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civil liberty


Inthe civilized world, human right is a fundamental provision in thegovernance of the masses. The tools of power like the Constitutionguarantees for the civil liberties and rights. According to Young D.(2015), is that basic freedom provided by the Bill ofRights in the constitution. Americans are guaranteed rights to freespeech, jury trial, legal counsel, peaceful assembly, and the rightto be free from unusual and cruel punishment. During times of wars,like the civil wars, the freedom of speech and that of a fair trialcan be withdrawn. This paper will look at a classic example of theviolation of civil liberties during the civil war by Abraham Lincoln.It will examine if Lincoln’s actions were justified, his reasonsfor suspending the habeas corpus and why the Congressman Vallandighamposed a threat to the president and war efforts.

Justificationfor Lincoln’s actions

Lincoln’sactions were justified according to the US constitution. Thepresident, who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has theexecutive power to suppress a rebellion (Young D., 2015). Lincolnexplained that the seizure and trial of Clement L. Vallandigham werebecause of rebellion. The public safety was given priority since thelives of the citizenry depends on the armed forces.

Justlike the May 19, 1863 resolution of the Democrats, civil authority isthe voice of the people, not the military authority. The citizensshould have the freedom of speech and press, right to assemble andhave dissenting opinions on the affairs of the government, and triedin a free and fair judicial system. However, this was a time of warwhere the disclosure of sensitive information of the military by thepress was dangerous.

Civilliberties in times of national crisis or war

Nationalcrises such as civil wars present tough times for both the authorityand the citizenry. The government with the legitimacy to protect thepeople within its jurisdiction must find working methods to returnthings to normalcy (Møller &amp Skaaning, 2013). It is at suchmoments when the fundamental human rights are subjected to differenttreatment. For example, in the 1860-61 war in America, the then newlyelected President Abraham Lincoln realized that suspending key civilliberties was a matter of bringing back the American union ratherthan political gain (Young D., 2015). The habeas corpus, freedom ofthe press, assembly, and the right to free speech were suspended. Theactions were justified since the rivalry between the Southerners andNortherners would have been promoted by allowing people to exercisetheir rights.

Suspensionof habeas corpus

Inthe legal real, habeas corpus is the great writ of liberty. Whensomeone is supposedly held in custody in in an unjust manner, the lawrequires that the person is taken to the court upon which reasons forthe imprisonment must be shown. In case the detention cannot bejustified, the person is discharged. On the other hand, a case ofrebellion leaves the government with an option to suspend the rule oflaw. As in the Lincoln suspension, he felt the rise against themilitary authority as a threat to the safety of the people as well asthe government. It was, therefore, difficult to follow the often longroute of justice while the country was at war. The president wasjustified as he had the responsibility to strike a balance betweencitizens’ liberty and the safety of both the government and thepublic.

CongressmanVallandigham was a threat to Lincoln and the war effort

Vallandighamcriticized the placement of military authority over theconstitutionally guaranteed civil authority by Lincoln. This was athreat to the peace and unity that the president advocated for. Theescalation of the war could not give room for the rule of law, whilethe free speech and the press only served to spark the differences.


Møller,J., &amp Skaaning, S. E. (2013). Autocracies, democracies, and theviolation of civil liberties.&nbspDemocratization,&nbsp20(1),82-106.

Young,E. D. (2015). Lincoln and the Constitution.&nbspSaber andScroll,&nbsp1(3), 5.