say the undersigned are unable to agree with you in the opinion you have expressed that the Constitution is different in time of insurrection or invasion from what it is in time of peace and public security.
A recurrence to the paper will show you that I have not expressed the opinion you suppose. I expressed the opinion that the Constitution is different in its application in cases of rebellion or invasion involving the public safety from what it is in times of profound peace and public security; and this opinion I adhere to simply because by the Constitution itself things may be done in the one case which may not be done in the other.
I dislike to waste a wold on a mere personal point, but I must respectfully assure you that you will find yourselves at fault should you ever seek for evidence to prove your assumption that I "opposed in discussions before the people the policy of the Mexican war. "
You say, "Expunge to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and yet the other guarantees of personal liberty would remain unchanged. " Doubt less if this clause of the Constitution, improperly called, as I think, a limitation upon the power of Congress, were expunged, the other guarantees would remain the same; but the question is not how those guarantees would stand with that clause out of the constitution, but how they stand with that clause remaining in it in case of rebellion or invasion involving the public safety. If the liberty could be indulged of expunging that clause, letter and spirit, I really think the constitutional argument would be with you.
My general view of this question was stated in the Albany response, and hence I do not state it now. I only add that, it seems to me, the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus is the great means through which the guarantees of personal liberty are conserved and made available in the last resort; and corroborative of this view is the fact that Mr. Vallandigham, in the very case in question, under the advise of able lawyers, saw not where else to go but to the habeas corpus. But by the Constitution the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus itself may be suspended when, in case of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.
You ask, in substance, whether I really claim that I may override all the guaranteed rights of individuals, on the plea of conserving the public safety, when I may choose to say the public safety requires it? This question, divested of the phraseology calculated to represent me as struggling for an arbitrary personal prerogative, is either simply a question who shall decide or an affirmation that nobody shall decide what the public safety does require in cases of rebellion or invasion. The
* See signatures to the letter of the 26th to the President, p. 48. Those names were all included in this address.
+ For Lincoln to Corning and others see p. 4.