As Lincoln prepared his invasion of the South after Fort Sumter, he responded to public outcry in Maryland with illegally suspending the right of habeas corpus, increasingly severe repression, and monitoring elections. The author below writes that Lincoln’s “clumsy response is better explained by psychological impulse than by political imperative,” as he could not abide having dissident Maryland citizens waving Southern banners so close to his political seat.
Bernhard Thuersam www.Circa1865.org
Martial Law in Maryland
“[General Winfield] Scott . . . [issued the order] for the arrest of Baltimore’s city marshal, George P. Kane, and the entire board of police commissioners – all of whom [were] implicated in the imagined [Maryland secession] plot.
So it was that at an early hour on June 27, 1861, a detachment of troops marched through Baltimore’s streets . . . [to] Marshal Kane’s home. Within the hour Kane arrived at Fort McHenry . . . When the sun rose over the Eastern Shore on July 1, all four commissioners lay in the dank dungeon of Fort McHenry . . . Soldiers by the hundreds strode Baltimore’s streets with their bayonets fixed that morning, and citizens who dared to express disagreement with their government felt the teeth of martial law.
The United States Congress convened three days after the arrest of the commissioners and questioned the seemingly highhanded action taken against public officials of a loyal State. Knowing that Lincoln had already ignored judicial demands in such matters, the police commissioners bypassed the legal system to petition their congressional representative for relief, and twenty days into its session the House of Representatives adopted resolution requesting [Lincoln] to provide grounds and evidence for the arrests.
Lincoln declined to cooperate. Citing what would become the favorite excuse of future administrations seeking to invoke a dubious prerogative, he informed the elected representatives of the people that it was “incompatible with the public interest at this time” to release that information.
Some of the commissioners remained in confinement for months, and Marshal Kane was not released until November of 1862, but for the rest of the war and thereafter, revealing the reason for their detention remained incompatible with the public interest.”
(Mr. Lincoln Goes to War, William Marvel, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, excerpts pp. 104-105)