Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Diary of Gideon Welles.

Diary of Gideon Welles.

September 15, 2013

Diary of Gideon Welles

September 15, Tuesday. The President read the paper which he had drawn up. Mr. Chase proposed as a preferable course that the President should, pursuant to the act of the 3rd of March last, suspend by proclamation the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus on military questions. This proposition, after discussion, met with favor from all, and the Council adjourned to 1 P.M. for Mr. Seward to prepare a proclamation. On meeting at one o’clock, the draft which Mr. Seward had prepared was criticized and after some modifications was ordered to be recopied and carried into effect. All came into the arrangement cordially after Stanton read the reports of sundry provost marshals and others detailing the schemes practiced for defeating the draft.

The question is raised whether the executive can suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus without Congressional action. If the executive can suspend in the cases specified, which is generally admitted, the policy of falling back on the act of the 3d of March last is more than questionable, for if Congress has, as claimed, the exclusive right, can it delegate away that right? If the right is in the Executive, it is not wise nor proper to place the proclamation on the delegated grant in the law of last March which is made the basis of the proclamation. I think I am not mistaken in my impression that Mr. Chase is one of those who has claimed that the President had the constitutional right to suspend the privilege of this writ, yet he was to-day sensitive beyond all others in regard to it and proposed relying on the act of Congress instead of the constitutional Executive prerogative. He feared if the President acted on Executive authority a civil war in the Free States would be inevitable; fears popular tumult, would not offend Congress, etc. I have none of his apprehensions, and if it is the duty of the President, would not permit legislative aggression, but maintain the prerogative of the Executive.

Commander Shufeldt, an officer of ability, gives me trouble by a restless but natural desire for change and more active employment. Wishes an independent command, is dissatisfied to be in the South Atlantic Squadron. Inadmissible. It is only recently he has been reinstated in the service, on my special recommendation and by my efforts, against the remonstrance of many officers and their friends in and out of Congress. Now to give him choice of position over others who never left the service would be unjust. I cannot do it. Duty on his present station is arduous, irksome, exhausting; some one must perform it were he to leave.

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