Historical Controversies

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Martial Law in Maryland

Introduction to the Civil War

Tags U.S. History

06/13/2018Chris Calton

Season 3, Episode 9. After the Pratt Street Riot, President Lincoln and General Scott take more drastic measures to secure the state of Maryland for the Union. Placing most of the state under Martial Law, Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus and allows his officers to arrest civilians. One such arrest led to Chief Justice Roger B. Taney to issue his statement on Lincoln’s suspension of the writ in the opinion Ex Parte Merryman.

Correction and Clarification: A listener who is a lecturer for the Maynooth University Department of Law sent me an article he wrote that offers relevant legal qualification for my admittedly unqualified explanation of Ex Parte Merrymen. Rather than further misrepresenting the legal particularities of the incident, I’ll refer to his paper:

Tillman, Seth Barrett, "Ex Parte Merryman: Myth, History, and Scholarship" (November 7, 2015). 224 Military Law Review 481 (2016). Available at SSRN.

Additionally, I referred to the arrest warrant Lincoln allegedly issued for Chief Justice Taney. One of the supporting documents for this claim has been called into question for its credibility, so the arrest warrant remains a matter of historical conjecture, and the position I took in the episode is more firm than the position I now hold on the matter.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

Chris Calton

Chris Calton is an economic historian and a former Mises Research Fellow. He was the writer and host of the Historical Controversies podcast.

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