Background[ edit ] Suppression of dissenters[ edit ] During the American Civil War , the administration of President Abraham Lincoln dealt with Union dissenters by declaring martial law , sanctioning arbitrary arrest and detention , suspending the writ of habeas corpus that requires justification of the detention, and initiating trials by military commission rather than conventional civil courts. The rationale for these actions was based on Article 1, Section 9 of the U. Constitution , which authorizes the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus "when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it. Clement Vallandigham , an Ohio politician and anti-war Democrat , was placed under arrest on May 5, , taken to Cincinnati for a trial before a military commission, and jailed. Vallandigham was found guilty and sentenced to prison for the remainder of the war, but Lincoln commuted the sentence. Supreme Court , known as Ex parte Vallandigham , was denied.
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Ex parte Milligan, 71 U. Circuit Courts, as well as the judges thereof, are authorized, by the fourteenth section of the Judiciary Act, to issue the writ of habeas corpus for the purpose of inquiring into the cause of commitment, and they have Page 71 U. The usual course of proceeding is for the court, on the application of the prisoner for a writ of habeas corpus, to issue the writ, and, on its return, to hear and dispose of the case; but where the cause of imprisonment is fully shown by the petition, the court may, without issuing the writ, consider and determine whether, upon the facts presented in the petition, the prisoner, if brought before the court, would be discharged.
When the Circuit Court renders a final judgment refusing to discharge the prisoner, he may bring the case here by writ of error, and, if the judges of the Circuit Court, being opposed in opinion, can render no judgment, he may have the point upon which the disagreement happens certified to this tribunal. A petition for a writ of habeas corpus, duly presented, is the institution of a cause on behalf of the petitioner, and the allowance or refusal of the process, as well as the subsequent disposition of the prisoner is matter of law, and not of discretion.
A person arrested after the passage of the act of March 3d, , "relating to habeas corpus and regulating judicial proceedings in certain cases," and under the authority of said act, was entitled to his discharge if not indicted or presented by the grand jury convened at the first subsequent term of the Circuit or District Court of the United States for the District.
The omission to furnish a list of the persons arrested to the judges of the Circuit or District Court as provided in the said act did not impair the right of said person, if not indicted or presented, to his discharge. Military commissions organized during the late civil war, in a State not invaded and not engaged in rebellion, in which the Federal courts were open, and in the proper and unobstructed exercise of their judicial functions, had no jurisdiction to try, convict, or sentence for any criminal offence, a citizen who was neither a resident of a rebellious State nor a prisoner of war, nor a person in the military or naval service.
And Congress could not invest them with any such power. The guaranty of trial by jury contained in the Constitution was intended for a state of war, as well as a state of peace, and is equally binding upon rulers and people at all times and under all circumstances. The Federal authority having been unopposed in the State of Indiana, and the Federal courts open for the trial of offences and the redress of grievances, the usages of war could not, under the Constitution, afford any sanction for the trial there of a citizen in civil life not connected with the military or naval service, by a military tribunal, for any offence whatever.
Cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia in time of war or public danger, are excepted from the necessity of presentment or indictment by a grand jury, and the right of trial by jury in such cases is subject to the same exception. Page 71 U. Neither the President nor Congress nor the Judiciary can disturb any one of the safeguards of civil liberty incorporated into the Constitution except so far as the right is given to suspend in certain cases the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
A citizen not connected with the military service and a resident in a State where the courts are open and in the proper exercise or their jurisdiction cannot, even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended, be tried, convicted, or sentenced otherwise than by the ordinary courts of law.
Suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus does not suspend the writ itself. The writ issues as a matter of course, and, on its return, the court decides whether the applicant is denied the right of proceeding any further.
A person who is a resident of a loyal State, where he was arrested, who was never resident in any State engaged in rebellion, nor connected with the military or naval service, cannot be regarded as a prisoner of war.
This case came before the court upon a certificate of division from the judges of the Circuit Court for Indiana, on a petition for discharge from unlawful imprisonment. The case was thus: An act of Congress -- the Judiciary Act of , [ Footnote 1 ] section 14 -- enacts that the Circuit Courts of the United States "Shall have power to issue writs of habeas corpus.
