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H.R. 591, A bill giving the President the right to suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus, December 8, 1862

Controversy about President Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus continued into the second year of the Civil War. Congress responded with this bill—signed into law on March 3, 1863—that supported the president and gave him authority to suspend the writ of habeas corpus as necessary for public safety during the rebellion.

 

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

H.R. 591, A bill giving the President the right to suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus, December 8, 1862 H.R. 591, A bill giving the President the right to suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus, December 8, 1862

Response to Rebellion - 2

A writ of habeas corpus is a legal order enabling an individual to seek release from unlawful detention. The Constitution allows Congress to suspend the writ of habeas corpus for public safety in times of rebellion or invasion. Congress was not in session when Confederate forces initiated the Civil War in April 1861 by attacking U.S. troops stationed at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Acting quickly against the insurrection, President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus. He later asked Congress to approve his controversial action.