After Lincoln's election, but before he took office, seven Southern states seceded from the Union: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.
Lincoln’s Inauguration - 1861
Firing on Ft. Sumter
Confederate flag flying over Fort Sumter
Soon, the slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joined the Confederacy.
Abraham Lincoln in 1861
In the Anglo-American tradition, prisoners can petition a judge for what is known as a writ of habeas corpus. “Habeas corpus” is part of a latin phrase meaning “produce the body.”This writ refersr to a judicial order to a jailer to produce the prisoner’s body to the court.
Ft. McHenry in Baltimore
“I can see no ground whatever for supposing that the president, in any emergency, or in any state of things, can authorize the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, or the arrest of a citizen, except in aid of the judicial power. He certainly does not faithfully execute the laws, if he takes upon himself legislative power, by suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and the judicial power also, by arresting and imprisoning a person without due process of law.”
Taney ordered that his written opinion should ‘‘be laid before the president, in order that he might perform his constitutional duty, to enforce the laws, by securing obedience to the process of the United States.’’
The White House
According to Professor Seth Barrett Tillman, Taney merely had his opinion on the constitutionality of Lincoln’s action transmitted to the President.
“Taney issued no order to release Merryman. It follows, therefore, that Lincoln could not have ignored or defied it, nor could anyone else for that matter.”
In the contentious election of 1860, Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected President without receiving a single electoral vote from a Southern state. After his election, but before he took office, seven Southern states seceded from the Union: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.
On March 4, 1861, Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney issued the oath of office to Lincoln. During his inaugural address, Lincoln assured the remaining slave states, which had not yet seceded, that he would not disturb their institutionalized slavery. His promises, however, would not be effective. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Unable to receive federal reinforcements, the fort was surrendered three days later. Soon, the slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joined the Confederacy.
Though the conflict is called the Civil War, Congress never formally voted on a declaration of war. Rather, President Lincoln prosecuted the military campaign through broad and largely unprecedented assertions of executive powers. Ex Parte Merryman (1861), decided by Taney, considered whether the President could deny a prisoner the right to ask a judge to determine the legality of his confinement.