And that either of the justices of the Supreme Court, as well as judges of the District Court, shall have power to grant writs of habeas corpus for the purpose of an inquiry into the cause of commitment. Another act -- that of March 3d, , [ Footnote 2 ] "relating to habeas corpus, and regulating judicial proceedings in certain cases" -- an act passed in the midst of the Rebellion -- makes various provisions in regard to the subject of it.
The first section authorizes the suspension, during the Rebellion, of the writ of habeas corpus, throughout the United States, by the President. Two following sections limited the authority in certain respects. These lists were to contain the names of all persons, residing within their respective jurisdictions, charged with violation of national law. And it was required, in cases where the grand jury in attendance upon any of these courts should terminate its session without proceeding by indictment or otherwise against any prisoner named in the list, that the judge of the court should forthwith make an order that such prisoner, desiring a discharge, should be brought before him or the court to be discharged, on entering into recognizance, if required, to keep the peace and for good behavior, or to appear, as the court might direct, to be further dealt with according to law.
This act made it the duty of the District Attorney of the United States to attend examinations on petitions for discharge. By proclamation, [ Footnote 3 ] dated the 15th September following, Page 71 U. Milligan, a citizen of the United States, and a resident and citizen of the State of Indiana, was arrested on the 5th day of October, , at his home in the said State, by the order of Brevet Major-General Hovey, military commandant of the District of Indiana, and by the same authority confined in a military prison at or near Indianapolis, the capital of the State.
On the 21st day of the same month, he was placed on trial before a "military commission," convened at Indianapolis, by order of the said General, upon the following charges, preferred by Major Burnett, Judge Advocate of the Northwestern Military Department, namely: 1.
The substance of them was joining and aiding, at different times between October, , and August, , a secret society known as the Order of American Knights or Sons of Liberty, for the purpose of overthrowing the Government and duly constituted authorities of the United States; holding communication with the enemy; conspiring to seize munitions of war stored in the arsenals; to liberate Page 71 U.
An objection by him to the authority of the commission to try him being overruled, Milligan was found guilty on all the charges, and sentenced to suffer death by hanging, and this sentence, having been approved, he was ordered to be executed on Friday, the 19th of May, On the 10th of that same May, , Milligan filed his petition in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Indiana, by which, or by the documents appended to which as exhibits, the above facts appeared.
These exhibits consisted of the order for the commission; the charges and specifications; the findings and sentence of the court, with a statement of the fact that the sentence was approved by the President of the United States, who directed that it should "be carried into execution without delay;" all "by order of the Secretary of War. That at no time had he been in the military service of the United States, or in any way connected with the land or naval force, or the militia in actual service; nor within the limits of any State whose citizens were engaged in rebellion against the United States, at any time during the war, but, during all the time aforesaid, and for twenty years last past, he had been an Page 71 U.
And so that it had been "wholly out of his power to have acquired belligerent rights or to have placed himself in such relation to the government as to have enabled him to violate the laws of war.
Gorden, Esq. At the same time comes John Hanna, Esquire, the attorney prosecuting the pleas of the United States in this behalf. At the hearing of the petition in the Circuit Court, the opinions of the judges were opposed upon the following questions: I.
On the facts stated in the petition and exhibits, ought a writ of habeas corpus to be issued according to the prayer of said petitioner? On the facts stated in the petition and exhibits, ought the said Milligan to be discharged from custody as in said petition prayed?
Whether, upon the facts stated in the petition and exhibits, the military commission had jurisdiction legally to try and sentence said Milligan in manner and form, as in said petition and exhibit is stated? And these questions were certified to this court under the provisions of the act of Congress of April 29th, , [ Footnote 4 ] an act Page 71 U.
And along with them, an additional question raised in this court, namely: IV. A question of jurisdiction, as -- 1. Whether the Circuit Court had jurisdiction to hear the case there presented? Whether the case sent up here by certificate of division was so sent up in conformity with the intention of the act of ? On the 10th day of May, , Lambdin P. Milligan presented a petition to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Indiana to be discharged from an alleged unlawful imprisonment.
The case made by the petition is this: Milligan is a citizen of the United States; has lived for twenty years in Indiana, and, at the time of the grievances complained of, was not, and never had been, in the military or naval service of the United States.
