Lincoln: Justified or Tyrant?

Essay by mattmcaHigh School, 10th gradeA+, April 2004

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Was President Lincoln's use of presidential and congressional powers justified, or is he the most glorified tyrant in American History? In 1860, tensions between the north and south were becoming more visibly strained. Social, economic, and political differences caused many in the south to want to secede, rather than to sacrifice their way of life. Their fears came to a head when Republican President Lincoln was elected president. His promise that no new territories would be allowed to have slaves gave the north control politically. The resulting secession is the start of the Civil War. The southern fears of Lincoln were realized in many of his actions as president. First, he called for 75,000 volunteers to quell the uprising. As Congress would not be in session until the following July, he took their responsibilities, authorizing military spending and organizing the coast blockade. However, his most questionable action was the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus is a device used by courts to question the lawfulness of detaining or holding a person in custody. Section 2, Clause 9 of the Constitution of the United States states that "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." Habeas Corpus is a fundamentally important concept for any democracy, but it was not defined in the Constitution or Bill of Rights. But it allows people to practice their freedoms, especially freedom of speech. The suspension of such an important thing by Lincoln may or may not be justified, but it gives a dangerous example of the fragility of our rights.

Lincoln had the difficult job of trying to keep the Border States of Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri in the Union, especially since they...