Presidential Power In A National Crisis





Presidents of the United States take an oath to uphold the Constitution. In times of crisis, however, presidents are tempted to circumvent the spirit of the Constitution in the name of political expediency. The president of the United States of America is frequently under pressure, which could be for something as simple as dealing with his wife (especially if she’s running for the US Senate), but usually the problem is more extensive. Then, the whole nation is affected, and the problem becomes a national crisis. A widespread panic is possible. The president must propose a plan to aid his nation while keeping the public under control. Lincoln. Roosevelt and Truman proposed bills to stop or prevent the national crises that plagued the country.
In 1861, the country was dividing into two and President Lincoln had to reunite the Union. His plan was to start a war between the North and South in order to end the national crisis. In May of 1861, Congress was going through a 9-week emergency period and couldn’t pass any laws. Lincoln was given full executive power. This was all he needed to make the practical measures for the war (Sandburg 257).
Lincoln’s first move was to start a militia at Ft. McHenry led by General Cadwalader, and invade the home of John Merryman of Baltimore, on May 25 at two in the morning, and took him out of his bed (Sandburg 247). He was taken to Ft. McHenry and held for treason (Sandburg 247).
The next morning, John Merryman’s lawyers went to Supreme Court Judge Roger Taney’s home near Baltimore, and denied all charges of treason (Sandburg 247). Taney became confused and issued the writ of habeas corpus for General Cadwalader to appear in court with Merryman (Sandburg 247). The writ of the habeas corpus is a legal document which requires the arresting authorities to show just cause for the incarceration of a prisoner or release him. The writ is a fundamental cornerstone of due legal process and can only be disregarded in times of civil emergency.
The general didn’t want to go to court and sent staff Colonel Lee with John Merryman. Lee appeared before Judge Taney and stated that the general was busy with other matters (Sandburg 247). The colonel read a statement from Gen. Cadwalader asserting: “John Merryman was charged with treason and was known for holding a commission as a lieutenant in a company in their possession armed hostility against the government” (Sandburg 247). The general’s statement added the president would also authorize a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
President Lincoln sent word to Chief Justice Taney, explaining that it was his duty to authorize the commanding general’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in the name of public safety (Sandburg 247).
Congress resumed on August 6th, while Lincoln was making the final measures of his plan (Sandburg 247). The North and South were in a mammoth argument concerning the arrests of southern civil leaders. Without the writ of habeas corpus, there was no need to tell the south why the civil leaders were being held in custody. The war was now ready to begin, and the north and south would eventually be reunited.
We can thank Lincoln for provoking the conflict. The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was wrong and somewhat against the constitution. But this brilliant plan gave Lincoln the power he needed to win the war and resolve the current national crisis. Although Honest Abe wasn’t that honest when he passed the suspension, (he had some retaliatory intentions in mind) the country still regarded him as a great leader.
Seventy-two years later, president Franklin Roosevelt went through his own national crisis. FDR felt pressure the moment he was inaugurated into office in March 1933. America was in the Great Depression, banks were closing, the stock market was at an all time low, and unemployment was the highest then nation had ever seen. How could FDR raise the nation’s economy in a short enough time? He proposed a plan to raise it in just over a fortnight (Davis 57).
The national economy crisis began at the ignition of the Great Depression. People everywhere were closing their bank accounts causing banks to fail. Even though not all banks were