On the 5th day of October, , while at home, he was arrested by order of General Alvin P. Hovey, commanding the military district of Indiana, and has ever since been kept in close confinement. On the 21st day of October, , he was brought before a military commission, convened at Indianapolis by order of General Hovey, tried on certain charges and specifications, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged, and the sentence ordered to be executed on Friday, the 19th day of May, On the 2d day of January, , after the proceedings of the military commission were at an end, the Circuit Court of the United States for Indiana met at Indianapolis and empaneled a grand jury, who were charged to inquire Page 71 U.
The court adjourned on the 27th day of January, having, prior thereto, discharged from further service the grand jury, who did not find any bill of indictment or make any presentment against Milligan for any offence whatever, and, in fact, since his imprisonment, no bill of indictment has been found or presentment made against him by any grand jury of the United States.
Milligan insists that said military commission had no jurisdiction to try him upon the charges preferred, or upon any charges whatever, because he was a citizen of the United States and the State of Indiana, and had not been, since the commencement of the late Rebellion, a resident of any of the States whose citizens were arrayed against the government, and that the right of trial by jury was guaranteed to him by the Constitution of the United States.
The prayer of the petition was that, under the act of Congress approved March 3d, , entitled, "An act relating to habeas corpus and regulating judicial proceedings in certain cases," he may be brought before the court and either turned over to the proper civil tribunal to be proceeded against according to the law of the land or discharged from custody altogether.
With the petition were filed the order for the commission, the charges and specifications, the findings of the court, with the order of the War Department reciting that the sentence was approved by the President of the United States, and directing that it be carried into execution without delay.
The petition was presented and filed in open court by the counsel for Milligan; at the same time, the District Attorney of the United States for Indiana appeared and, by the agreement of counsel, the application was submitted to the court.
The opinions of the judges of the Circuit Court were opposed on three questions, which are certified to the Supreme Court: 1st.
Milligan to be discharged from custody as in said petition prayed? During the late wicked Rebellion, the temper of the times did not allow that calmness in deliberation and discussion so necessary to a correct conclusion of a purely judicial question. Then, considerations of safety were mingled with the exercise of power, and feelings and interests prevailed which are happily terminated.
Now that the public safety is assured, this question, as well as all others, can be discussed and decided without passion or the admixture of any element not required to form a legal judgment. We approach the investigation of this case fully sensible of the magnitude of the inquiry and the necessity of full and cautious deliberation. But we are met with a preliminary objection. It is insisted that the Circuit Court of Indiana had no authority to certify these questions, and that we are without jurisdiction to hear and determine them.
The sixth section of the "Act to amend the judicial system of the United States," approved April 29, , declares "that whenever any question shall occur before a Circuit Court upon which the opinions of the judges shall be opposed, the point upon which the disagreement shall happen shall, during the same term, upon the request of either party or their counsel, be stated under the direction of the judges and certified under the seal of the court to the Supreme Court at their next session to be held thereafter, and shall by the said court be finally decided, and the decision of the Page 71 U.
The inquiry, therefore, is, whether the case of Milligan is brought within its terms. It was admitted at the bar that the Circuit Court had jurisdiction to entertain the application for the writ of habeas corpus and to hear and determine it, and it could not be denied, for the power is expressly given in the 14th section of the Judiciary Act of , as well as in the later act of But it is maintained with earnestness and ability that a certificate of division of opinion can occur only in a cause, and that the proceeding by a party moving for a writ of habeas corpus does not become a cause until after the writ has been issued and a return made.
Independently of the provisions of the act of Congress of March 3, , relating to habeas corpus, on which the petitioner bases his claim for relief and which we will presently consider, can this position be sustained? It is true that it is usual for a court, on application for a writ of habeas corpus, to issue the writ, and, on the return, to dispose of the case, but the court can elect to waive the issuing of the writ and consider whether, upon the facts presented in the petition, the prisoner, if brought before it, could be discharged.
One of the very points on which the case of Tobias Watkins, reported in 3 Peters, [ Footnote 6 ] turned was whether, if the writ was issued, the petitioner would be remanded upon the case which he had made. The Chief Justice, in delivering the opinion of the court, said: "The cause of imprisonment is shown as fully by the petitioner as it could appear on the return of the writ; consequently, the writ ought not to be awarded if the court is satisfied that the prisoner would be remanded to prison.
But, it is contended, if they differed about the lawfulness of the imprisonment, and could render no judgment, the prisoner is remediless, and cannot have the disputed question certified under the act of His remedy is complete by writ of error or appeal, if the court renders a final judgment refusing to discharge him; but if he should be so unfortunate as to be placed in the predicament of having the court divided on the question whether he should live or die, he is hopeless, and without remedy.
He wishes the vital question settled not by a single judge at his chambers, but by the highest tribunal known to the Constitution, and yet the privilege is denied him because the Circuit Court consists of two judges, instead of one.
Such a result was not in the contemplation of the legislature of , and the language used by it cannot be construed to mean any such thing. The clause under consideration was introduced to further the ends of justice by obtaining a speedy settlement of important questions where the judges might be opposed in opinion.
The act of so changed the judicial system that the Circuit Court, instead of three, was composed of two judges, and, without this provision or a kindred one, if the judges differed, the difference would remain, the question be unsettled, and justice denied.
The decisions of this court upon the provisions of this section have been numerous. In United States v. Daniel, [ Footnote 7 ] the court, in holding that a division Page 71 U. If, in the sense of the law, the proceeding for the writ of habeas corpus was the "cause" of the party applying for it, then it is evident that the "cause" was pending before the court, and that the questions certified arose out of it, belonged to it, and were matters of right, and not of discretion.
But it is argued that the proceeding does not ripen into a cause until there are two parties to it. This we deny.
It was the cause of Milligan when the petition was presented to the Circuit Court. It would have been the cause of both parties if the court had issued the writ and brought those who held Milligan in custody before it. Webster defines the word "cause" thus: "A suit or action in court; any legal process which a party institutes to obtain his demand, or by which he seeks his right, or supposed right" -- and he says, "this is a legal, scriptural, and popular use of the word, coinciding nearly with case, from cado, and action, from ago, to urge and drive.
Milligan supposed he had a right to test the validity of his trial and sentence, and the proceeding which he set in operation for that purpose was his "cause" or "suit. He was powerless to do more; he could neither instruct the judges nor control their action, and should not suffer, because, without fault of his, they were unable to render a judgment.
But the true meaning to the term "suit" has been given by this court. One of the questions in Weston v. City Council of Charleston, [ Footnote 8 ] was whether a writ of prohibition was a suit, and Chief Justice Marshall says: "The term is certainly a comprehensive one, and is understood to apply to any proceeding in a court of justice by which an individual pursues that remedy which the law affords him.
Again, in Cohens v. Virginia, [ Footnote 9 ] he says: "In law language, a suit is the prosecution of some demand in a court of justice. One of the questions in Holmes v. Jennison, et al.
Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866)
In Ex parte Milligan, the Court held that Presedent Lincoln had violated the Consitition by suspending the right of habeus corpus during the Civil War. Above, Union troops march through Washington, D. The Court also ruled that military tribunals generally lack jurisdiction over civilians who are not connected with or engaged in armed conflict. Assessing the rights of an Indiana citizen accused of plotting against Union forces during the Civil War, the basic rules defined in Milligan are quite relevant today. On October 5, , Lamdin P. Milligan was taken into custody by the U.
Ex Parte Milligan (1866)
Milligan was arrested by the command of General Alvin P. Hovey for certain charges that are not discussed. He was taken into custody and sentenced to be hanged. He petitioned to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Indiana to be discharged from his imprisonment. Issue Does the military have jurisdiction to try and convict Lambdin P.
Ex Parte Milligan
Ex Parte Milligan Summary Lambdin. He was known to persuade people not to join the Union Army and was suspected of joining efforts to release Confederate prisoners of war in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Milligan and the other detainees were arrested for conspiring against the United States and giving aid and comfort to the Confederacy. The lawyer argued that the military courts were unconstitutional and that the president could not suspend the writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court agreed in a decision and released him from custody. This dilemma was somewhat answered during and after the Civil War — and after , American lives were lost.